Teacher shortages worry countries across Europe

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By Euronews  with AFP
 Alexxa Martinez, in her classroom in Nevitt Elementary School, in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 26, 2022.
Alexxa Martinez, in her classroom in Nevitt Elementary School, in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 26, 2022.   -   Copyright  OLIVIER TOURON/AFP or licensors

Teacher shortages are concerning countries across Europe, AFP reports. 

France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Italy are all facing teacher recruitment troubles amid widespread disaffection within the profession, which has been amplified by COVID. 

There will be a shortfall of 25,000 teachers in Germany by 2025 and 30,000 in Portugal by 2030, according to national estimates, while there are currently 4,000 vacant teaching posts in France.

For Eric Charbonnier, an education expert at the OECD, the COVID pandemic gave "visibility" to the teaching profession and highlighted issues around its appeal. 

But others have offered different explanations. 

Régis Malet, professor of education at the University of Bordeaux, said shortages were due to "the low level of wages, particularly in France, but also the deterioration of working conditions, status and [a] more symbolic dimension strongly felt ... [about a] lack of consideration [and] recognition."

Teaching has changed "from a job with high added social value, prestige, to a form of uncertainty in the mission, loss of meaning and ultimately dissonance between the school and life,” he added.

In France, unprecedented recruitment difficulties led the Ministry of Education to kick back the deadline for applying to be a teacher in the 2023 school year due to a lack of candidates. 

French Senator Gérard Longuet presented a report in June which said that, at the European level, the attractiveness of the teaching profession is a "general problem ... whatever the salary level". 

Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Italy are also facing mass retirements, which will compound the teacher shortages, says Charbonnier.

At the primary school level, 60% of teachers are over 50 in Italy, 37% in Germany, 42% in Portugal, 36% in Sweden and 23% in France, according to the OECD.

What is the picture like outside of Europe?

But teacher shortages are not solely a European issue. 

Countries from Niger in Africa to the United States (US) are also experiencing problems finding and retaining educators. 

Some 69 million teachers are missing worldwide to achieve universal basic education by 2023, a UNESCO document published in October revealed. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, there is on average one qualified teacher for 56 primary school pupils and one for every 55 secondary school students, according to Borhene Chakroun, Director of Policies and Systems of Education at UNESCO. 

By 2030, he predicts that Chad and Niger will need "more than double" the amount of primary school teachers to keep up with population growth. 

In this part of the African continent, Chakroun says teacher recruitment is "below current and projected needs", with 16.5 million additional teachers needed by 2030. 

Richer countries around the world are affected, too. 

In the US, there is an “unprecedented” crisis says Charbonnier. 

The Washington Post reported there was a "catastrophic shortage" of teachers at the end of August, explaining that the country had "never experienced such a serious situation."

Still, some say these recruitment troubles are not unavoidable. 

According to Charbonnier, though "a matter of concern on which action must be taken", teacher shortages are "not inevitable". 

"Finland, South Korea or Ireland are doing well, thanks to proactive policies with a valuation of the profession by society," he adds.