10 SES 05 B, Why Teaching: Narratives, Identities, Attrition
A growing international trend in policy emphasizes the relationship between the competitiveness of a state and the quality of its educational system. Excellent teachers are a fundamental requirement in such reasoning and increasing efforts to provide students with such have become a challenging world-wide quest. The Unesco Institute for Statistics (2009) claims that half of the world’s countries need to expand their teaching forces by 1.9 million in order to be able to enroll all primary school-age children by 2015. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have by far the greatest need for additional teachers, but also Western countries such as Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the USA are pointed out as facing teaching gaps, although these can be considered as moderate in comparison (ibid.). In the case of Sweden, prognoses indicate that the number of certified teachers in the compulsory school will be too low to cover the demand during the next 20 years. In 2020, the Swedish educational system will, according to national statistics, lack roughly 22 000 teachers, approximately 20 % of the teaching workforce (Statistics Sweden, 2012; Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, 2012).
The most common measure to overcome such a shortage of teachers is to try to increase recruitment into the profession. Hence, a number of campaigns to attract young people to teaching have been launched during recent years and alternative routes into the profession have been put on the agenda by governments around the world.
However, statistical findings also indicate that the major problem for schools is not a shortage of teachers coming into the system. The real problem is that, even in countries where sufficient numbers of teachers are trained, it appears as if many of the newly graduated choose not to go in to teaching at all (Luekens et.al, 2004) or to leave after just a few years (Cooper & Alvarado, 2006 ). This observation has been developed in the scholarly literature, notably in the works of Ingersoll (2003; 2007) and hints at a different kind of measure to remedy the shortage of teachers. The alternative it suggests is that it may be a more efficient strategy to put in an effort to retain and support active teachers, or to attract teachers who quit or never started teaching to return to the profession. Putting it metaphorically, it is better to patch the holes in the bucket before trying to fill it up.
In the case of the Swedish teaching “bucket” there were 235 878 teachers (including pre-school teachers) working in Sweden 2010 (Swedish Government, 2010). Compared to the number of graduated teachers at that time, one can logically conclude that 37 500 of the graduated (16 %) were working outside the educational system. If these “missing teachers” were re-recruited to the teaching profession they would, to a large degree, fill up the future shortage of teachers, especially in certain categories.
The ambition in this presentation is to take a closer look at the holes in the bucket by presenting data from a longitudinal study of Swedish teachers.What do the holes look like? When do they occur? Is there a flow in-and-out ? Can we detect possibilities to plug the leaks? Since we know that the proportion of graduated teachers who drop out often correlates with the number of years in the profession and we will set our focus on the first five years, which seems to be a particularly critical period in teachers’ decision to stay in or leave the profession (e.g. Hammerness, 2008), but we will also have an unique possibility to add a twenty-year perspective to our results.
Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K. (2011). Research Methods in Education. New York: Routledge. Cooper, J.M. & Alvarado, A. (2006). Preparation, recruitment and retention of teachers. UNESCO, IIEP Education policy series No. 5. Hammerness, K. (2008). “If You Don’t Know Where You are Going, Any Path Will Do”: The Role of Teachers’ Visions in Teacher’ career Paths. The New Educator, 4:1, pp. 1–22. Ingersoll, R.M. (2003). Is There Really a Teacher Shortage? Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, University of Washington. Ingersoll, R.M. (2007). Misdiagnosing the Teacher Quality Problem. (CPRE Policy Briefs No. RB-49), Consortium for Policy Research in Education. University of Pennsylvania. Lortie, D.C. (1977). Schoolteacher: a sociological study. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. Luekens, M.T., Lyter, D.M. & Fox, E.E. (2004). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the Teacher Follow-up Survey, 2000-2001. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Statistics Sweden (2012). Trender och Prognoser 2011 [Trends and Forecasts 2011]. Statistics Sweden. Swedish Government (2010). Tillgången på behöriga lärare [Supply of certified teachers] (Report 2010:7). Utredningstjänsten. Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (2012). Högskoleutbildningarna och arbetsmarknaden [Higher education and the labor market] (Report 2012:22R). Unesco Institute for Statistics (2009). Projecting the Global Demand for Teachers: Meeting the Goal of Universal Primary Education by 2015. Technical Paper No. 3.
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