Education International
Education International

Action programme to improve the labour market for teachers

published 25 March 2011 updated 13 April 2011

The GEW, Germany’s largest teachers’ union, has called for immediate federal action on teacher training to increase the number of student and probationary teachers’ positions.

This proposal is part of the GEW’s response to research undertaken by Dortmund University on the labour market situation of teachers. Its figures show the number of teacher appointments over the past few years have been inadequate. Since 2003 the federal states has continued to hire fewer teachers than were needed, according to forecasts by federal agencies.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the “Education Republic of Germany” at a summit in Dresden in 2008, promising enough teachers would be hired to achieve this. However, if the federal states continue with their recruitment practices, this goal will not be met.

States must train teachers

Assuming that there is a rethink by the federal states, they will immediately face the next – self-made – problem: where are the young teachers supposed to come from? Since 2000, federal states have opted to train considerably fewer teachers year-on-year than they have actually appointed. To conceal the shortfall of teacher appointments, they have put more students into the classrooms or increased teaching loads.

Sustainable solutions that take account of the interests of both teachers and learners have quite a difference appearance, because even if timetables are reduced in the future and more people enter the education service through the ’side door’, the shortage of teachers will still worsen dramatically on account of the number and pace of retirements taking effect. From 2015 there will be more than 33,000 teachers retiring each year.

EI Executive Board member and GEW Chairman, Ulrich Thöne, notes: “There are insufficient fully trained new teachers to replace retirees. The number of training places needs to be raised significantly. The federal states have a social obligation to increase training capacity.”

Teaching competes with business

Udo Beckmann, chairman of Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE), the other major teachers’ union in Germany, supports this view: “Ensuring qualified teacher talent joins the profession can only succeed if teaching becomes more attractive to young people. This means improving the reputation of the profession within society and proper pay. Teacher recruitment is competing with business and other public sector employers for the best junior staff.”

GEW Director for employees and policy, Ilse Schaad argues that: “The federal states should consider raising salaries for teaching staff and trainee teachers as well as offering better working conditions such as smaller classes and less strenuous teaching loads.”

GEW members, together with those of its sister unions, successfully lobbied Kultusministerkonferenz – the Assembly of German States’ Education Ministers – to win important concessions for it to recommend that each state implements legislation requiring high quality training for primary and secondary teachers.

By Ulf Rödde, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft(GEW), Germany

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 37, April 2011.