The teacher shortage is an escalating problem in Hungary, as the number of teaching hours for Hungarian teachers is very high while their salaries are among the lowest in an EU comparison, the European Commission’s (EC) recently-released 2022 Country Report concluded.
The report also found that,
- Aggregate indicators, such as the teacher-pupil ratio, do not signal acute shortages of teachers in Hungary.
- However, a more detailed analysis shows that shortages do exist for specific subjects such as mathematics, science and foreign languages.
- Teacher shortages are also linked to the fragmentation of the school system as half of all primary and lower secondary schools had fewer than 150 pupils in 2020/2021.
- Schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils tend to suffer particularly from a lack of qualified teachers.
- More than half of graduates from teacher-education courses end up in other careers due to the high workload and low pay of teachers, especially those at the beginning of their career.
- The number of teaching hours for Hungarian teachers is the highest in Europe, and in the absence of sufficient support staff, many teachers must perform non-teaching duties such as after-school care.
- Teacher salaries are the lowest among the EU countries that are OECD members and are equivalent to only 58- 66% of the salaries of other tertiary graduates, depending on educational level.
- Moreover, the centralized management of schools leaves school directors with limited autonomy and tools to improve teaching quality.
Another aspect of the report found that
- The number of tertiary graduates in Hungary falls short of the growing demand in the country for highly skilled workers.
- The number of entrants to tertiary education has been shrinking over the past decade, reflecting demographic trends, poor school outcomes, and the reduction of state-funded places
The growing shortage of young colleagues has been confirmed both by teachers themselves and the Statistical Office (KSH). Their notoriously low salaries have also been demonstrated already in several comparative reports.
As we have already reported, teachers unions engaged in several awareness campaigns and strikes in order to settle the situation. However, according to the unions, instead of addressing the issue, the Fidesz government decided to restrict teachers’ right to strike, something that has been facing controversies and protests in the country ever since.
Since the April general elections, Orbán has announced a ten percent wage increase for teachers this year, another ten percent next year, and another ten percent the year after. That just about allows them to keep up with inflation, projected to average about 9-10 percent this year, along with rising consumer prices. More recently, House Speaker and Fidesz member László Kövér also insisted that teachers’ salaries should be increased only “by the appropriate minimum.”
However, teachers’ unions consider Orbán’s aforementioned offer “ridiculously low” and are demanding at least a one-time 45% increase.
Meanwhile, despite requests from the trade unions to set up a separate education ministry in the next Orbán government, education will be placed under the Interior Ministry in the new Fidesz-led government – something that the PDSZ teacher union called “shocking.”
Meanwhile, another school strike is already on the horizon that would start in September if the parties concerned cannot reach a wage agreement this summer.
featured image illustration via György Varga/MTI