Swiss Education Day focuses on educators’ health

published 15 September 2017 updated 19 September 2017

On the occasion of the Swiss Education Day, teachers’ unions demanded that efforts be made by employers to improve their health protection, with the slogan “Healthy Schools - Good Schools.”

Individual efforts are not enough to keep teachers on the job healthy and motivated in the long term, but needs systemic improvements. This was the key message sent out by the Dachverband Lehrerinnen und Lehrer Schweiz(LCH) and the Syndicat des Enseignants Romands(SER) on 31 August, Swiss Day of Education, celebrated every two years. The teachers' unions presented demands which would oblige the employer to contribute to improved health protection for teachers.

Alarming studies

A study commissioned by the LCH shows that seventy percent of German teachers work part-time, one third of them for health reasons. In the spring of 2017, a study commissioned by SER has revealed that almost 37 percent of teachers have reduced their teaching time in the past five years, mostly for health reasons or to reduce their workload.

A third study also demonstrated that normative injuries caused by inadequate room conditions, air and light quality as well as a constantly high interaction density can have a negative impact on the students’ well-being and performance. According to another study in Switzerland, the incidence of teachers for professional reasons amounts to 37.6 million Swiss francs (32,8 million euros) annually.

Joint union position paper

All these results prompted teachers' associations to join forces for the health of teachers.

About 170 invited guests were invited to the Swiss Day of Education’s event in Berne, from education stake holders actors and leaders, to politics and health care representatives, to debate around teachers working, without damaging their health.

Through its health project, the LCH has already identified necessary improvements at the municipalities, cantons and federal level. Together with the SER, it clearly detailed four requirements in a position paper:

• Job mandate: It must be consistent with available resources.

• School buildings: They must meet health standards.

• Health management: schools must be provided with adequate resources, so as to implement health measures.

• Support offers: They should be available to teachers affected by health impairments.

Healthy teaching and learning environments mean better educational outcomes

“More than six in 10 teachers feel that their health has deteriorated over the last five years. This number is particularly disturbing and must prompt the responsible persons to take the necessary measures quickly to improve the health of the teachers,” SER President Samuel Rohrbach indicated, reporting on the investigation recently published by his trade union.

In his final statement, LCH President Beat W. Zemp emphasised that ultimately all education actors are on the same page: “Our common goal is to improve the quality of education. Healthy teachers in a healthy learning environment are proving to have better learning outcomes among their pupils than highly stressed teachers who have to teach in schoolrooms where statutory norms are not met or CO2 limits are exceeded by a large number.”

In addition to the position paper, a new guideline for schools, authorities and institutions for initial and in-service education and training showing why healthy teachers are prerequisite for good schools was presented on Education day.