Each year, 1,500 teachers leave Estonian schools either temporarily or for good, and their resignation constitutes a much more pressing problem than the lack of new teachers coming in. The resignation of one experienced full-time teacher means at least €10,000 in extra costs for the school, according to the latest report published by the Foresight Center.
Foresight Center expert Eneli Kindsiko said that until now, the lack of new teachers coming in had been pinpointed as the main problem facing the teaching profession in Estonia. And yet, as indicated by the brief report "Resignation of teachers," the resignation of existing teachers has actually caused much greater concern, the center said in a press release Sunday.
"The number of teachers resigning in Estonia varies yearly between 1,200-1,900, which constitutes 8-12 percent of all our teachers each year," Kindsiko highlighted. "Experienced teachers at the peak of their careers account for one third of those leaving."
She added that these figures also reflected the increase of short-term employment contracts in Estonia's schools.
During the 2021-2022 school year, 1,704 teachers resigned from Estonia's general education schools either temporarily or for good. Of these, 24 percent were 60 years old or older. This means, however, that the overwhelming bulk of those leaving, i.e. 76 percent, were teachers of active working age.
"Young teachers are leaving schools at a much earlier stage, and previous studies have concluded that as many as one in three new teachers resign within the first three years," the expert explained. "However, a much bigger issue is the fact that a third of those leaving are between the ages of 40-59, or experienced teachers at the peak of their careers."
In its report, the Foresight Center estimates that considering teachers' minimum wage, the resignation of a full-time experienced teacher means at least €10,000 in extra expenses for the school.
This calculation includes the cost of substitution — the lower burden of new employees, the higher salary they request, or covering the resigned teacher's workload with the help of several existing ones, which may lead to increased workloads and burnout for the latter.
The Estonian Educational Personnel Union (EHL) has studied the issue and discovered that 58 percent of Estonia's teachers have considered resigning, and 92 percent have experienced burnout. Studies both in Estonia and abroad also confirm that male teachers are more likely to resign than their female colleagues, and one in five resigned teachers was male. Estonian language, math and English teachers also saw higher resignation rates.
Other studies around the world also indicate that plans to resign have multiplied following the COVID-19 pandemic years, particularly among teachers in mid-career, meaning teachers with years of experience already under their belts.
"But we do see that in countries where teachers' salaries are higher, the resignation rate is lower," Kindsiko added.
The brief report "Resignation of teachers" is part of the Foresight Center's research into "The future of the teaching profession," the goal of which is to, based on global and national trends, develop scenarios on the need for teachers and the future of the profession through 2040.
The Foresight Center is a think tank at the Chancellery of the Riigikogu that analyzes long-term developments in society and the economy. It conducts research aimed at analyzing long-term developments and discovering new trends in Estonian society.
Editor: Aili Vahtla