How Germany's teacher shortage is affecting schools

DPA/The Local
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How Germany's teacher shortage is affecting schools
A teacher of a 4th grade class in Stuttgart helps a pupill. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The lack of teaching staff is the largest issue facing primary and secondary schools around Germany, according to a study published on Wednesday by the Robert Bosch Foundation. Is a solution in sight?


According to the annual German School Barometer, two-thirds (67 percent) of principals consider the lack of staff to be the greatest challenge facing their school. 

A full 80 percent of schools with a large proportion of students in ‘socially difficult situations’, for example those with a learning disability or who speak German as a second language, said that the staff shortage poses a problem.

"There is no quick and, above all, no easy solution to the shortage of teachers," said Dagmar Wolf from the Robert Bosch Stiftung. 

READ ALSO: What foreign parents really think about German schools

However, hiring support staff in administration, as well as bringing in more teaching assistants or foreign teachers could provide relief, she said. Currently many schools require at least a C1, or advanced level certificate, in German in order to teach, even at a bilingual or international school where the language of instruction is in a language other than German. 


The school principals surveyed also cited slow progress in digitization and poor technical equipment (22 percent) as pressing issues, followed by too much bureaucracy (21 percent) and their own heavy workload (20 percent). 

Germany has public and private education and the 16 states are responsible for its school types, school calendar and subjects. From the first to fourth grade, all children attend a Grundschule, which has a general curriculum.

But from the fifth grade children are sectioned off into different schools including a Hauptschule or Realschule. 

READ MORE: What foreign parents should know about German schools

Insufficient support for new immigrants

Since March 2022, schools have educated nearly as many new immigrant students from other countries as Ukrainian students - at a rate of 2.7 percent for both groups. 

According to the survey, 59 percent of school administrators do not believe that newly immigrated students are receiving enough support.

The situation is particularly dramatic at Grundschule: 71 percent of elementary schools said in the survey that they cannot guarantee sufficient support. Only 43 percent of schools say they still have capacity for newly arrived immigrants.

Not able to catch up

A majority of school leaders believe they cannot catch up on current learning gaps due to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw schools shut their doors for months at a time in 2020 and 2021.

Only 32 percent of school administrators believe programmes designed to help students catch up post-pandemic are effective. At 42 percent, the verdict is best at secondary schools. 

On the other hand, schools in difficult social situations and those with the highest proportion of students with learning deficits are not reached by the support programs - only 23 percent and 25 percent of respondents see a positive effect there. A full 70 percent of school principals say they need more funding to address learning gaps.


"The glaring shortage of teachers and specialists is the Achilles' heel of the school system,” Anja Bensinger-Stolze of the the GEW educational union told DPA. 

Not only does it put the brakes on almost every school policy reform project, but it now jeopardises educational efforts in Germany as a whole," said Bensinger-Stolze. 

"Teacher shortage is not just a number for us in schools, it is a real threat to the pedagogical quality of what we offer," shared VBE national chairman Gerhard Brand. 

He warned against shortening teacher training, which in Germany is part of a bachelor’s degree programme.

The representative study surveyed over 1,500 school principals, in cooperation with the Forsa Institute, across Germany in November and December 2022.


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