Nobody wants to go into teaching – The government couldn’t be bothered

The situation in Serbian education is alarming, evidenced by the fact that this year, only one student applied to the teaching programme at the Faculty of Chemistry, compared to three the previous year. The same situation occurred last year at the Faculty of Physics, which had only one freshman.

Professor Goran Roglić, PhD, Dean of the Faculty of Chemistry, says that alarming bells went off much earlier.

“Since 2018, there has been a significant deficit of mathematics and computer science teachers. After that, physics came into focus, and now other subjects are slowly following suit. In the past six years, there has been no response from the state to this problem,” says Professor Roglić.

Undergraduates as teachers  

Currently, schools face the greatest shortage of teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and the German language.

The employment regulations in schools state that only teachers with a master’s degree can teach. However, in practice, it is different. To keep classes going, school principals are forced to engage less qualified personnel, even university undergraduates.

Deans of eight faculties at the University of Belgrade, which have teaching curricula, created a platform proposing solutions to increase interest in teaching careers and address the shortage of staff in schools.

Scholarships, higher salaries, and restoring the reputation of educators are the three key points the deans insist on. The platform was adopted by the University’s Senate and forwarded to the Ministry of Education.

“Apart from discussions about amending the Criminal Code to consider an attack on a teacher as an attack on an official and adopting a grading rulebook, nothing has been done,” says Professor Roglić.

Children Have Different Preferences

He explains that it is a priority for the faculties to assess how many and which teachers are needed and what the perspective is for the next five years, but this has not happened yet.

“This is a basic prerequisite for further steps. We proposed regional scholarships, i.e. not for faculties to provide scholarships for all enrolled students, but for regions to incentivize children from their areas with the obligation to return to teach in their hometowns or nearby. We believe this is the only solution to preserve education outside university cities,” Professor Roglić adds.

He adds that even in cities that have universities, we will face problems with a student response.

“Among other things, the topic of a serious revision of curricula has been opened. But people working in schools, university staff, and various educational experts should be involved too. This should include chemists and physicists, as this cannot be done overnight. Today’s children clearly have different preferences and attitudes, and this needs to be analyzed,” warns Professor Roglić.

He adds that a systematic approach is necessary. Faculties cannot analyze this alone because they do not have access to the relevant data. The sources of data are unique information systems stored at education and school administrations, which should have insight into how many teachers are lacking in each school.

Teaching Profession Pushed to the Sidelines

The Dean of the Faculty of Physics at the University of Belgrade, Professor Ivan Belča, PhD, said that the teaching profession has been degraded and pushed to the sidelines for years, ultimately leading to almost complete disinterest among young people.

“This is also why the number of students in teaching programmes has suddenly dropped compared to other (scientific, applied) curricula at our faculty and others. The state must immediately start addressing this problem systematically and not apply half-measures, but follow the steps proposed in the ‘Eight Deans’ platform,” said Professor Belča.

Restoring the Prestige of the Teaching Profession

However, as they say, it’s not all about money; it is necessary to restore the status and prestige of teachers.

The records of the Belgrade branch of the National Employment Service show that, out of a total number of unemployed graduates, most of them have graduated Serbian language and literature (141) and the English language (137), while there are the fewest mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists – only one each.

The Dean of the Faculty of Education in Belgrade, Professor Danimir Mandić, PhD, notes that in recent years, aside from the Faculty of Education in Belgrade and Jagodina, enrollment has declined at all other teaching schools in Serbia.

The reasons for this, he says, are on one hand the financial status of teachers, and on the other, the attitude of children and parents towards teachers.

Education System Exposed

Due to numerous unfortunate events, including the most tragic one that occurred in early May last year at the Vladislav Ribnikar elementary school, the flaws of the Serbian education system have been completely exposed.

The consequences of poor decisions are becoming increasingly visible at all levels of education. In the end, only one question remains unanswered: why is there no response to the teachers’ proposals and what more do they need to do to make the authorities understand the seriousness of the problem they have been warning about?

(Vreme, 26.06.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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