The Future for the Next Generation of Teachers

The workload of teachers and the competitiveness of wages are the factors most affecting the future of schools in Tallinn and Tartu

The solutions to the problems of the quality of teaching and of finding the next generation of teachers for schools in Tallinn and Tartu depend primarily on lightening the workload of teachers and on how competitive the profession of teaching is in the labour markets of the biggest towns says a short report by the Foresight Centre on the future for the next generation of teachers in schools in Tallinn and Tartu out to 2040.

The Foresight Centre defined three types of school in its assessment of the future for the next generation of teachers in schools, separating Estonian schools into those in Tallinn and Tartu, other urban schools, and rural schools. Eneli Kindsiko, an expert from the Foresight Centre, explained that the future scenarios for teachers produced as part of the research stream on the future for the next generation of teachers reflect possible future developments in those schools and can help in understanding where current trends may lead.

“The scenarios are not solutions to current problems, they are narratives about the future that help in understanding what may happen if one or another trend dominates. If one or another scenario appears worrying or entirely unattractive, it is worth thinking about how to avoid it being realised”, she emphasised.

Two issues need to be addressed as priorities in order to ensure the next generation of teachers in schools in Tallinn and Tartu. The first of these is the excessive workload that teachers have to deal with. The second is to make the profession of teaching competitive in the labour markets of the two largest towns in Estonia, where wage pressures are high and there is a larger range of attractive alternative jobs available than in other towns and regions of Estonia. There are more younger teachers of an age where they have young families working in schools in Tartu and Tallinn than in other regions of Estonia, and they consequently have larger financial obligations and higher expectations for their salary; 29% of teachers in Harjumaa and 33% of those in Tartumaa are aged under 40, while only 16-22% are in other regions.

Ms Kindsiko noted that the baseline scenario for the next generation of teachers in schools in Tallinn and Tartu is a scenario of private teachers, where whether children have access to good education will in future depend on whether their parents are able to pay for private teachers who can help fill the educational gaps created by the shortage of teachers in schools. “This is the case that would arise by 2040 if we do not make any changes and the current trends continue. In the private teacher scenario, teaching would be done by private teachers, and the educational gap would widen. The number of private schools in Tallinn in Tartu is rising, but this means that a good education is guaranteed only for the children with the wealthiest parents”, she said.

The best scenario available is the smart teacher scenario, in which technology is used to reduce the workload of teachers. “We will have to work hard to reach that point, as the recent PISA results show that other countries have moved ahead of us in using digital technology to enhance teaching”, said Ms Kindsiko.

The teaching staff of the future in the smart teacher scenario are able to navigate using smart technology so that a good education does not depend on the teacher actually being physically present. Routine tasks are automated and the main focus of the teacher is on working with pupils with special needs, developing the social skills of pupils, and understanding the psyches of children.

The Foresight Centre notes that an advantage of the smart teacher scenario is that the profession of teaching becomes more valued and appreciated by the state and by society. Class sizes in schools in Tallinn and Tartu would be smaller, the working week of the teacher would not exceed 35 hours, and the minimum pay for teachers would have reached 120% of the average salary in Estonia.

The Foresight Centre report on scenarios for the need for teachers out to 2040 can be found in Estonian at:  

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