The issue of education and, in particular, the remuneration of teachers in France is at the center of the 2022 presidential election campaign. Travel to Germany, Finland and Israel to see how teachers are treated there.
Germany – a dream country for teachers?
Behind the Rhine, the profession of a teacher is especially valued. The shortage of teachers associated with demographic changes is an additional factor explaining the high level of wages in the country. At the end of a career, the salary can reach 5,500 euros gross per month. But there are significant differences depending on the region.
Education in Germany is administered by the Länder. Therefore, it is they who determine the content of programs and exams, as well as determine the level of wages in accordance with the grids in force throughout the region. Thus, in Germany there is no equivalent of a national education. Teachers apply directly to the institutions where they want to work. Managers conduct interviews and select candidates. In general, wages are significantly higher than in France. A new primary school teacher earns between 3,500 and 4,000 gross euros per month. In middle and high school, wages range from 4,000 to 4,600 gross per month. The award is given to secondary school teachers at the end of their career in Baden-Württemberg in the amount of 5,665 euros gross per month.
There are no teachers on the streets in the country, there are no teachers’ strikes. True, the status of a civil servant prohibits teachers from holding demonstrations. However, there is dissatisfaction associated with strong differences in the status of teachers. Thus, the city of Berlin, mired in debt for several years, stopped granting civil servant status to its teachers due to lack of funds. With dramatic consequences for the city’s schools: the flight of teachers to neighboring Brandenburg, where higher wages are practiced.
Finnish model that can be transposed abroad?
This Scandinavian country is often taken as a model when it comes to education. Since the start of surveys in Pisa, which test the knowledge of 15-year-olds, Finland has taken first place among European countries, well ahead of France. But the question arises: are we ready to accept all the cultural and social changes that this implies?
To answer this question, we can look at teachers. The Finnish teacher teaches 18 to 24 lessons per week, plus two hours of educational meetings. He goes through a rigorous selection process – with an 8% to 20% chance of success on an exam – at the end of which he must “sell” his skills to the directors and executives who hire him. The Finnish school system also includes about twenty students per class and a salary of over 3,000 euros per month.
In addition to this material aspect, there is also a pedagogical issue. If in France we focus on discipline and grades, then in Finland the key words are “student initiative” and “improving their quality”. The teacher cannot rate below 4 out of 10, but he has complete freedom to adapt his course. “I have to make sure that my students can communicate in English, but it’s up to me how.says Hemi, a language teacher from Finland. So if my class is better at projects or through play, music, then yes.”
Don’t be afraid that the inspector will remind you of the program to follow, the inspection body was abolished in the 1990s. The Finnish model is trying to be exported. There is even an organization that sells Finnish know-how abroad – Education Finland – but it reminds us of the rules of any school reform: it takes time, to go gradually and, above all, to have a political consensus.
Ridiculous salaries in the public sector in Israel
There are different types of education in the Jewish state: many private schools without contracts or even yeshivot, these schools where only religion is taught. But if you focus on public, public schools, then teachers are paid pretty badly. At the beginning of their careers, and also after a few years, teachers in Israel – both in primary and secondary schools – receive ridiculous salaries. According to the OECD’s annual survey of education published in September 2021, teachers in the country are paid less than average, and Israeli classrooms are among the most overcrowded. In fact, they earn 6% less if we compare their salaries on a purchasing power scale, especially since living in Israel is very expensive. Sometimes their starting salary can be less than the regular server salary. According to a survey published by the Israeli business newspaper Markerone in five Israeli teachers leave the profession within the first three years.
Teachers have been protesting for a long time, criticizing, in particular, the fact that education leaders are not taken from the teaching profession. They demand higher wages or the general prestige of the profession, and at every start of the school year they threaten strikes led by the teachers’ union. As a result, there is a real shortage of teachers in Israel. A disadvantage that already existed before the coronavirus pandemic, but which is only getting worse. The main teachers’ union also fears it will be difficult for them to return to school next September if a wage agreement is not reached in June, citing the closure of entire classes.