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'More than 50,000' unfilled teaching positions in German schools

The Local Germany
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'More than 50,000' unfilled teaching positions in German schools
A teacher of a 4th grade class in Stuttgart helps a pupill. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Germany has a growing shortage of teachers, with two types of schools particularly affected, according to a new survey from the Germany-wide teachers union Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE).

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Fifty-seven percent of the school administrators surveyed by VBE stated that at least one of the available positions at their school was currently vacant. 

Of the schools affected, a quarter said that six to ten percent of the positions were not filled. At a fifth of the schools, more than 15 percent of all positions were vacant. 

The teacher shortage was particularly drastic at elementary schools and special education schools. 

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A large majority of the head teachers surveyed, or 84 percent, expect their school to be "severely" or "very severely" affected in the future.

Germany has long been experiencing a teacher shortage, with many younger people gravitating away from the profession due to its long hours, low pay and lack of flexibility. The general shortage of skilled workers in the country also means that there are fewer people qualified to teach.

The problem is made more pronounced by the rising number of schoolchildren due to more births and immigration, according to the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). There are currently almost 11 million schoolchildren in Germany.

READ ALSO: How Germany's teacher shortage is affecting schools

According to the VBE, an average of eleven percent of available positions are unfilled nationwide, with 1.6 vacancies per school. 

Measured against the total number of primary and secondary schools in Germany, which the Federal Statistical Office put at 32,206 for the past school year, this results in more than 51,000 unfilled teaching positions nationwide. 

The survey, published on Tuesday, was conducted in September and October last year among 1,308 school head teachers nationwide. 

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According to KMK calculations, the gap between teacher demand and supply will average about 1,600 each year between 2021 and 2035. According to the teacher demand forecast, the KMK expects about 25,000 vacancies in 2035.

"In the reality of our schools, the gap is now already estimated to be twice as large as the KMK forecasts for 2035," said VBE Chairman Gerhard Brand.

Call for better lateral training

The researchers also asked principals whether Quereinsteiger or “lateral entrants” are used in their schools - meaning individuals without formal teaching qualifications. Sixty percent of respondents said this was the case; an increase of 23 percent compared to 2018.

According to the survey, lateral entrants are used particularly often at Hauptschulen, Realschulen and Gesamtschulen - or alternatives to the more academically-focused Gymnasium - as well as at Förderschulen and special education schools. 

READ ALSO: What foreign parents should know about German schools

Of principals who use lateral entrants, 51 percent said this group was on a temporary contract.

"What was once sold to us as an emergency solution has long since become an integral part of the reality in schools,” said Brand.  

“The fact that this is becoming much more prevalent, especially in those types of schools whose students bring with them increased educational needs, is something we see with great concern."

His association is therefore calling for lateral entrants to undergo at least six months of preliminary training before taking up the teaching profession in order to acquire "basic pedagogical and didactic knowledge".

In addition, said Brand, lateral entrants already in service would have to be "fully qualified to teach".

Vocabulary

Teacher shortage - (der) Lehrermangel 

Vacancy - (die) Vakanz

Elementary/primary school - (die) Grundschule

Lateral entrant - (der) Querinsteiger

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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