Declining number of natural sciences professors

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02.10.2018.

Zagreb, 060718. U sklopu priprema za eksperimentalnu fazu kurikularne reforme Skola za zivot, koja najesen krece u 74 skole diljem Hrvatske, ministrica znanosti i obrazovanja Blazenka Divjak obisla je Trecu gimnaziju u Zagrebu. Ministrica je nazocila sastanku ucitelja s mentorima u sklopu najvece edukacije, te izvjestila o tijeku priprema za Skolu za zivot. Na fotografiji:
Foto: Goran Mehkek / CROPIX
Goran Mehkek / CROPIX

Blaženka Divjak

"Why work at school when they can get a much higher wage on the market with their skills?"

While there is an excess of some teachers in schools, with confusing messages coming from politicians (People's Party (HNS) president Ivan Vrdoljak and Minister of Science, Education and Sports Blaženka Divjak) on the need for retraining, headmasters of schools are warning about lack of qualified teachers for chemistry, biology, mathematics and computer science.

The problem has become so large that high-schools in large cities started taking on final year students to fill the positions of qualified teachers.

No selection

Someone who has a degree in computer science or mathematics does not want to work for wages that schools are offering. They are offered much higher wages and better working conditions outside the education sector. Headmasters warned that the problem of lack of qualified workers in schools is not something new, but has become more pronounced. One reputable high-school located in Croatia's capital has been lucky thus far, but the school is struggling to find chemistry, mathematics and biology teachers this year.

- When it comes to hiring teachers permanently, we can find candidates, but it is extremely difficult to find temporary workers. Six of our professors are on maternity leave, of which two chemistry and biology teachers, with one more teacher preparing for maternity leave. We have hired a final year student for a period of 60 days as there are no qualified workers. You can be lucky if anyone responds to your competition and you can only dream about picking top quality candidates - said headmaster Drago Bagić.

Substitutes

When they fail to hire final year students, some headmasters fill the position themselves.

-The situation is becoming unbearable. Did you know that professors in high-schools make HRK 5,500? Who would work for that much? I had to hold classes ten times this month so that students would not fall behind - said Želimir Čečura, the headmaster of one high-school located in Zagreb. It is one of the schools where the start of the school year was marked with lack of teachers: eight professors were on sick leave and the headmaster says the search for substitutes drove him insane.

Several schools confirmed they are facing similar problems. One of the high-schools in Zagreb is currently looking for biology teachers and substitute chemistry teachers. The school currently employs an unqualified chemistry substitute teacher.

- This is the state of the education system - said Blaženka Ječminek, headmaster of the school.

Her colleague Tihomir Engelsfed, managed to solve the problem, as he put it, after many, many telephone calls.

- Computer science and mathematics teachers are an even bigger problem. Better high-schools in larger cities can manage to find professors if they offer permanent employment, but substitutes are difficult to find, even for longer periods. Even if you find someone, that person will leave soon. When our mathematics teacher took maternity leave last year, we went through three or four substitutes. This is bad for the students as well - stressed Engelsfeld and added that parents do not understand this problem.

- Some have asked why I don't keep a substitute teacher on standby! On the other hand, some are underestimating the job of teachers. One parent proposed an IT expert from his company comes to hold classes after work as that is not very difficult - Engelsfeld noted.

He is convinced that the situation is worst when it comes to computer science teachers as anyone who can code can find a job that pays much better.

Higher wages

The Faculty of Natural Sciences (PMF) at the University of Zagreb claims that the problem is not in low quotas for future teachers, but in the fact that the quotas (for physics, computer science and mathematics) are not filled.

- We are putting in a lot of effort to attract young people to these courses. However, results are as they are. The problem is that our students are competent and find employment in Croatia, the EU and elsewhere. This is why it is necessary to make the job more attractive by investing in teachers by increasing wages and social prestige. High-schools should employ top teachers, but they are attractive to other employers as well, including those outside the education sector where wages are low - noted PMF dean Aleksandra Čižmešija.

Ministry of Science, Education and Sports announced the second competition for 3,400 scholarships for STEM fields. Scholarships are reserved for natural sciences - bioengineering, biomedicine and engineering as well as computer science.

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