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20th May 2019

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EU ministers concerned about teaching profession

  • A good teacher is hard to find in Europe, as students no longer think of it as an attractive profession (Photo: European Commission)

European education ministers gathered for an informal meeting in Goteborg on Wednesday (23 September) and Thursday discussed ways to improve the teaching profession and make it more attractive as a job prospect for bright students.

"We are facing major problems in Europe when it comes to our school systems. Results have been falling for a long time and schools must improve," Swedish education minister Jan Bjorklund, the host of the event said in the opening session.

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Education policies are the competence of national governments, but the Swedish EU presidency hopes to "exchange ideas and carve out common solutions," he said.

Mr Bjorklund draw a parallel with 20-30 years ago, when becoming a teacher was as respected as becoming a lawyer or a doctor. "The situation today is quite different. Very few top students choose to become teachers," he noted.

Europe's 6 million teachers are often under-qualified, under-paid and three in four have no feedback on their work, a study published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year, revealed.

According to statistics presented by OECD's Barbara Ischinger, when a 9-10 year old has a highly-qualified teacher, his own performance increases from 50 to 90 percent, whereas when the teacher is less qualified, his score goes down to 35 percent.

"It is all about spurring the teachers on, rewarding the good work they put in and making sure that the opportunity for further training is available to teachers if necessary. Here, school heads bear a great responsibility," Ms Ischinger said in Goteburg.

Outgoing EU education commissioner Jan Figel spoke about the training and exchange programmes funded by the bloc's executive body.

"Recently the commission started working with member states wishing to develop and improve their teacher education," Mr Figel said.

The biggest challenge in Europe, he explained, is that many of the teachers are in their 40-50s and more reluctant to acquire the new skills they need to prepare children for a fast-changing world.

In a separate development, the Slovakian government announced on Wednesday that its ambassador to the EU, Maros Sefcovic, is replacing Mr Figel as education commissioner.

The Slovak politician formally resigned from the EU executive on Saturday following his election as chairman of the opposition Christian Democratic Party.

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