Czech Republic needs to recruit new teachers, but low pay and lack of respect present major drawback

Photo: Ladislav Bába

Countries across Europe are facing an imminent lack of teachers and unless they take action they may soon face a serious problem, according to a 2015 report released by the European Commission. The Czech Republic is on the list and the commission has strongly advised taking coordinated measures to recruit new teaching staff.

Photo: Ladislav Bába
Low pay and a lack of respect are two key reasons why talented students and college graduates are shunning or running away from the teaching profession and the situation appears to be the same or very similar across Europe. Countries such as Britain, Sweden and Latvia have started running recruitment campaigns which present the profession as “creative, inspiring and meaningful” and have started offering generous grants to those who opt to specialize in teaching subjects like physics and math where there is a severe lack of teaching staff. For instance, according to the daily Hospodarske noviny, a student studying to teach physics in Great Britain can attain a yearly grant amounting to 25,000 pounds.

The daily reports that the situation in the Czech Republic likewise requires action. The heads of Czech schools complain that even now they have a hard time getting qualified math, physics or chemistry teachers. The number of pedagogics graduates specializing in physics last year was just 51.

A lack of respect and low pay puts off talented students who might otherwise have shown an interest in the profession and many of those who join the ranks of teachers make a fast exist – trading it for a nine-to-five office job or whatever other better-paid work opportunity presents itself. The low pay has also led to the feminization of Czech schools and the aging of teachers since young graduates of pedagogics simply apply their skills elsewhere.

According to a 2015 comparative study conducted by the European Commission the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are underestimating the problem and have so far failed to take effective measures to correct the negative trend. In the Czech Republic much hangs on a planned reform of the education sector –which is proving slow and painful. Despite repeated promises of a raise, teachers are still the worst paid university graduates in the country and a proposed reform of the pay scale which would allow headmasters to differentiate between excellent and mediocre teachers, originally meant to go into effect next month has been postponed by two years. Presently a teacher at the start of their career can only hope for a salary of just over 20,000 crowns a month. An experienced, qualified teacher at the height of their career will get 25,000. The average monthly salary in the Czech Republic is now over 28,000 crowns a month.