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Why German teachers are unhappy despite good pay

Germany's teachers are among the top earners in their profession internationally.

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Why German teachers are unhappy despite good pay

Germany's teachers are among the top earners in their profession internationally. Only their colleagues in Luxembourg earn more when they start their careers. But money alone is apparently not a criterion when choosing a career. Because despite the good earning potential, the shortage of teachers continues to widen. This is one of the findings of the "Education at a Glance 2022" study presented by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday.

On average across the 45 OECD countries, teachers earn USD 47,538 in primary education and USD 53,682 in upper secondary education. In Germany, on the other hand, it is the equivalent of $81,429 in primary education and $94,580 in upper secondary education. Between 2015 and 2021, teacher salaries in Germany rose by ten percent – ​​the OECD average was only six percent.

However, German teachers also have a lot more work to do. At 641 hours, the teaching commitment is below the OECD average of 711 teaching hours per year. However, the actual workload with preparation and follow-up of the lessons amounts to 1795 annual working hours. Germany is in second place internationally and well above the average of 1500 to 1600 working hours per year. At an average of seven years, training with a degree and traineeship also lasts longer than in the rest of the OECD.

The very good pay for teachers is also put into perspective by the fact that the salary structure in Germany is comparatively flat, said Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education at the OECD. "Neither qualification nor performance have a significant impact on teachers' salaries."

For him, the shortage of teachers is therefore less a result of a lack of financial attractiveness than a "lack of intellectual attractiveness" of the profession, according to Schleicher: "Today, highly qualified and motivated people are primarily looking for a working environment that offers prospects for development, better career prospects, Differentiation in the area of ​​responsibility and good support systems.”

In an international comparison, educational systems that allow sufficient space for teamwork and the individual support of children have proven their worth. Countries like Finland also put the prospective teachers in the second year of training at school to test their suitability for the job. "The actual selection of teachers takes place there," said Schleicher.

Schleswig-Holstein's Minister of Education Karin Prien (CDU), currently President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, cited the poor chances of advancement as well as the lack of social recognition for the teaching profession as a criterion for the shortage of teachers. She suggested giving teachers more flexibility in their careers, for example to return to university or to work in companies in between. They also needed more relief for activities outside of class. Corresponding proposals are currently being worked out by the permanent scientific commission of the Conference of Ministers of Education, said Prien. "Here we are facing far-reaching reforms."

According to the Federal Statistical Office, 28,900 student teachers graduated last year – 13.8 percent fewer than ten years ago. The President of the German Teachers' Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, said that it was an "unmistakable warning sign that, despite the obvious shortage of teachers, it is hardly possible to interest and win over more young people for the socially important profession of a teacher". He called on politicians to improve the framework conditions in schools in the long term. Never before have the teachers' association received more complaints about grievances and a lack of resources in schools than is currently the case.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.

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