TALLINN - Salary increase for teachers must continue, as motivated teachers are the key component in maintaining the quality of education in Estonia, the Estonian Employers' Confederation said.
"Holding education in high regard is the most important sustainability-related issue there is. We must acknowledge that the future of our children depends on our schools and teachers," Arto Aas, head of the Employers' Confederation, said.
"Already today, a teacher's minimum salary is lower than the average in Estonia. When salaries are frozen and the average wage keeps growing, the popularity of the teaching profession decreases even further. For that reason, the Employers' Confederation cannot support the government's plan to stop salary growth for teachers for the coming four years. Naturally, the state's financial means are limited. As a source for covering the expenditure, a much more ambitious state reform could be considered, including a reduction of state-paid jobs," he added.
The teaching profession is neither acknowledged nor remunerated in proportion with the requirements imposed on the position, according to the Employers' Confederation. The implementation of inclusive education entails new requirements with regard to teacher competences.
Aas noted that the training of all workers regardless of their field begins with high-quality basic education, the foundation to which is laid by teachers.
Estonia needs a new generation of talented teachers, Aas said.
"In the employers' manifesto, we proposed that teachers' salaries be increased to be 1.5 times higher than the average wage in Estonia and the salaries of science teachers and trainers in vocational education should be doubled," he said.
Estonian schools are struggling with a severe shortage of teachers, particularly in science and mathematics. Despite the new school year rapidly approaching, some 190 teaching positions have yet to be filled. Every fifth teacher of mathematics, chemistry, geography and biology is aged 60 and older, while the share of physics teachers over the age of 60 is 25 percent. Among teachers in vocational education, 24 percent are in the same age group.