Germany: Staff shortages limits access to and quality of early childhood education

Little support and recognition of the profession of early childhood educators is leading to a dangerous lack of staff, according to a German union.

Hundreds of thousands of early childhood educators are needed in Germany, according to the education union, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), affiliated to Education International. In fact, 300,000 more educators are needed before 2025 to maintain current tuition standards, according to the union. Meanwhile, many daycare centres are either closing down or lack capacity because of a severe staff shortage across Germany.

According to GEW board member Björn Köhler, 100,000 extra staff are needed “right now”, and half a million in the long term to improve the quality of the sector. The Education Ministry has estimated the shortage at 200,000 until 2030, and it is going to add an additional €300 million to the sector. The funding will be aimed at increasing recruitment and at improving the salaries of existing employees.

A matter of status

The GEW believes the underlying cause for this staff shortage lies in the conditions imposed on the early childhood sector. Training to become an early childhood educator can take up to five years and has to be financed by the student whereas, in other sectors, the German dual system pays for the tuition. “This reflects the treatment that our society has given to these jobs,” said Köhler. “Other more male-dominated sectors enjoy a higher reputation, and this is reflected in the training salaries. Early childhood educator candidates have to bring their own money.” Köhler says a change in the mindset of society is necessary: “We have to show the value this profession has in our society”.

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