Education International
Education International

Germany: Unions deplore teacher shortage

published 17 August 2010 updated 17 August 2010

Many teaching positions within German schools remain vacant just weeks before the start of a new school year. Research from Germany’s largest education unions, the GEW and VBE, estimates that almost 45,000 posts are unfilled, with acute shortages in subjects such as mathematics and the sciences.

To remedy the situation, there have been increasing calls from some quarters to permit retired teachers to return to the profession and give lessons. This proposal is vehemently opposed by the German education unions.

President of Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), Germany's biggest education union, and a member of EI's Executive Board, Ulrich Thöne, said: "We need more teachers and we need them permanently. Last-minute, short-lived arrangements like the re-enlistment of retired teachers, or the recruitment of lateral entrants will not provide a solution to the problem. These measures have been tried in the past to no avail."

Germany's education system is governed independently by 16 federal state (Länder) governments. This makes a centralised response to the national problem more difficult.

German unions are urging the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder, the body which is supposed to coordinate education policy throughout the 16 federal states, to ensure sustainable solutions for the benefit of the coming generations of pupils.

EI has observed on a number of occasions that the future of decent work, a better quality of life and a greener economy all start in the classroom.

EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: "Teachers have an immediate impact in the classroom, but that has to be supported by a properly equipped system that makes sure teachers have access to proper resources and professional training. Moreover, enough teachers must be employed to guarantee quality public education."