Schools note serious shortage of maths, physics and IT teachers

When the schoolyear starts on Monday, many principals will still be searching for teachers, especially for maths and physics classes. Although better paid than ever before, the “noble profession” is attracting fewer young people, even recent grads with teaching degrees, and some retirees have been called back into service to offset the lack of qualified educators.

Markéta Seidlová, photo: Luboš Vedral / Czech RadioMarkéta Seidlová, photo: Luboš Vedral / Czech Radio There is no global shortage of qualified teachers in the Czech Republic – not yet. But school principals have for years complained of difficulty in recruiting primary school teachers and qualified educators at higher levels in fields outside of the humanities. The shortage of maths and physics teachers is conspicuous, principals say.

A major factor, as in much of the world, is the relatively low compensation teachers receive. Over the past five years, Czech teachers’ salaries have risen nearly 20 per cent, to about 2,000 crowns above the national average. On top of that, they will jump another 15 per cent next year, a greater percentage than nearly all other public sector workers.

But in relative terms, salaries in the teaching profession are still far lower than the EU average, particularly in primary and secondary education. Czech teachers make only 60 per cent of what other university grads do, the lowest percentage in the OECD. Markéta Seidlová of the Czech-Moravian Trade Union of Education Workers:

“There is a shortage of teachers at the first level. On the secondary level and in secondary schools, there is a shortage of teachers of mathematics, physics, IT and vocational subjects. The truth is that they are currently addressing the shortage of educators by recruiting qualified retirees.”

In terms of ratios of salaries with respect to GDP per capita, the situation of Czech teachers is among the worst in Europe, in comparison to the salaries of professions requiring equivalent levels of qualification, which is to say a Master’s degree.

Photo: Filip JandourekPhoto: Filip Jandourek Although no official statistics are compiled on the phenomenon, a rising number of graduates of pedagogical faculties are choosing different professions, according to researchers at the CERGE institute focusing on labour issues and education. Among them is Alžběta Trtková, a recent graduate of Palacký University in Olomouc:

“I wanted to become a teacher. I was inspired to study at pedagogy by my own middle school teacher. During training, I didn’t have a problem with the students, but I realised how hard it is to be a teacher today. Children now have more rights than teachers - and they have no control over them.”

For those who do remain in the profession, almost half are at risk of experiencing burnout syndrome. A recent study by the Faculty of Pedagogy at Charles University in Prague found that one in five teachers had signs of medium to severe psychological problems. Apart from low wages, and excessive administration, difficulties with pupils and parents were the main reasons behind the threat of burnout.