Written by Ivana Katsarova,
Teaching – a profession that dates back through the generations – seems to have lost some of its attractiveness at present. An ageing teacher population, severe teacher shortages, difficulties with retaining younger teachers and a significant gender imbalance in staffing at different levels of education are just some of the serious challenges facing the profession. In the EU, only 7 % of all teachers are under 30 years old, while around 36 % are 50 or older. Also, 72 % of the nearly 6 million people working as school teachers are women, thus confirming the perception that teaching is a ‘woman’s world’. An extensive 2014 survey revealed that over a third of teachers in the EU work in schools with a shortage of qualified staff, and nearly half of school directors report a shortage of teachers for special needs pupils. Perhaps more worryingly, 81 % of teachers in the EU feel teaching is not valued in society. For most EU countries, raising the status and attractiveness of the teaching profession is therefore an urgent necessity. Despite the seriousness of the challenge, only 11 EU countries have taken some policy measures to make teaching more attractive.
EU education systems offer teachers various arrangements in terms of recruitment, career structure, professional development and support, and remuneration. The average starting salary in lower secondary education in the 2016-2017 period was €27 000, with top salaries peaking at €45 000. However, a strong geographical divide is noticeable, with salaries of school teachers in eastern Europe being substantially lower than those in western Europe.
Teachers have access to various mobility schemes through Erasmus, the EU’s flagship programme in the area of education. From 2014 to 2020, the programme has offered mobility opportunities to 800 000 education staff, thus confirming its growing impact and popularity. In March 2019, the European Parliament supported the tripling of the programme’s budget for 2021-2027, to make it more accessible and inclusive and enable more teachers and students to take part in it. Members of the European Parliament also proposed re-allocating the budget to different parts of the programme, as a way to offer pre-school and early education staff more possibilities to participate in mobility schemes.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Teaching careers in the EU: Why boys do not want to be teachers‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to podcast ‘Teaching careers in the EU: Why boys do not want to be teachers‘ on YouTube.