Norway faces teacher shortage

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One in three Norwegian primary school education students are dropping out only halfway through their training, leading to fears of a serious teacher shortage in the coming years. The need for teachers is increasing, but enrollments are down despite a targeted campaign to attract more young people into the profession.

The Ministry of Education and Research (Kunnskapsdepartement) released its "Have you got it in you?" (har du det i deg?) campaign four years ago to attract and retain more young people into teaching. It hasn't been as successful as hoped, with enrollments falling away after an initial surge and every third student dropping out of the course. PHOTO:

The Ministry of Education and Research (Kunnskapsdepartement) released its “Have you got it in you?” (Har du det i deg?) campaign in 2010 to attract and retain more young people in teaching. It hasn’t been as successful as hoped, with enrollments falling away after an initial surge and every third student dropping out of the course. PHOTO:

The figures were revealed in a report released on Wednesday examining the effectiveness of reforms introduced in 2010, reported newspaper DagsavisenThe reforms followed a 2006 study by education quality assurance organization NOKUT, which identified serious problems in teacher training. Graduates were poorly prepared, lacked practical experience, and the theory and practice weren’t well linked.

The 2010 reforms were designed to attract and retain students into education through encouraging specialization both in individual subjects and at either primary or secondary level. The government also commissioned an advertising campaign, to ask potential teachers “have you got it in you?”

The results of the study by the Ministry of Education and Research (Kunnskapsdepartementet) expert group found despite an initial increase of nine percent, applications to study primary and high school teaching had dropped to four per cent between 2012 and 2013.

One in three students had dropped out two years in to teacher training, one of the highest drop-out rates in higher education. The situation was particularly bad in Northern Norway. The group found a significant difference in marks between various training programs, and said many had unclear goals.

“When you look at these figures it’s natural to think that the teacher shortage has got out of control,” said Professor Peder Haug from Volda University. “The number of students in schools is increasing, but we aren’t getting more young people into the profession – despite reforms and campaigns. Meanwhile, there’s a large teacher cull from those in their 60s and 70s soon retiring.”

No simple explanation
Elaine Munthe, a professor and dean at Stavanger University led the research group, and said there are many reasons for the drop-out rates. “Very few of them had anything to do with the education itself,” she told Dagsavisen. “Some change their minds, others move. The most common reason is perhaps that education seems like a good course to apply for anyway, since they’ve seen the teaching profession in practice for many years as a student. But when it comes to sticking with it, it’s more demanding than they thought.”

Bjørnal Ibenholt is a third year education student studying in Drammen. The 37-year-old said many students are too immature, both in age and academically when they start the demanding course. “The quality of the teachers in education is also very variable, even though many are good,” he explained. “There’s also a lack of cohesion between theory and practice. We had the first practical period only a few weeks into the studies, and I think everyone felt stressed early. For immature students it’s clearly demanding to suddenly stand before a class. At the same time I think it’s deliberately structured like this, to weed out those who know that they’re maybe wasting their time on such study.”

Making teaching attractive
Norway’s Education Union (Utdanningsforbundet) leader, Ragnhild Lied, said the simple solution to get more people into teaching is to increase salaries. “They must go up to make the profession more attractive to youths who really are motivated to go into a challenging, exciting, but also demanding profession,” she told Dagsavisen. “I talk with many young people who have teaching talent and could consider the profession, but nevertheless don’t choose this education because of the pay levels.”

Haud agreed, saying Norwegian teachers with 15 years of experience are paid less than other OECD countries. But he said the example of Finland, where teaching is a highly respected profession with a lot of status, showed pay wasn’t everything. “In addition Finland has only had a fraction of all the reforms Norway has had it its teaching education,” he said. “The changes have been initiated from professionals and not from politicians, like in Norway.” Woodgate

  • frenk

    Education, education, education….

    • Tom Just Olsen

      Where did you get yours?

      • frenk

        Tom. Will Norwegians continue to accpet this…..? Probably!

        • Tom Just Olsen

          No. Teacher shortage is serious. They earn between 60.000 $ and 100.000 $ per year. But that is not good enough when policians try to dictate details.

          • frenk

            The figures I quoted previously (from 2010) showed that the average pay for a Norwegian teacher was $38k…..I’m not suprised so many trainees are ‘dropping out’….! What could you buy for this in Norway….the ‘richest country’!

            • Tom Just Olsen

              It’s not always (if at all) that OECD statistics are correct. I found what Norwegian teachers ‘really’ earn here:
              Which shows that Norwegian teachers earn (minimum) from NOK 358.200 to 438.500 (ca $ 60,000 – 75,000). It is not possible to live off 38,000 dollars in Norway. Hardly in the US either. Since the OECD statistics is wrong for Norway I am sure they are wrong for Scotland too. See if you can find better statistics.

