Despite an increase in recent years, there are not enough teachers entering the profession to offset the amount retiring, said Triin Noorkõiv, director of the nonprofit association School for New Teachers (Alustavat Õpetajat Toetav Kool) on ETV's Suud puhtaks.
Noorkõiv was speaking on Tuesday night's TV show during a discussion about why young teachers are in short supply in the education system and how more can be attracted.
Bringing young teachers to schools is a major challenge for Estonian general education, the audience were told, and the situation will only get worse in the coming years.
Currently, 54 percent of teachers in schools are over 50 years old. and one in five is 60 or older. The share of teachers over the age of 60 in science subjects is the highest.
Due to the age of teachers, the education system will need 3,000 new teachers by 2025. However, approximately 250 young teachers receive a teaching qualification each year, which is one third less than needed to replace retiring teachers.
Suud puhtaks invited current and former teachers in lieu of officials to speak on Tuesday's show.
Noorkõiv said that last year there were 1,120 new teachers in Estonia, a figure which has increased over the years. "For a long time, we had about 700-800 teachers starting each year, but over 900 the year before and over 1,100 last year," she said.
"It is feared that this number is not enough for us. Estimates show that by 2021, approximately 25 percent of our teachers will be above retirement age already. The challenge for the next generation of teachers is to find the heirs of our best teachers," Noorkõiv added.
She said the measures to attract young teachers should be considered in society and acknowledged many new teachers are people who had previously been in another profession. "Very many teachers come from other walks of life as career changers," Noorkõiv said.
The teachers on the broadcast also touched on the high risk of burnout associated with the profession. As a solution, they suggested schools could have mentoring programs or young teachers could start as teaching assistants and work their way up.
The broadcast also acknowledged, in addition to the support of colleagues, the support of the community and parents is very important for teachers.
Editor: Helen Wright