Special Rapporteur for school education credits in the Senate, and thus for state budget expenditure in National Education, Gérard Longuet on Thursday released a report on “the crisis of the attractiveness of the teaching profession”, comparing the situation of the French school system with other European countries. The observation is clear and shared: Europe – and all so-called “developed” countries – suffer from a structural shortage of teachers, even in the most rewarding school systems like Germany or Portugal. Indeed, the education population tends to age, with the average age increasing by 4 years between 2008 and 2018, for example in France. Combined with a low number of new entrants to the profession, this demographic dynamic is causing this general “teacher shortage” across Europe.
In France, in particular, the structural decline in the number of candidates for education competitions is significant, with a drop of 30% in 15 years: from 50,000 candidates in 2008 we fell to 30,000 in 2020. With a school population that has declined over the past few years (a slight decrease in the first grade, but a slight increase in the second stage), the normal functioning of the French school system would require at the very least a renewal of retirements, but the number of candidates in free fall for the teaching competition does not provide sufficient capacity to provide qualified teachers to pull. Especially since even among teachers recruited through competition, the number of layoffs has tripled in 10 years (from 1% to 3.2% of resigning trainees), while the correlative use of contract workers has increased by 1.5% in the last five years. increased.
The German and Portuguese models: proof that the salary is not enough
In an effort to outline avenues for reflection to overcome this “shortage”, Gérard Longuet in his report takes a comparative approach, focusing on the German and Portuguese cases, two countries that pay their teachers much more than France. In Germany, the annual salary is twice the average of the countries of the European Union (according to the Länder between 3000 and 4250 euros net per month), for a public expenditure on education of 2.6% of GDP, against 3. 4% In France. However, French teachers have a salary of $10,000 lower than the OECD average after a 15-year career, even though it takes only 12 years for a Danish teacher to reach his maximum salary. Germany is compensating for spending on teachers’ salaries with twice as many students per school. The Special Rapporteur on credits for school education nevertheless points to “limits to the German model”, a kind of flip side of the coin of these high salaries, with the lack of a job guarantee, competition between candidates for a position, limited inter-regional mobility and compulsory replacement and supervision missions in the absence of a specific school life.
In Portugal, on the other hand, if the salaries are comparable at the beginning of their career, they progress much more and much faster, so that a Portuguese teacher earns between 15 and 18,000 euros more per year at the end of his career. Senator LR de la Meuse therefore praises Portugal’s “strong budgetary choices”, which have allowed it to increase the literacy rate and reduce the dropout rate from 45% in 2002 to 6% in 2021, a figure lower than in France. Progress the OECD describes as “historic. But even Germany and Portugal are struggling to recruit teachers, with 15,000 teachers missing from the German education system in 2019, and the lowest percentage of new teachers in the OECD for Portugal, announcing that these problems are worsening. It is particularly important to note that teachers in Portugal are even paid much better than the average worker: the argument of salary attractiveness compared to the private sector therefore does not solve the problem of teacher shortages affecting European school systems.
Continuing education, self-evaluation: other ways to make the teaching profession more attractive
Therefore, if a “continuation of the increase in teachers’ salaries” is necessary, Gérard Longuet also tries to explore other avenues, such as support outside the internship year through several years of mentorship at the beginning of the career or the bonus of compensation according to the disciplines and territories under tension. Likewise, the report calls for financial incentives for continuing education and for the integration of the design of “exchange spaces” into the construction of future school buildings, to promote collaboration between teachers and the structuring of educational communities. In this regard, Senator LR also mentions a specificity of the Portuguese model, which consists in not appointing the heads of institutions, but electing them by a general assembly. In his view, for example, we could promote the self-evaluation of teachers by their peers by making it a condition for any additional salary bonuses.