          • frenk
  • Tom Just Olsen

    Norway spends about 6,9% of GDP on education (CIA Factbook). That’s no 21 in the world. That’s far – far more than, say, UK or USA. Have in mind that Norway’s GDP per capita is twice that of most other countries.
    Both Sweden and Denmark spend more (of GDP) on education than Norway. But these countries are comparable in many ways. Still, teacher salaries are regarded as ‘mediocre’ – at best.

    • frenk

      Yes, Norway, Sweden and Denmark all performed poorly on the PISA testing.
      A teacher (laerer) in Norway would pay 36% income tax…compared to 20% in the UK!

      • Tom Just Olsen

        Frenk: Are these salaries correct for British teachers?

        Is this graph correct on ‘National Income Tax in UK’?

        ‘Teachers in UK paying 20% income tax…’ What kind of teachers are that?

        Otherwise; congratulations, and cheers!

        • frenk

          From your links….the majority of teachers in the UK will earn around about £31k…even a senior teacher will earn around £41k…so according to the graph you quote they will pay around 26% tax and national insurance. Seems fair.
          Strange links referencing whiskey and beer! Why would beer and whiskey be massively ‘over-taxed’ in the UK like it is here in Norway? All it would mean is that the government collects more tax….and those that do drink responsibly (which is the majority) are unfairly penalised. You problem/issue is that you have been ‘conditioned’ to believe that alcohol is ‘dangerous’….and must be ‘taxed and controlled’ out of existence! Its time for Norwegians to ‘grow up’ and take responsibility for their own actions?

          • Tom Just Olsen

            The tax levels you indicate is about the same as for Norwegians with the same income. Norwegian teachers would pay more taxes due to that they earn more, despite the OECD report. Norwegian teachers would also have more to spend after taxes. But will have to live with far higher alcohol and tobacco taxes.
            Alcohol consumption is very high in the UK (13,38 l pure alcohol per capita between 15 – 80). Almost twice as much as Norway (7,8 l). The alcohol consumption in the UK must play a part in the country’s poor GDP-performance, high national debt, low productivity etc. It would be smart of any British government to try to limit alcohol consumption. And tax it properly so the cost of alcohol abuse is covered by those who drink alcohol. – Not by borrowing money from Brits not yet born… – 120 Bn £ per year.
            You know; this David Cameron fellow shows disrespect for his people and disregard for his nation’s economic situation by presenting a 2014 budget like this.
            To you Scots: Get out of there! This is not going to end well.

            • frenk

              From the figures I have…a Norwegian earning over 456400 NOK will pay 28% + 9% in direct taxation….so 37%. Then add the ‘indirect’ taxation….25% VAT, 15% VAT on food + cars + general ‘over-inflated’ cost for most proucts. So a Norwegian teacher will not have the ‘quality of life’ that a UK teacher will have.
              With regards to alcohol….the UK is a ‘very socialable’ country…people are out partying, having meals, socialising etc….and because alcohol is ‘fairly priced and taxed’ it is not too expensive. It is the choice of the individual how they wish to behave – we have not had generations of social engineering based on a ‘kommand og kontrol’ culture. Therefore, the UK is an ‘interesting place to live and work’….the place everybody wants to be right now!!

              • Tom Just Olsen

                Norwegian VAT is 20% ‘off the price’ and 12,5% for food. Norway has always scored way above the UK in ‘quality of life’. I guess that is why three times as many – relatively speaking, likes to emigrate to Norway than to the UK.
                I don’t mind people ‘socialising and drinking’. I do that a lot myself. But I expect ‘drinkers’ to pay the bill. Not send it on to somebody else.

                • frenk

                  Tom. Norway is a boring country…where nobody seems to do anything…other than ‘hide out’ in huts in the woods….yes…I can imagine British families literally ‘fighting’ not to come and live here….
                  Like the last project I worked on…all the ‘wifes’ were screaming to go home after only a couple of months…

                  • Tom Just Olsen

                    Yes. We drink too little and work to hard.

  • Elio Moreno

    I find this very interesting, being a teacher in Brazil, I imagined teaching would be a highly paid and much sought after job in a Scandinavian country. I think we are going to get to a similar situation in the future. In fact, some subjects have a lack of professionals already: Physics and Geography, for instance. People simply don’t want to get peanuts for the job.

  • frenk

    Nah…look at Finland….’pay isn’t everything’…..whats the next excuse?