The economic downturn has left schools throughout Germany short of thousands of teachers this year despite the estimated 20,000 staff who are in need of jobs, according to a recent report.
The report, a survey of nationwide teaching trends, was carried out by researchers at the Duisburg Essen university in north-western Germany.
Results revealed that 15,000 vacancies have built up in the nation's schools over the past three years. The unfilled posts have accumulated despite a call two years ago by the forum representing the 16 regional education ministers for an increased number of teachers.
Yet teachers are still scarce, particularly in underdeveloped regions such as the eastern states of Thuringia and Saxony, already hard-hit as families migrate to the west in search of lucrative jobs. Teachers often head westwards too, lured by the permanent-job status eastern states do not offer.
In Berlin primary schools are short of hundreds of teachers. The city education authorities will also need to replace up to 10,000 teachers who are due to retire over the next 10 years.
The problems are caused by regional states being reluctant to hire teachers because of the continuing economic downturn which has also discouraged many students from embarking on teacher training, not least because the average course lasts a daunting eight years. The profession's image has suffered because of increased violence in schools and social pressure on teachers.
Consequently, many states prefer to "save" on new recruits by making teachers work longer hours and cope with bigger classes. The GEW, the biggest teachers' union, criticised further cost-cutting, such as closing schools in underdeveloped eastern regions with too few pupils. The union also pointed out that, in the current academic year alone, schools were 4,600 teachers short.
The DPhV, the grammar-school teachers' union, said Germany is heading for a shortfall of 80,000 teachers over the next decade. By then, nearly half the country's 785,000 teachers will have retired but there will be too few graduates to fill the gap, despite fewer schoolchildren because of Germany's low birth rate.