New survey highlights reason majority of graduates who studied to be teachers move on to other fields

Photo: Filip Jandourek

A new poll conducted by SC&C for Charles University’s Faculty of Education suggests that only 40 percent of graduates who trained to be teachers take up the profession after completing their studies. The number one reason? Frankly, miserable wages. The findings are not really a surprise but serve as a renewed warning that changes are needed.

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
There are plenty of university students who want a career in teaching and have every intention of pursuing it; the sad reality is that many don’t follow through after they graduate. A new poll by SC&C suggests that a large number of them come to the conclusion it is simply not feasible to work as a teacher when starting salaries are 20,000 crowns a month (the equivalent of 740 euros) – or less.

The situation is not new: low wages have plagued the education sector for years. But the issue was recently thrown into sharper relief. The news that a large supermarket chain in the Czech Republic was now paying cashiers higher starting salaries of 23,000, no doubt left many in the education sector shaking their heads: given the expertise teachers have to attain and the responsibilities they have to meet on a daily basis, it is hard to understand why they should be paid so little by comparison. Bob Kartous of the NGO EDUIn suggests a lot of the blame for low salaries in education today, lies with past governments. Education, in short, has often been put on the backburner.

“It’s not easy to explain because this has been a long-continuing problem. If you read the programme of any political party, they will say that education is a priority. But when it comes to practical policy, things are not highlighted the same way. It is a fact that based on OECD statistics the Czech Republic, puts less into education than is the average. So education is a priority only on paper, not in day-to-day politics.”

The current education minister, Kateřina Valachová, is aware of the situation according to; certainly, she delivered on the promise of a recent wage increase of eight percent. Not surprisingly, critics charged it was too little, too late, a band-aid when a transfusion was needed. Still, perhaps further increases are in the cards: according to there are plans under which teachers could earn around 43,000 crowns monthly by 2020. The hope is to draw back or to retain talented teachers who until now have had to scrape by to make a living. An additional aim is also for up to 70 percent of students studying to be teachers to continue after they graduate, which would be a 30 percent improvement.

Bob Kartous,  photo: Marián Vojtek
Some are sceptical such a transformation will be possible in a relatively short period, not least because this autumn voters are going to go to the polls: who knows how the next government will approach the problem? At the same time, it should also be fairly obvious to whoever takes up the mantle next, that marked improvements are needed. Already the impact is being felt, with the findings suggesting that there could be a considerable lack of qualified teachers, including language specialists, within three years.

EDUIn’s Bob Kartous says at the very least the government needs to think about the message being sent.

“It is a shame of Czech society, a shame of Czech politics. If you treat teachers worse than cashiers in supermarkets, you are sending a message. The role of teachers in society is one of the most important but if we cannot secure teachers a decent salary, we undermine their roles and the roles of schools. That is the direction we have been heading in.”