New study points to “feminisation” of Czech education system after 1989

During the 1990s the Czech teaching cohort became more “feminised” as large numbers of male teachers opted to leave the profession and pursue a career elsewhere, according to a new study conducted by the CERGE-EI think-tank at the Czech Academy of Sciences. To find out why this happened. and what it means for the Czech education system, I spoke to one of the authors of the study, Filip Pertold.

“In the study we observe that the share of female teachers has been increasing over the period of several generations and that there was a particular increase during the 1990s when there was a transformation from central planning to a market economy.

“This didn’t just happen in the Czech Republic but in the whole Central European region, because the returns to education increased a lot and that means that university educated workers were very scarce at the time.

“It was especially males who were disappearing from the profession during this period, because they saw that they could earn better wages in different professions.

“Females, on the other hand, seem to be staying in the teaching profession during this period. That is what we observed in the data.

“Otherwise, the rate of teachers exiting the profession is roughly the same as it is in other regions of Europe, except perhaps for Southern Europe where labour market turnover is generally lower.”

Is there any reason why you think this trend applied less to women? Was it because of old gender roles, or something else?

Filip Pertold | Photo: Cerge-EI

“Well, what is happening in the teaching profession, but is also happening elsewhere, is that if someone exits the profession it generally happens at the beginning of their career. That means within the first two or three years following graduation.

“Based on the data we have, it looks like females are more fixed to the profession.

“There is also this social norm that males should ‘feed the family’, something quite common in this region.

“In any case, it seems to me that male teachers basically switched professions to earn more money somewhere else because there were a lot of opportunities to do this.”

What periods did your study encompass?

“We were looking at respondents who have already mostly retired, so two generations.

“One cohort started working professionally during the mid-50s or 60s. The other started during the 1970s.

“We did not have a lot of respondents who started their careers during the 1990s or later.

“The phenomenon described earlier was observed among those teachers who started their careers just before the [post-communist] economic transformation.

“This is the data that we relied on and therefore we cannot say much about more recent developments, for example teachers who started their career just five years ago.”

Do you think that the large increases to teachers’ salaries will have any effect on limiting this phenomenon?

“I think that it may be so, but it will take some time. This is because males are not just avoiding teaching due to the wages, but they are also more interested in career development.

“By the latter I mean that they may not necessarily want to spend their whole career in front of children, but instead may want to become mentors or something of that sort.

“This sort of a career progress is still largely lacking in the Czech education system. We see many more males in high educational positions, such as those of headmaster.

“We lack a clear system of career progression in the Czech education system and I think that this is something that we need to develop in the Czech Republic.”

The full study can be accessed on the CERGE-EI website: