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Teacher training reaches far beyond the classroom

Having just successfully graduated as a secondary school teacher, Juliette Ramberg de Ruyter is packing her bags and heading off to Dhaka. A job as a trainee education development officer is more appealing than a classroom in Sweden.

Juliette Ramberg de Ruyter with her suitcase standing in the middle of the Key Building“We don’t hear so much about the alternative career paths that open up to you when you qualify as a teacher. More should be made of it,” Ms de Ruyter says.

In two weeks she will arrive in Bangladesh to work for four months as a trainee education development officer, working on research at Brac, an NGO and one of the biggest aid organisations in the world working against poverty.

And no, Ms de Ruyter will not be teaching.

“After three years on the teacher training course I was in a panic. I just couldn't see myself in a job as a secondary school teacher. The teaching practice sessions had gone great, but the idea of spending the rest of my life in the classroom felt... too constraining.”

She began to think about what else she could do with four years of broad study in the classroom subjects of religion and the social sciences.

“I’ve always been drawn to political science and thought it would be more interesting to look at international relations, education policy and analysis than practical classroom pedagogy. At one point I was about to change completely to a bachelor’s in political science.”

Detail. Black bag with text and the LiU logo.But Ms de Ruyter was also enjoying her teacher training course at LiU; she was involved in the students’ union and had an important post on the welcoming committee for new students.

“Teacher training at LiU is quite simply great, so I decided to complete my training as a teacher but to stay with the idea of an alternate career.”

At present she is here, in Key Building. The final draft of her graduation dissertation is due in, she is in full on “getting visa mode”, and her flat needs to be vacated and let out.

The idea of a job as a trainee with Brac came from a friend at the Dutch embassy in Dhaka.

“The embassy is heavily involved with work in Bangladesh, I guess as a follow on from Dutch colonialism in Asia. And I have Dutch citizenship and I am trilingual, all of which helped me get the job,” she says.

But one way or another, Ms de Ruyter would have gone out into the world. An exchange semester in Brussels widened her outlook.

“Why don’t more teacher training students travel abroad? I really don’t get it. Brussels made me see how much students benefit from travelling around the world, trying different jobs.”

A solid period of study makes your existence so much narrower, Ms de Ruyter continues:

Juliette Ramberg de Ruyter among students outside the Key Building“You don't even realise the opportunities a teaching degree provides. Other courses at LiU have entrepreneurship as a basic part of the qualification. But not teacher training, which is a pity. In five years I have never heard any teachers talking about starting their own school where they could put into practice their own educational ideas, whereas I have heard students on other courses discussing it.”

And what are your own feelings about the contrast between your time in Key Building and Dhaka?
“It will be a real double whammy,” Ms de Ruyter says with a broad smile.

“My first ‘real’ job. 8-5 day in, day out... it’ll be hard. So I am anticipating a real culture shock. Bangladesh is a Muslim country. Even though religion is one of my teaching subjects and even though I feel well prepared, living day to day in a culture that is so strongly coloured by religion is a completely different thing.”

Most of all, Ms de Ruyter is keen that her four months in Dhaka should give her an experience of the global education debate. Knowledge of how the UN Asian perspective is working on the ground.

“It will be really interesting to get an insight into the organisation work behind international education projects. I’m curious to see how they work to push development in the particular conditions in the country, rather than from the West’s idealised view of progress.”

In Bangladesh, Brac operates over 8,000 safe houses. Ms de Ruyter will evaluate one of the projects the organisation runs. They are training women in entrepreneurship and helping them to support themselves.

“In short, giving them power over their own lives. I will be making field trips, collating results and making a project analysis: what things are working? What things are not working? Why? And I will be linking my evaluation to existing theories.”

You will submit your report in the New Year. What then?
“Who knows? Brac is represented in a number of countries. A job in New York, for example, would not be a bad thing... but it might also be that I come back to Valla to continue as a doctoral student, but this time researching education policy.”

Or working with education issues on the national level. Working at the Ministry of Education, the Swedish National Agency for Education or the Swedish Higher Education Authority. Ms de Ruyter is bursting with ideas for the future.

“There are many things you can do with an upper secondary school teacher qualification.”

Text and photo: Gunilla Pravitz

23 Sept 2014

 


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