2nd Mar 2024

EU at risk of teacher shortage

  • Graduates get jobs more quickly but are in many cases over-qualified (Photo: European Commission)

EU countries are beginning to note shortages of specialised teachers in a problem that looks set to get worse, the European Commission has warned.

The commission study - out Friday (10 February) - noted that a startling 40 percent of German 15 year-olds have no specialised science teacher and that around 30 percent of Dutch students of the same age have no specialised teacher in science or maths.

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Forty five percent of 15 year-olds in Belgium's French community also do not have proper maths teachers.

The problem comes from the ageing pool in the profession - over 30 percent of teachers in Germany, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are currently approaching retirement age. Nearly half the primary teachers in Germany, Italy and Sweden are older than 50.

Few work past 60 in a sector which favours early retirement.

At the same time, graduates - especially in Portugal, Hungary and Belgium - are becoming less interested in working as teachers despite increases in salaries.

EU education commissioner Androulla Vassiliou told press in Brussels on Friday that national governments should not cut back on education in the economic crisis.

She also said that the number of early school-leavers in the EU is too high.

"On current trends, we will not meet our target to bring down early school leaving below 10 percent by 2020. When 14 percent of our pupils drop out of school prematurely, there is something very wrong," she said.

With youth unemployment soaring across the Union, the commission noted it takes people with higher education five months to get work rather than 10 months for those with lower qualifications.

One if five of the university graduates are overqualified for the jobs they get, however.

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The EU needs teachers. 40 percent are over 50 years old, salaries are not attractive enough, classes are very large, and the work-life balance has become more problematic since the Covid-19 pandemic.

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