‘The shortage of teachers will not be solved by scrapping courses’

“Is it not really our intention to promote a future in education instead of shrinking what is offered?” asks Pieter-Jan Hessels, one of the last Latin bachelor students. Last week, the last vocational college was able to cancel the program.

“Non scholae sed vitae discimus” We do not learn for school, but for life. A Latin proverb that my second-year Latin teacher himself had put on slats. This teacher was, to put it bluntly at the time, regency Latin-Dutch. He was an extremely intelligent man who mastered his craft and who knew how to convey this to his students. I’m sure he sighs deeply too when he reads the news of recent days. The latter applied university abolishes the Latin course. This is done for budgetary reasons. Is it not strange that we are abolishing education in times of ever-increasing teacher shortage? Are we not meant to promote a future in education instead of shrinking supply?

It is now two years since UCLL made the decision to abolish the Latin course, also for budgetary reasons. I myself am a student of Latin-French at the Teacher Training College at UCLL in Diepenbeek. I am one of the last students to graduate as a professional Latin Bachelor. In the meantime, in addition to my studies, I also teach 22 hours. Why? Because they did not like Latin teachers and asked me if I would help a school out of need. I did this because I have a huge passion for the subject of Latin. Do you know what my colleagues said yesterday while laughing in the teacher’s room: soon nature conservation will take action as you are an endangered species.

I thought it was fun, but it’s scary to see that the last high school has removed the Latin teacher education from their curriculum. Did you know that only 36 Latin teachers are graduating this year? Will they all end up in education? I do not know, but I know very well that the shortage of teachers will not be solved by canceling the education.

Maybe you’re asking yourself: You can still study Latin at university, what’s the problem? The problem is that there are only two universities that still offer this course. The problem is that not all students who want to become Latin teachers necessarily want to take a master’s degree. The problem is that an additional influx of teachers within our education is disappearing. Latin teachers who have graduated from the professional bachelor’s program are also specifically trained to teach in the first two years of the youth programs. It is precisely in the two years that students learn to discover the subject. The role of Latin teacher in 1st grade is therefore extremely important for students’ study choices. It is therefore also of great importance that professional Latin bachelors are still present in our educational landscape.

You may feel that Latin is not interesting. You may not see the point of it. I can only say that if you can see the usefulness of the subject Latin, a whole new world will open up for you. Latin is much more than just drilling vocabulary lists outside of blocks and grammar. Latin stimulates students’ reading comprehension. Latin sharpens students’ sense of language. It ensures that students learn to take a critical and questioning attitude. It ensures that students learn to structure, analyze and formulate an opinion. I could go on and on, but otherwise let me ask the following. If you have an appointment, where do you record it? On a calendar? Agenda comes from the Latin verb ager† Acting means acting or doing. The meaning of the term ‘agenda’ is ‘things to do’. So even you, who may not have taken Latin, come into daily contact with Latin.

Would it not be a shame for this to disappear from our educational landscape? I think so, and I think many others share that view. It may therefore be a good idea for high schools to look for other ways to save instead of abolishing education. Let us hope that it does not get to the point where the subject that teaches us to become acquainted with Roman culture and ancient culture does not disappear from our educational landscape. And let me use Roman culture to conclude this statement. In the eighth century, Pastor Bede said of one of the greatest monuments in Roman culture: As long as the Colosseum exists, Rome will exist. If the Colosseum falls, so will Rome. And when Rome falls, the world will fall. And it’s exactly the same with Latin and our education.

Pieter-Jan Hoessels is a Latin-French student in the teacher training program at UCLL in Diepenbeek.

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