German schools in crisis amid teacher exodus

Abby Young-Powell
As many as 10,000 teaching positions remain unoccupied - Westend61

Unqualified retirees and trainees are filling a gap left by teachers exiting the profession due to rising class sizes and difficulties with foreign languages of new pupils, teachers groups in Germany have warned.

The “dramatic shortage” of teachers is the worst Germany has seen for nearly three decades, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of the German Teachers Association, said in comments published across German media on Monday.

"There are currently around 10,000 teaching positions left unoccupied, and there are about 30,000 posts that are provisionally filled by non-teachers, newcomers, retirees and students," Mr Meidinger said.

In Berlin and Saxony the situation is particularly bad, according to Mr Meidiner. "In Berlin, 70 per cent of newly hired primary school teachers are without any educational background," he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. He added that a “whole generation” of school pupils will be harmed by the shortage.

Teachers in the country are under increasing pressure, Marlis Tepe, president of the The German Union of Education and Science (GEW) told Germany’s tagesschau24 television channel earlier in August. The job has become more demanding, with bigger classes being filled with children who are at different levels, Ms Tepe said. Many children also have language difficulties, she said. As a result, a lot of new teachers don’t last long in the profession.

To solve the problem, GEW says there needs to be room for more pupils in schools. "In the short term, however, we have to resort to extra measures," Ms Tepe said. "Colleagues without a teacher training course need at least a crash course of several weeks to prepare.”

If the crisis is not addressed, the already “drastic situation” will only intensify, GEW warns. Well-trained teachers will move to good schools, while already struggling schools will be left to make do with inexperienced people teaching in classrooms.

Schools in Germany have also been slammed for not doing enough to tackle anti-semitism, which has grown in classrooms in recent months.

Josef Schuster, president of The Central Council of Jews in Germany, on Sunday criticised the use of “anti-Semitic stereotypes” in school textbooks. Mr Schuster said teachers must now be given special training to stamp it out.