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Wanted: 50,000 new teachers

GERMANY

GERMANY is short of 50,000 teachers and the situation will worsen in the coming year, according to the country's teaching union.

Some 8,000 new teachers were employed over the past year, but the rise in the number of children of school age - an increase of more than a million since 1990 - means still more are needed.

Instead of hiring teachers the authorities have allowed class sizes to rise. To return to the teacher-pupil ratios of the mid-1990s, more than 50,000 new staff are needed, the GEW union says in its annual report.

Germany's vocational schools, often the envy of other European countries, are particularly badly hit. Many schools now have to employ engineers and master craftsmen with no teaching experience, a trend opposed by the union.

For years the government dissuaded young people from entering the profession. Many student teacherswere forced to switch degree courses mid-track to avoid the near-certain prospect of unemployment on qualifying.

This year 20,500 students, only half the number of the early 1980s, completed the two-year practical training after their teaching degrees, slightly outstripping the 18,300 vacancies in the country.

Even with teacher-pupil ratios staying the same, the ageing teaching force means vacancies will rise by more than 50 per cent in the next three years - far outstripping numbers in training.

One-fifth of German teachers are over 50 years old. Over 81 per cent of teachers opt for early retirement, with an average age on retirement of around 56 - the lowest of all civil servants.

The union has been calling for more university places, and a shortening of Germany's graduate teacher programme which can take a student up to 10 years to complete.

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