Poll: Ten percent of teachers consider quitting over school violence

Photo: European Commission

According to the findings of a recently published study, ten percent of secondary public school teachers in the Czech Republic are considering leaving their profession due to growing harassment from students. But factors that contribute to the situation are manifold and often intrinsic to the education system.

 Photo: European Commission
A new study titled “The Teacher as the Victim,” published in the magazine Pedagogika, suggests that more than ten percent of Czech teachers are seriously considering turning their backs on their profession due to what they describe as an increase in verbal and even physical attacks from students.

The rise in aggressive behavior towards teachers is considered a widespread problem in Europe, but certain factors in the Czech education system can exasperate the situation. Dr. Petr Klíma, director of the Prague 3 children’s counseling center, believes that sending particularly motivated and gifted children to separate schools, which are known as gymnasiums, works against the school system as a whole.

“Those children are motivated, very gifted and come from families that put much emphasis on education. Simply speaking, they are good role models. On the other hand, the lack of such students in vocational schools has lead to laxer standards in general. The strict discipline of the communist days is gone. Teachers are often disappointed and frustrated by the fact that they find themselves faced with a class that is dramatically different from what they’d expect.”

But teachers aren’t the only ones that are frustrated.

“One of the factors is, as I mentioned before, that children get admitted to schools which are too demanding for them. They find themselves completely unable to keep up. One of the ways of dealing with a lack of academic success and frustration can be such abusive behavior. It’s not surprising. If you are unsuccessful and at the bottom of your class, and maybe the target of your teacher’s aggression because they are disappointed, abusive behavior can act serve as a defense mechanism.”

Soňa Černá, a teacher at a secondary school in Prague 6, has not experienced any student violence first-hand but can imagine that in some scenarios, students could become aggressive towards their instructor.

“There were of course students that didn’t behave properly, who were troublemakers, but they didn’t bully the teachers. I can imagine that it can happen if the teacher shows their weak side and admits that they can be affected by students’ behavior.”

Another factor that is believed to contribute to the problem is the almost exclusively female staff at most Czech primary and secondary schools. Experts say that a mixed staff would almost certainly help increase discipline in the classroom, but the chances of getting more men to take up the profession are slim due to the exceedingly low salaries in the education sector. For the time being headmasters have resorted to the only solution within reach – they are making sure teachers get the benefit of psychological training in order to be better prepared to deal with the problem.