OAJ’s survey published today reports that well over half of Finnish teachers have considered career change. The most common reasons for considering career change were the burden of work, increased workload and wage level. The President of OAJ demands that politicians and employers realise the gravity of the situation and solve the problems pushing teachers away from the sector.
In the last year, 57 per cent of all respondents have considered career change. Career change was most prevalently considered by those working with small children. 63 per cent of teachers in early childhood education and 59 per cent of comprehensive school teachers have considered career change.
The data comes from the Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ’s survey conducted in September, to which over 2,600 OAJ members from different educational levels responded.
The number of teachers considering career change has doubled
OAJ last conducted a survey on the issue at the end of spring 2021. Then, one in three teachers reported that they had considered career change.
– It looks like there has been a very dramatic shift in just a few months. The situation is a borderline emergency. Every decision-maker and employer in Finland should now stop and think about how devastating the consequences would be to society as a whole if teachers, principals and heads of ECEC centres started changing their careers in large numbers, says Olli Luukkainen, President of OAJ.
Every decision-maker and employer should now stop and think about how devastating the consequences would be to society as a whole if teachers started changing their careers in large numbers.
Luukkainen believes that the learning and well-being deficits stemming from the COVID-19 situation and the unreasonably increased workloads are to blame for the sudden frequency of teachers considering career change.
– Teachers and supervisors in the sector held out for a long time and kept the schools, ECEC centres and educational institutions open even through the state of emergency. The teachers, who were already under a tremendous workload, have observed, during the autumn, how much extra work is required to catch up with the learning and well-being deficits created during the COVID-19 situation. Their resources have simply been exhausted, and the feeling of being able to manage their work has all but faded. This is the reason why many teachers are pondering whether they are able to do this anymore and if they even want to continue in the sector.
The burden of work is the most common reason for considering career change
Respondents were asked to choose between one and three main reasons for considering career change. The burden of work was the most common reason. 83 per cent of those who had considered career change chose it as one of the reasons. The next most common reasons were the increased workload (67%) and wage level (50%).
Among early childhood education teachers, nearly eight out of ten chose wage level as a reason for considering career change. New teachers were also more often dissatisfied with their wages than were others.
Among early childhood education teachers, nearly eight out of ten chose wage level as a reason for considering career change.
– Those with the lowest wages had considered career change the most frequently. It is clear that their workload in particular must be lightened and wages improved. Employers need to tackle this head on in our next round of negotiations, Luukkanen says.
For example, the wages of new early childhood education teachers and class teachers fall hundreds of euros short of the median wage in Finland, which is approximately 3,000 euros.
– Imagine being a recently graduated Master of Education. You will be staring at an everyday working life where your groups are so big and diverse that you cannot even make use of your own competence in a meaningful way. The workload is so extensive that you must plan your classes on the weekends. On top of this, there are the COVID-19-related changes that only add to the workload. Is it any wonder that you would consider career change as an option when your wage, for example in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, is barely sufficient for you to manage? asks Luukkainen.
There are solutions to the problems if decision-makers and employers have the will
The burden of work on teachers coupled with the long working days have long come up in the working life barometers OAJ regularly conducts. OAJ has also presented solutions to the problems.
– We need to pay attention to the actions that will ensure that teachers have sufficient time to face each learner as an individual and support their learning and development. That is the essence of what teaching is about. And if the workload should for some reason increase, that should also be reflected in the wages, Luukkanen says.
We need to pay attention to the actions that will ensure that teachers have sufficient time to face each learner as an individual
For example, the group size management OAJ has long proposed would help manage the workload and improve its quality. OAJ has suggested that tutoring for new teachers should be written into the legislation. OAJ has also long demanded corrections to learning support.
– Sufficient funding for basic teaching work should be secured and earmarked instead of applying for extra funds only from the small development project streams. Almost two billion euros more are required for education at the annual level if we wish to bridge the gap to the other Nordic countries. Some may see it as expensive in the short term, but it would be even more expensive for us not to tackle these problems right now.
Almost two billion euros more are required for education at the annual level if we wish to bridge the gap to the other Nordic countries.
As for wage developments, the broad lines will be laid out in the contract negotiations next spring.
– We will set out to right the wrongs in wages through negotiations in the spring. If we are unable to find solutions through negotiation, there seems to be a high level of readiness for starting a strike among our members, Luukkanen says.
This is how the issue was surveyed
- OAJ sent out an online survey to 20,400 randomly selected members. Respondents had time to respond between 31 August and 8 September 2021.
- 2,619 people responded to the survey, which is a response rate of 12.8 per cent.
- Among the respondents, there were 596 early childhood education teachers, 1,225 general education teachers (basic education and upper secondary school), 749 secondary education and university of applied sciences teachers and 32 university teachers.
- The error margin for the results is 1.9 both ways.
- In the same survey, OAJ also surveyed its members’ views on their contract negotiation objectives and readiness to start a strike. OAJ will make use of these results only in internal preparation for the upcoming round of negotiations.
Information: This is how career change considerations have been surveyed in the past
- In the survey OAJ conducted in the summer, one in three teachers reported that the COVID-19 situation had made them consider career change. At the time, the question was worded slightly differently than this time. Nonetheless, it looks like there has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of teachers considering career change during the autumn. You can read about the findings from the survey conducted in June (in Finnish)
- The Finnish Institute for Educational Research studied the prevalence of teachers considering career change in a study published in 2013. At the time, only two in ten teachers (n=1710) reported that they were considering career change. Wages are also something that was now mentioned as the reason for considering career change much more frequently than at the time. You can read their study (in Finnish)