Education and Training Monitor 2023 sheds light on teacher shortage crisis


On 30 November 2023, the European Commission launched the annual Education and Training Monitor report during the European Education Summit 2023. The focus of this year’s report is on the progress in the implementation of the European Education Area (EEA) and on the critical issue of teacher shortages.

According to the report, which includes a toolbox with country-specific data on the attractiveness of the teaching profession, teacher shortages are a widespread concern across EU countries in all education sectors, such as in early childhood education (ECE) and vocational education and training (VET) sector. The report mentions various examples of understaffed schools in disadvantaged regions, a scarcity of STEM and language teachers and an ageing teaching workforce, particularly in Greece, Portugal, the Baltic countries and Hungary. High workload, low societal appreciation and unattractive salaries - 11% below the average for tertiary-educated workers across the EU – are identified as key factors contributing to the unattractiveness of the teaching profession. According to the report, while teacher autonomy is generally high across EU countries (almost all score within a 6 percentage point deviation from the high EU average of 90.8%), lower percentages of teachers (75.8% on average) feel they can participate in school decision-making (the degree of collegial leadership ranges from 68.4% in Belgium to 89% in Bulgaria). Societal appreciation of teachers is also reportedly low, with only 17.7% of teachers feeling valued.

Despite measures taken by countries to enhance the appeal of the profession - such as salary increases (from 20% to 70%) in Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Romania - major challenges persist. Instead of solving the problem of making the profession attractive, some countries try to overcome the shortage in other ways. For example, some EU countries increased investment in hiring support teachers to address workload issues, but teachers’ effective career start and quality training are still not considered a priority. To enhance teachers’ career progression, 15 EU education systems put in place regulations to connect teacher appraisal to promotions and higher career levels, while France, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden connected it to salary progression. On the other hand, in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland and Luxembourg, no financial incentives or promotions have been envisaged. Other measures to tackle teacher shortages have been put in place by Ireland, that started a pilot scheme for sharing teachers of high-demand STEM subjects among schools, and Romania, that envisioned the establishment of school consortia to encourage the participation of disadvantaged schools from rural and isolated areas.

To increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession, the report underlines the need to devise comprehensive policies and data-driven strategies to improve teachers’ recruitment, retention, initial training, professional development, early career support and attractive career paths with fair financial rewards. Measures like the recruitment of non-qualified teachers and alternative pathways to access the profession are also mentioned as important aspects when addressing teacher shortages and attracting other graduates or professionals to teaching. However, data from the report shows that, while student achievement has not been found to be negatively affected by the access to teaching of people from other professions, the retention rates of entrants from other professions into the teaching profession are significantly lower due to unattractive salaries.

ETUCE believes that deprofessionalisation and deregulation of teachers’ education and profession compromises professional standards and alternative pathways are not sustainable solutions to teacher shortages. High qualification requirements to access the profession, commensurate with fair salaries, are essential to maintain high professional standards and ensure quality education and quality teaching. Commenting on the Education and Training Monitor 2023, Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, underscores: “The Education and Training Monitor and other relevant European reports show that  low salaries, bad working conditions, lack of access to training, low-quality initial education and work overload all contribute to the teacher shortage. ETUCE believes that a highly valued teaching profession is a prerequisite for providing high quality education to students. We urgently call for increased public investment in education to provide the financial backbone to make teaching an attractive profession”. Furthermore, while ETUCE welcomes the report’s focus on teacher shortages, it highlights that it does not mention the essential role of social dialogue and the importance of governance and of the involvement of social partners in policymaking to improve the status of the teaching profession. As education trade unions, our active involvement is crucial in addressing the complex issue of teacher shortage effectively. To this end, we will continue calling governments for sustainable public funding, support of teachers’ professional development and high-quality initial training for well-educated staff, fair and attractive salaries and good working conditions.