Teacher shortages affect countries across Europe, reports AFP.
France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Italy are all facing teacher recruitment problems due to widespread disaffection within the profession, which has been magnified by COVID.
There will be a shortage of 25,000 teachers in Germany by 2025 and 30,000 in Portugal by 2030, according to national estimates, while there are currently 4,000 teaching vacancies in France.
For Eric Charbonnier, education expert at the OECD, the COVID pandemic has given the teaching profession “visibility” and highlighted issues surrounding its appeal.
But others have offered different explanations.
Régis Malet, professor of education at the University of Bordeaux, said the shortcomings are due “to the low level of wages, particularly in France, but also to the deterioration of working conditions, status and [a] most strongly felt symbolic dimension… [about a] lack of consideration [and] recognition.”
Teaching has changed “from work with high social added value, prestige, to a form of uncertainty in the mission, loss of meaning and finally dissonance between school and life,” he added.
In France, unprecedented recruitment difficulties led the Ministry of Education to postpone the deadline to apply as a teacher into the 2023 school year due to a lack of applicants.
French Senator Gérard Longuet presented a report in June stating that, at European level, the attractiveness of the teaching profession is a ‘general problem… whatever the salary level’.
Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Italy are also facing mass retirements, which will exacerbate teacher shortages, says Charbonnier.
At primary school level, according to the OECD, 60% of teachers are over 50 in Italy, 37% in Germany, 42% in Portugal, 36% in Sweden and 23% in France.
How is the image outside Europe?
But teacher shortages are not just a European issue.
Countries from Niger in Africa to the United States (USA) are also experiencing problems finding and retaining educators.
Some 69 million teachers worldwide are short of achieving universal basic education by 2023, a UNESCO document released in October revealed.
In sub-Saharan Africa, there is on average one qualified teacher for every 56 primary school pupils and one for every 55 secondary school students, according to Borhene Chakroun, director of education policies and systems at UNESCO.
By 2030, it predicts that Chad and Niger will need “more than double” the number of primary school teachers to keep up with population growth.
In this part of the African continent, Chakroun says teacher recruitment is “below current and projected needs”, with 16.5 million additional teachers needed by 2030.
Even the richest countries around the world are affected.
In the United States there is an “unprecedented” crisis, says Charbonnier.
The Washington Post reported on a “catastrophic shortage” of teachers in late August, explaining that the country “has never experienced such a serious situation”.
However, some say these recruiting problems aren’t inevitable.
According to Charbonnier, although “a worrying issue that needs action”, teacher shortages “are not inevitable”.
“Finland, South Korea or Ireland are doing well, thanks to proactive policies with a societal evaluation of the profession,” he adds.