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Interview Jeroen Maréchal - new programme manager Bètapartners

10 May 2022
After almost 23 years in education, during which he worked in various positions, Jeroen Maréchal is now taking on the role of programme manager at Bètapartners.

We talked to him about the challenges Bètapartners is facing, as well as the organisation’s opportunities and strengths.

Why do we need a network like Bètapartners?
Our most important goal is to convince more prospective higher education students to go into STEM. This will increase the outflow to STEM occupations, which is a huge driving force behind our knowledge-based economy. That’s why Bètapartners seeks to encourage students and support teachers – by offering continuing education and developing educational programmes together, but also by getting people to share what inspires them."

What challenges lie ahead for Bètapartners as you try to achieve those goals?
"A major problem is the enormous shortage of teachers. So we also want to encourage some of the students to eventually enrol in a teacher training programme. The goal is to get students from VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam to become student assistants. That way, they get to experience how much fun it is to be a teacher, and hopefully some of them will then choose a career in education.
Another challenge lies in expanding the organisation’s model to include gamma and alpha networks, something both VU Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam are working on. This would be particularly interesting for secondary education, because our network will become even more interesting to secondary schools if it doesn’t just revolve around STEM, but also includes gamma and alpha. At the moment, Bètapartners already has subject support centres for physics, chemistry and biology, which provide continuing education and support, among other things. That’s very important. Being a teacher can be lonely sometimes – after all, it’s just you standing there in front of the classroom. But it can be inspiring to meet people who are crazy about their work."

As the new programme manager, what do you want to focus on?
"I think it’s important for schools to indicate their own needs – it shouldn’t be top-down. But of course I do have my own ideas about what we should focus on. For instance, how can we provide structural support to teachers who are struggling with their workload? The website is a great example of that: a very concrete form of support that reduces the burden on teachers.
I also think it would be really cool to start thinking outside the box with all these beta coordinators about how we can organise education in such a way that theoretical explanations can be recorded to create high-quality animations and videos, which teachers would then be able to use whenever they wanted. This would allow them to focus their time and attention on individual students.
Then there’s the issue of women in STEM. We’ve seen strong positive developments with regard to gender parity in recent years, but we have to keep paying attention to this topic. If we don’t, there’s a chance that the progress we’ve made will slowly be undone again. Finally, we need to involve more universities of applied sciences in our network. I’d like to continue that conversation."

Why is it important to reach universities of applied sciences?
"Research plays a vital role in STEM, so we need to train new researchers. But implementation is also an important part of STEM – with a lot more job opportunities, perhaps – and that’s where the universities of applied sciences come in. So you need both of those components. We know that there are major shortages at the STEM faculties of universities of applied sciences. The research part of the system might be running smoothly, but if the implementation part grinds to a halt the entire machine crashes. So you need young people to enrol in both universities and universities of applied sciences."

Also read the farewell interview with Agnes Kemperman, Jeroen's predecessor.