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The need for teachers in the Brussels Region by 2020

Notes de la rédaction

This is the press release related to the article from Benjamin Wayens, Bernard Delvaux, Pierre Marissal, Sofie Vermeulen, Benoît Quittelier and Rudi Janssens, published on June 20, 2016. Read the article.

In 2019-2020, the Brussels Capital Region will be home to some 24 000 more students than there were in 2013-2014, in preschool, primary and secondary education. This growth generates additional needs in infrastructure, but also in teachers. An interuniversity research team from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the Université Saint-Louis (USL-B) and the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) have analysed the data available so as to have a clearer view of the Brussels perspective. The IBSA/BISA Cahier n° 5, summarised in a Brussels Studies Fact Sheet, lays out their estimates of the number of teachers needed in 2019-2020.

500 additional full time equivalents (FTE) will be needed to maintain the present situation

If the situation regarding teaching staff along with the number of teachers entering and leaving the profession remain unchanged, schools in the Brussels Capital Region will have to hire at least 436 additional FTE in order to cope with the estimated growth of the school population: 281 for the French-speaking school system and 55 for the Dutch-speaking system. This minimalist scenario is based on the principle that the present situation is acceptable, with its classrooms that are occasionally crowded and/or without a teacher. It thus underestimates the real need for enough teachers to ensure quality education. Note that the study refers to a full time equivalent (FTE); this does not always correspond to an individual for a part time teacher works less than a FTE. The number of teachers needed is thus higher than the number of FTE.

Will 2 000 additional full time equivalents (FTE) be needed to achieve excellence?

Ideally all classrooms and all classes should have a teacher every day. This does not reflect reality, however. For instance, under the present system a substitute can not always be found the very morning a teacher calls in sick. This scenario nonetheless serves to estimate the maximum number of additional teaching FTEs needed by Brussels’ schools not only to cope with the growth of the school age population, but also to ensure immediate substitutes: 1 822 FTE for the French school system and 342 FTE for the Flemish schools.

The real need falls somewhere between these minimum and maximum estimates. It is based on the will to maintain and even improve the teacher coverage available for the students, a key factor in quality education, especially in a multicultural Region such as Brussels.

Table 1. Number of FTE teachers needed in the Brussels Capital Region by 2019-2020

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Source: IBSA/BISA Cahier n°5, authors’ calculations, based on data provided by the French Community 2015 (pay files) and the Flemish Community (pay files). Totals may differ after rounding off.

Serious needs in primary and secondary education

Growth of the Region’s school population, first felt in preschool education, has now reached the primary and secondary levels and it will be especially acute in 2020 among the student group aged 9 to 13. The need for additional teachers by 2019-2020 is thus concentrated primarily in primary education, with an estimated 13% rise in the number of students. The first degree of secondary education should also need an increasing number of teachers soon after that. Additional needs for the second and third secondary degree will spike after 2020. In French-speaking education, hiring challenges are found mainly in secondary education, with certain tensions also present at the primary level. The challenges in the Dutch-speaking system are shared equally between primary and secondary education.

How to meet these needs?

The authors explore several possibilities to cope with this high demand for teachers. The first option is to reduce the demand, thus the need for teachers. There is obviously no question of limiting the number of students, but rather lowering school grade repetition, greater attention to early support for students having school difficulties in order to limit reorientations towards streams with a high coverage rate (specialised, technical and vocational).

A second option is to increase the supply, thus the number of teachers on the Brussels job market. In this area several possible interventions are proposed: keeping more teachers on the job, both at the start and at the end of their career, training a greater number of teachers, attracting new teachers by recruiting those living outside Brussels and in sectors other than education, reducing the teacher/student ratio by improving work conditions and needs for substitutes, and so on.

These possibilities for intervention are discussed in detail in the IBSA/BISA Cahier N° 5 and summarised in the Brussels Studies Fact Sheet. Some are the competence of the Region, others come under the Communities’ remit. The needs have been identified; it is now up to the education system, along with actors in the employment market, to address this challenge sustainably and structurally.

Wayens, Benjamin, Delvaux, Bernard, Marissal, Pierre, Vermeulen, Sofie, Quittelier, Benoît, Janssens, Rudi, “The need for teachers in the Brussels Region by 2020”, Brussels Studies [Online], Fact Sheets, No 101, 20 June 2016. URL:
Benjamin Wayens, Senior Editor: bwayens[at]

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