- January 14, 2013
Occupation: teacher. Money equals prestige
Recently it has been rumoured in the Lithuanian academic circle that over the last few years the quality of education along with teachers’ qualifications have dropped drastically and the profession of a teacher is less respected in the society.
“The term ‘prestige’ in our commercialised society is often dependent on the amount of money earned. That’s why in our times it is generally hard to be respected just for being educated. It is hard enough to find a decent job, let alone earn decent money. This also concerns those with pedagogical education,” said Irena Masojć, the director of the Polish language and didactics department at the Lithuanian Educology University.
Not skills, but knowledge is what counts
The director of the gymnasium of the Kaunas University of Technology, Bronislovas Burgis, said, in an interview with DELFI, that the level of education in Lithuania is very low, and that a part of teachers has been simply degraded. His view is not shared by Irena Masojć.
“It is hard to agree with such an opinion, when many of our secondary school graduates study abroad and obtain good grades. On the contrary, sometime it is even said that Lithuanian curricula are too academic. I think that despite the fact that competence development is emphasised in new curricula, it is still common to stress knowledge and its reproduction rather than development of skills, creative thinking and self-dependence. But even this will change for the better,” concluded Masojć.
The president of the Polish Educational Society in Lithuania and deputy of the RL Seimas from EAPL, Józef Kwiatkowski, is of a similar opinion. “I have met teachers not only from Polish schools, but also Lithuanian or Russian, as well as teachers from other European countries, and I wouldn’t say that our teachers are any worse,” said Kwiatkowski. The deputy added, that Polish teachers are constantly trained both in Lithuania and Poland. “Last year over 100 teachers of first classes took part in courses on new technologies in Poland. As far as I know they didn’t do worse than their Polish colleagues,” emphasised Kwiatkowski.
The instant career myth
However, those interviewed by DELFI agree that teaching is not a prestigious profession. The financial aspect is very important here. “The job is difficult and the salary is low,” thinks Kwiatkowski. “The profession is not prestigious for various reasons. The number of students is falling, so only in large cities can a teacher work full-time at one school. In the case of village schools a teacher has to try very hard to have a full-time job,” adds Kwiatkowski.
“The instant career myth is another sign of our times. Being a teacher requires a long-term investment in yourself, constant development and mastery. You have to work hard for pupils’ and their parents’ approval,” believes Masojć.
Financial and language aspects
Irena Masojć says that according to various rankings, teachers and students from Polish schools are not worse than Lithuanian or Russian students. She is more concerned with their lack of proper respect for the language. “Earlier, when during education pedagogues could take up two faculties, a lot of teachers of various subjects was also educated in the polish language. This went together with a higher linguistic awareness. Today we observe a negligence in this quality, which, in my view, can undermine qualifications of even the very best pedagogue. Maybe that’s the reason why those who graduate from a Polish school are full of complexes, narrow-minded Polacks from Vilnius.
Kwiatkowski, on the other hand, sees danger in other, more down to earth matters. “Until recently one of the advantages of being a teacher was a permanent job. As far as I know one thousand teachers have lost their jobs recently. This means that the “sword” of job loss hangs over teachers,” emphasised the deputy.
A pedagogue’s job is physically and mentally demanding. “Now a teacher has to work for 40 years before he or she retires. It’s a lot. That’s why I’m in favour of implementing the soviet solution, namely being able to apply for earlier retirement after 25 years of work. As far as I know in Lithuania this law applies to police officers and the military. I don’t think that in peaceful times an officer’s job is more demanding than a teacher’s,” said Kwiatkowski.
According to the deputy if this solution was implemented, the prestige of the profession would rise, because it would not be so strenuous. It would also allow for a staff turnover.
Tłumaczenie Aleksandra Christ w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Aleksandra Christ the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.