Shortage of teachers in Germany: Up to 40,000 teachers are missing

At the beginning of the school year, educational associations warn of a particularly high shortage of teachers. Federal states are already canceling courses.

A briefcase and an open textbook lie on a desk

If teachers were trained and hired more than required, there would be enough staff with an increasing number of students Photo: Ute Grabowsky/photothek/imago

BERLIN dpa | According to estimates by the German Teachers’ Association, up to 40,000 teachers are missing at the beginning of the school year. The provision of lessons has deteriorated in all federal states, said association president Heinz-Peter Meidinger of the German Press Agency. “Nationwide, we assume a real gap of at least 30,000, maybe even up to 40,000 vacancies.”

The situation of filling positions with fully trained teachers has “compared to the previous year again become significantly worse”, emphasized Maike Finnern, Chairwoman of the Education and Science Union (GEW). Udo Beckmann, Chairman of the Association for Education and Training, continues: “Lessons are canceled right at the beginning of the school year, larger learning groups, cutting funding offers, reducing the timetable and so on are the order of the day.”

In The school year has now started in 11 of the 16 federal states. Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland will follow next week, and the following week it will start again in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Traditionally, the two southerners are the last to go on summer vacation.

In Bavaria, shortly before the summer holidays, it was said that classes would have to be canceled in the new school year in order to have enough teachers as class teachers. In the federal capital of Berlin, the school year began with more students than ever before, while at the same time there were 875 teachers missing. From Saxony, at the beginning of the school year, Minister of Education Christian Piwarz (CDU) said: “Overall, the situation with regard to teaching remains tense”.

Plan for the future

Teachers’ Association President Meidinger said that the up to 40,000 vacant teaching positions are an estimate, since school has not yet started again in all countries. “But the numbers known so far are dramatic,” he added.

Like VBE boss Beckmann, Meidinger also speaks of canceled lessons, shortened timetables, canceled additional offers already at the beginning of the school year. In Germany there are more than 800,000 teachers at schools and vocational schools.

The KMK is “currently putting a major focus of its work on recruiting skilled workers”, as its President Karin Prien (CDU) explained when asked. As possible short-term measures to “ensure a reliable supply of lessons” she mentioned the use of substitute teachers and “in individual cases also a merging of school classes”.

She added: You don’t just have to think in terms of individual years or election periods, but think about the development of education ten or twenty years into the future.

Rather too much than too little

Teachers’ associations have been demanding this for a long time. In their view, the countries should train and hire more than they need to counteract the “pig cycle” – a term from economics: If there is more demand for pork because eating habits change or the population is growing, investments are made in pig breeding. Eventually, by the time there are more pigs on the market, demand may have fallen again. Then there is an oversupply. Corresponding adjustments in the other direction lead to shortages again after a while, and so on.

The idea is that if teachers were trained and hired beyond demand, there would be enough staff when the number of students increased. If the demand falls again and the jobs are not cut again, the “oversupply” could be used for quality improvements and would then be available again when the numbers increase.

However, that does not answer the current burning question: Where should the staff come from? Only as many teachers can be trained and hired as are potentially there and there many industries compete about offspring.

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