Young people looking at teacher profession but would prefer to work abroad

12th graders about to take the Estonian language state exam at Gustav Adolf High School Monday morning. April 16, 2018.
12th graders about to take the Estonian language state exam at Gustav Adolf High School Monday morning. April 16, 2018. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

On Thursday, the Riigikogu discussed the future of teachers in Estonia and how to value the role in society. While young people are considering studying to become a teacher, they would rather work abroad.

Margus Pedaste, head of the University of Tartu's Pedagogicum, said that 41 percent of teachers aged 35 or below would not want to work as a teacher for longer than five years, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Thursday.

Of all OECD countries, Estonia sticks out because young teachers in other countries do not plan on leaving so soon into their teaching careers. Pedaste added that teachers need a new career model, allowing them to move both vertically and horizontally in their profession.

"This means that teachers with different interests can focus on supporting special needs students or perhaps the development of new study materials. But for them to be able to move vertically, as assistants, lecturers, docents and professors, as well," Pedaste said.

He added that the career models should be connected to a wage policy. But a new model cannot be put into force, if teachers are not given more time. This would mean lessening the work load to give teachers more time for self improvement.

Liina Kersna, part of Reform Party's political group, assesses that teachers' work load should be decreased. "We are in a situation today where there have to be 21 contact lessons for a teacher's minimum wage. Sub-associations have proposed that the number could be set at 16 contact lessons, I think it could be 18," she said.

Liis Reier, a teacher at Tallinn French School (Prantsuse Lütseum), said that around a third of all teachers working in Estonian schools are not qualified. About a thousand have only received a high school education and 10 to 15 only have the basic education of nine school years.

Reier said she asked her 11th grade students what a teacher's wage must be for them to go to school to become one. Many said they could see themselves as teachers, but not in Estonia.

"Just ten years ago, I think that it was just a matter of language that our teachers did not go abroad. But the time has now come in this profession, as we have also seen in medicine," the teacher said.

The average gross salary for a teacher in 2020 was €1,582 monthly. Reier said school children do not consider a teacher's pay up to the level of skills and education the job needs.

The state budget for 2021 does not see any money allocated to raise teachers wages. Salaries will instead be frozen for the next four years.

Aadu Must (Center), head of the Riigikogu's cultural affairs commitee, said there is cause for education reform. "Estonia has reached a phase where patching the deck is no longer enough, we need a thought out and comprehensive education reform," Must said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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