Ministry of Education: hundreds of teachers required in Latvian schools

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Several hundred teachers are lacking in Latvian schools, said the Ministry of Education and Science (IZM) August 27 to Latvian Radio.

The most demanded are currently maths, Latvian and foreign-language teachers. Consequently, those educators already at work are forced to take on very heavy loads. This makes it difficult to introduce an individual learning approach. The lack of educators is blamed on both low wages and the low prestige of the profession.

A few days before the beginning of the new school year there are 470 vacancies in Latvian schools, according to a survey of municipalities conducted by IZM. Part of this is for teachers, part for other staff, such a psychologist, logopedic or social worker. Most employees are lacking in big cities, such as Jelgava and Jūrmala. There are also many vacancies for preschool educators, said Baiba Basķere, deputy director of the Ministry's Department of Professional and Adult Education.

“Of these 470 vacancies, 150 are in pre-school education institutions, which are most likely to show that its load and responsibility does not match the pay,” Bašķere said.

Most of the schools lack math, Latvian and foreign-language teachers. The most common solution is redeployment of resources – i.e. existing educators take on more loads and work much more.

This trend has been stagnating in recent years. More than 30 school employees are missing in Jelgava schools. Other than the ones mentioned, teachers in biology, chemistry, geography and informatics, music, and swimming coaches are also required.

“Basically, the teacher works the contact-hours, the subject is for the whole class, for a part of the class. But the individual work that would be needed to achieve the result that a child needs – it is very difficult to provide,” said Gunta Auza, director of the municipal Education Department.

This has been the case for many years now. The generational shift is also happening very slowly, Auza said. Pay is still too low, the prestige of the profession is growing too slowly.

A similar situation is in Mārupe State Gymnasium. The school needs at least eight educators to allow teachers to work normally, said Andžela Sokolova, deputy director for education.

"For a history and social science teacher who has some 28 contact-hours, this means he has about 13-14 classes of pupils. And if there are 30 children in each form, then they are about 500 who pass through the hands of that teacher within a week. And if we are talking about an individual learning process, we should have an individual approach to each of the 500 pupils, which I think is fiction," Sokolova said.

She believes that teacher loads should be balanced. 20 to 22 contact hours should be set and the rest of the time should be left for out-of-hours work. This, of course, requires even more human resources.

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