Thursday, July 12, 2012

We don't need no education

At the cost Polish teachers want to charge for their services we don't need any no education. Teachers in Poland spend the least time actually teaching in Europe. For the 2010-2011 school year, the average Polish teacher spent 14 hours a week in front the chalkboard. Ouch.

A German teacher spent nearly double that, teaching for 26 hours. But it's hardly surprising that a German would work longer than a Pole. Yet, a Spanish teacher spent 25 hours in front of the class, French and Finnish ones some 24 hours, and a Greek teacher taught for 21 hours. My god, Greek teachers worked harder than Polish ones. That's got to be a new low.

The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita notes that before 1982 teachers taught class for a more respectable 26 hours a week. In 1982, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the then ruler of a Communist-controlled Poland still caught in the grip of Martial Law, bought off teachers that had been threatening to strike by agreeing to much shorter working hours and guaranteeing privileges.

The rules still in place don't require Polish teachers to be in school beyond actual lecture hours. Teachers counter probably (and somewhat justifiably) that they don't get paid a lot to sit around at school.

But teachers do get paid to go on holiday. Jaruzelski's largesse and the lack of reform since means Polish teachers get some 80 days of holidays a year. That is nearly three full calendar months of holidays.

Local governments attest that the high cost of teachers combined with low productivity is helping ruin their budgets, according to Rzeczpospolita. Local government reps say that as long as the central government doesn't want to splash out for teacher privileges, it should limit them. Their main demands are to increase working hours, lengthen promotion thresholds and cut holidays.

Teachers, unsurprisingly, are having none of this. Some 96% of them vowed to protest against any limitation of their current rights. A full 30% said they were willing to go on permanent strike.

The Education Ministry, for now, is ready to back down in the face of always unpopular protests with parents. It says no changes will be made to working conditions without teacher approval. We know exactly what that means: there will be no changes.

Change, however, never stops. With Poles ageing fast, there simply won't be enough kids to go around, even if teacher working hours are kept ridiculously short. In this context, it seems the quicker the system can move to paying fewer good teachers well the better. Otherwise, the question really be 'is our children learning?'


  1. Felix DzerzhinskiJuly 13, 2012 7:30 am

    "A German teacher spent nearly double that, teaching for 26 hours. But it's hardly surprising that a German would work longer than a Pole." Good to see such an enthusiastic use of stereotypes. Why don't you compare German teachers' salaries with that of Polish teachers, relative to the national average for both countries. Then you'd have something concrete on which to base your analysis.

  2. Hi Mr. Dzerzhinski,
    The fact you chose one of the most nefarious Poles ever for your user ID probably suggests something but it is what it is.
    As to your suggestion, do you really think that if teachers were paid 10,000 zlotys a month, the quality of education would rise in step. It's simply not true fact that the higher the salary, the better the teaching.
    Now, I'm not saying teachers should not be paid more. They should. But there need to be fewer of them. Class sizes in Germany are higher and teach teacher takes on more students. Moreover, teachers in Poland make up some 3% of the population whereas in Germany they make up only 2%. Fewer teachers would lead to higher salaries and a better fit to demographics trends.
    But, if you would ask me whether I think it's better to spend public money on teacher wage hikes or on yet more miner benefits, I think teaching is a far better investment for the future of Poland.

  3. Felix DzerzhinskiJuly 15, 2012 9:29 am

    Thanks for your thoughts Scott. My moniker is mischievous, showing some contempt for a silly article with an unfortunately smug tone.

    Please note I did not suggest anything in relation to Polish teachers' salaries although one could, as you did, suggest an implication. I simply said that to make a proper comparison between Polish teachers and German teachers relative to average earnings because that will indicate whether quality candidates are attracted to the profession. On the 2010 OECD PISA rankings Poland compared quite well to Germany. In Australia (where I live) teachers' conditions were cut and salaries stalled from about 1987 on. The result was disastrous for recruitment of quality graduates into teaching.

    Paying teachers more from savings made by eroding their conditions is a false economy and the end result
    will be a degraded performance.

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