Under pressure: Czech elementary school teachers at risk of burnout

A worrying combination of teacher shortages, stagnating pay, and increasing classroom sizes is putting a strain on Czechia's elementary school teachers.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 15.11.2022 16:08:00 (updated on 15.11.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Facing a growing population of schoolchildren amid a reported shortage of elementary school places, teachers in Czechia are feeling the strain.

A recent survey finds that some Czech school teachers felt threatened by burnout, and about one-third were “exhausted." Other factors, such as non-increasing pay and even occasional aggression from children's parents, have been making teachers’ lives difficult. 

In a study carried out by the education-focused Scio company, 2,600 teachers from 90 Czech elementary schools were questioned about their feelings about teaching. Six in 10 teachers sometimes felt “tired” from their work, with about one in four saying that they were worried about burnout.

Fast Facts on Teachers in Czechia

  • Only half of young teachers remain in the profession five years after starting.
  • Over one in 10 teachers report aggression from children's parents.
  • About 20 percent of teachers say pupils are insufficiently prepared for lessons.
  • One in five teachers is dissatisfied with facilities in schools.
  • There are around 150,000 school teachers nationwide.

    Sources: iDnes.cz, Aktualne.cz

Troublesome children causing stress

Earlier this year, President of the Association of Pedagogical Chambers Radek Sárközi said "teachers often say that their [children’s] parents threaten them, curse them, insult them,” as reported in iDnes.cz. Although rare, teachers also reported verbal abuse and even attacks from children.

The chairwoman of the educational organization Teachers’ Platform, Petra Mazancová believes that elementary schools should invest more in psychological help and counseling for problematic pupils. This, Mazancová says, would partly alleviate problems of bad behavior.

Schools and teachers in short supply

A “long-term shortage” of places in Czech schools – particularly in Prague and Central Bohemia – has recently been reported. Children, according to Parlamentní Listy, have needed to “learn at improvised workplaces, including in a confectionery or in a heated tent.” The recent influx of Ukrainian child refugees – an estimated 70,000 – entering the Czech school system since February 2022 has worsened an already unstable situation.

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"It is true that there is a shortage of those schools, and in order to cover the needs in the Central Bohemia region, especially around Prague, many more schools need to be built."

- Deputy Minister of Education Martina Běťáková

A shortage of teachers in Czechia's schools is also contributing to the overall strain. A study by iDnes.cz found that the country is missing around 6,000 teachers. The fact that the average age of a teacher is 47 also casts worry on the future availability of teachers.

Ministry of Education data as cited by iDnes.cz also shows that about 10 percent of all new teachers left their roles in the first year of teaching.

A separate study in 2022 also found that, in some parts of the country, up to one-third of teachers were technically unqualified for their role.

Salaries increasing, but not enough

Relatively poor pay forms another part of teachers’ grievances. The current average salary for a school teacher in Czechia is about CZK 47,000 gross. Although this is over the national average, teachers feel let down by the government’s unfulfilled salary-increase promise. 

The official state budget envisages a 4-percent salary increase for teachers in 2023, despite a promised rise of about 11 percent. With inflation currently projected to average about 9 percent in 2023, this is a decrease in real terms. The average salary between 2021 and 2022 increased by 8 percent.

Difficult though life may be for teachers, they remain positive. An overwhelming majority – 93 percent – “feel satisfied” with their role overall. Going forward, higher state pay would incentivize more people to enter the profession, simultaneously helping fill the supply shortage and improving the lives of existing teachers.

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