Salary negotiations for teachers are about to start, however, the Ministry of Education and Research is not giving them much hope.
Last year, research carried out by the organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's showed that 40 percent of Estonian teachers wish to quit their job during the coming five years.
Head of the Education Personnel Union Reemo Voltri said that one of the reasons is that the salaries of teachers cannot compete with the salaries of other specialists with higher education.
"A teacher is a specialist with a master's degree. We have to compare the salaries to other vocations with similar education requirements. In Estonia, the salary for people with higher education is 20 percent higher than the average salary and teachers' salaries remain about 30 percent lower than that," Voltri said.
Politicians love to speak about how the salaries of teachers and education are the priorities but this is not seen in their actions, he said.
"Although the Minister of Finance said that the salaries of teachers and state employees are significantly preferred, it is not true. When we gather the predictions for this and next year, the average salary would increase by 1.5 percent and teachers salaries 2.5 percent. There seems to be no preference here, to be honest."
State budget talks are ongoing and politicians do not want to speak about teachers' salaries at the moment, chancellor of the Ministry of Education and Research Mart Laidmets said.
"At the negotiations, the main topics are teachers' salaries, research funding and assisting non-native students," Laidmets.
"It has been said that teachers' salaries should be 120 percent of the Estonian average, but given the current economic conditions, it is very, very difficult to achieve this at the moment," Laidmets admitted. He added that increasing salaries with money the government borrowed earlier this year is not reasonable.
Voltri said the money directed to education is an investment. He suggests looking at how other countries with a high level of education act.
"Even in difficult economic times, they are thinking about what would bring back the economy in the future in these countries. For example, in Finland, it is understood that it is education, and even in difficult times education is invested in. Unfortunately, education in Estonia has only been valued in words, not in actions," Voltri said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright