Expressing dissatisfaction with the unbalanced workload in their workplaces and demanding compliance with pre-defined teachers’ salary principles, it was planned to start an educators’ strike on September 19, 2022. About 23,000 education workers planned to participate in it. On September 16, 2022, a compromise was agreed on regarding the salary and workload of educators and on the cancellation of the planned strike, which, in turn, does not satisfy the goals previously set by the educators. The reached compromise will not solve the problem of shortage of teachers, which is one of the reasons for excessive workload. In order to stabilize the situation in the field of education, it is necessary to find funding for raising teachers’ salaries and improving working conditions, thus raising the prestige and appreciation of educators.
Educators and their work are a frequently discussed topic among society. Considering the rapid development and improvement of teaching processes, the main resource, which is the teaching force – teachers – is forgotten. Daily, teachers tend to face disrespect from students and their parents, which is also one of the demotivating factors among teachers, which has a negative impact on the learning process. On top of that, there is a lack of new educators, existing educators question their stay in the profession due to low pay and high workload. Consistently, teachers and education workers in Latvia decided to hold a strike to demand the provision of an adequate workload, as well as fairer pay, which was later cancelled. This Latvia Social briefing will outline the compromises reached with the government for the strike to be cancelled, as well as the general problems in providing primary and secondary education, which the existing teachers must shoulder.
I Educators’ Strike
Latvian teachers are dissatisfied with the unbalanced workload in their workplaces, and they also want the pre-defined principles of teachers’ remuneration to be respected. Up until the compromise found between the Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees (LIZDA) and the Ministry of Education and Science had to work overtime over their 30 hours a week and receive no renumeration for overtime with the wage of 900 euros a month. After several negotiations, the teachers’ strike conciliation commission ended the work without compromise in early September, and the union submitted an official application for an open-ended strike from September 19, 2022. Around 23,000 education workers were expected to participate in it.
To improve the quality and availability of education in the country, the representatives of the industry want to receive a decent salary in accordance with the current laws and regulations, as well as demand an end to the overload that has been going on for years. The strike is about the future society, so that all pupils and students have teachers in all subjects and that all lessons take place, that there is time for an individual approach, for everyone’s growth. The strike is about the country’s internal security and long-term development.
After multiple long and difficult discussions with the government and the responsible industry ministers, LIZDA cancelled the planned open-ended strike. The strike was called off with significant compromises on all strike demands.
The Minister of Education and Science, Anita Muizniece, said that regarding the level of general education, basic and secondary education, including in special education institutions, the “cost per pupil” will increase from January 2023, which means additional funds for increasing teachers’ salaries. From September of next year, the teachers of the mentioned educational institutions will switch to a 36-hour work week with the ratio: 65% of the time for work during school hours and 35% – outside of them. The lowest salary rate will be 1080 euros.
It has also been agreed that from January 2023 the salary rate for preschool teachers will increase to 1070 euros, which means an increase of 100 euros compared to September of this year. From September of next year, it is also planned to change the load balance in pre-schools to 34 hours of time for work in school + 6 hours outside of it. An 11% increase in funding will be expected in the education of professional orientations, which will allow to balance the workload. The changes will also affect interest education pedagogues, who will also have an additional 11% increase in funding. In total, these changes will have to generate an additional 60.2 million euros in the state budget.
The educators themselves are not satisfied with the cancellation of the strike and reaching a compromise. Educators are currently promised an 11% salary increase, however, they are not completely satisfied and would be ready to start a strike, because this is not what the educators would have fought for and wanted to achieve. The compromise found is not entirely clear to educators.
In addition, the difficulties caused to educators and students by the new and incomplete “School2030” curriculum and the uncertainty about the new concept exams for elementary and high school students, which will take place already in the spring of 2023, are not resolved. Everything is exacerbated by the lack of pedagogues and teaching materials, as weel as the fact that the current teachers’ workloads are not balanced. This, in turn, prevents teachers from devoting the necessary time to all students, which can also affect their success.
II Lack of Educators
The above-mentioned problems and the Government’s attitude towards educators have created a situation where there is a shortage of more than 1000 teachers in Latvian schools.
In the capital, Riga, Latvian language teachers are the most sought after at the primary school stage, especially in minority schools. There is also a shortage of mathematics teachers. On the other hand, in the group of secondary school classes, the greatest shortage of teachers is those who can teach various advanced courses, especially those related to information technologies. However, the biggest gaps in Riga are in the ranks of pre-school pedagogues.
The President of the Association of Latvian Educational Leaders, Rudolfs Kalvans, has already warned that some classes will not take place due to the lack of teachers.
The MoES presented a solution – teachers can improve their qualifications to compensate the lack of teachers. It can be obtained in professional development courses financed from the state budget. The choice for acquiring such an additional qualification is currently not too wide: they can learn vocational education subjects in vocational education, special education teacher skills, but in the general field of education they can get computer science, as well as design and technology teacher additional qualification. There are no special requirements for teachers who want to obtain additional qualifications. For example, a teacher who teaches humanitarian subjects can apply for a computer pedagogue course but acquiring new knowledge might be more difficult for such a teacher than for one who teaches exact subjects.
However, as many as 70 percent of pedagogy students pay for their studies: many of them are working teachers studying part-time. There have been several proposals to introduce state-paid studies in pedagogy for part-time students as well. However, there won’t be any soon, but perhaps the state should start cancelling teachers’ study loans. This is important because many people who have studied pedagogy do not work in schools. The possibility of having the loan cancelled could motivate one to start and continue a teaching career.
The compromise found by LIZDA and the government does not satisfy the education workers in the future, so it is not possible to rule out a further future strike by teachers. Currently, teachers must shoulder the burden of creating new curriculum according to guidelines and individual student abilities, as well as finding ways to compensate for the shortage of teachers. In Latvia, it is necessary to raise the prestige of the pedagogue’s qualification in order to attract new teachers, which will in general form the pedagogue’s enthusiasm and motivation to work, because then he will not only feel well-rewarded for his work but will also feel appreciated by society. To improve the situation, the government would need to cover the costs of obtaining higher education in pedagogy, as well as offer higher scholarships to attract young future educators. Also, the shortage of teachers would be prevented if the workload of teachers was balanced, and all work done was fairly paid. However, the students also suffer equally from the overload of teachers, considering that the quality of the prepared teaching material also suffers due to the overload. The government of Latvia, in cooperation with MoES, must find funding to improve the education system and create one that is based not on the principles of obligation, but on the interest of students – the basis of this is a motivated and valued teacher.
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Full article on China-CEE Institute website – https://china-cee.eu/2022/09/27/latvia-social-briefing-found-compromise-for-cancelling-educators-strike-an-acute-solution/