Low salaries are behind a lack of interest in teaching courses at higher education institutions in Estonia, with science, tech and also foreign languages among the major problem areas. This has left many course places unfilled, as the academic year approaches.
The issue has affected the University of Tartu (TÜ), as well as Tallinn University (TLÜ), ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Tuesday.
Margus Pedaste, deputy head of the TÜ's Institute of Educational Sciences, said: "The saddest picture concerns math teachers. Whereas last year we were happy that all the positions were filled, this year, eight mathematics teacher positions remain vacant."
"While these things seem to follow the ups and downs of a random path, if we look at the wider trend, the concerns are with science and science teachers, where the situation has been like this for a long time. We need more places than we have, but there is no point in creating places if we can't manage to find enough students," he went on.
The union of education workers (Haridustöötajate liit) says salary is a clear reason why young teachers are not being hired, while almost half of those who graduate from a teaching course do not go on to work at that same school.
Union chair Reemo Voltri noted that the fact teachers get paid about half as much as many other professionals who have higher education qualifications, making the dearth unsurprising, while at the same time, the situation is almost critical, while if salaries do not rise significantly for 2023, there is likely to be a teacher strike coming in a couple of months.
While the Institute of Educational Sciences at the University of Tartu opened 90 additional teaching study places compared with last year, 35 of these places remained vacant.
While interest in Estonian language teachers' courses turned out to be greater than expected, foreign language teaching courses were not filled at Tallinn University, while interest in high school science and tech teaching courses was lowest, Helen Joost, TLÜ spokesperson, said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte