Approximately 2,300 qualified teachers do not work in the education sector, a report from the Riigikogu's Foresight Center research group shows. This is around 14 percent of the total number of teachers.
The largest number of teachers not working in education are in Harju, Tartu, and Ida-Viru counties, the center on Sunday in a press release. These areas also have the highest deficit of teachers.
Eneli Kindsiko, an expert at the center, said if these people worked in the sector it would help to alleviate the shortage of teachers and increase the number of qualified teachers in schools.
"On average, 1,500 teachers leave Estonian schools each year, either temporarily or permanently, and those who have left in the last five years constitute the most valuable pool of teachers. According to research, this is the most important time window for attracting teachers back," Kindsiko said.
Between 2005-2022, a total of 6,218 people graduated from teacher training courses at Estonian universities. Of these, 3,654 – 59 percent – of them worked as teachers in 2023, whole 2,337 – 38 percent – people are reserve teachers.
There are 16,942 vocational teachers in Estonia and this puts the number of reserve teachers at 14 percent. The majority – 53 percent – are over 40 years old.
The biggest reserve of teachers is in Harju, Tartu, and Ida-Viru counties, but there are also significant numbers in other regions. For example, in Võru County 60 qualified teachers are working in other professions, and 45 on the island of Saaremaa.
The center points out there are plenty of alternative profitable careers for teachers.
"To alleviate the shortage of teachers, much more attention needs to be paid to the pool of teachers in particular. It is much faster and more cost-effective for the state to invest more and more in teacher training in a context where a significant proportion of those trained do not enter the teaching profession," said Kindsiko.
The report pointed out it is not known how school leaders treat teachers who leave the profession and how their experiences are shared. For example, it is not known if exit interviews are held.
"When teachers leave with a sense of being expected back, they are more likely to return to school, and school leaders will have a reserve of teachers in their own school," the researcher emphasized.
The report is part of a long-term project studying the future of the teaching profession in Estonia.
The Foresight Center is a think tank at the Riigikogu that analyzes socio-economic trends and builds future scenarios.
Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright