Teachers: Key to achieving the European education area

Briefing 19-04-2024

Teachers play an essential role in providing high-quality education and making education a rewarding experience for all learners. This makes teachers key to achieving a true European education area (EEA) that offers improved access to quality education and lifelong learning for all. However, the current shortage of teachers is a widespread issue across the European Union (EU). Not only is the teaching workforce ageing but the profession has become less attractive owing to factors such as challenging working conditions and perceived low societal recognition. Teacher shortages are more acute in certain subjects, specialisations and geographic areas. There is also a significant gender disparity in the teaching profession at various educational levels across the EU. Against this backdrop, the 2023 Education and Training Monitor – the European Commission's annual report on EU education and training systems – put a spotlight on the teaching profession, focusing in particular on teacher shortages across the Member States. The report noted that, while shortages are an increasing concern, reinforcing the teaching profession's attractiveness requires a balanced policy approach to both teacher recruitment and teacher retention. While the organisation and content of education fall under the responsibility of the Member States, the EU is working on boosting the prestige of the teaching profession and has launched several initiatives to offer professional education and development opportunities to educators. Examples include providing EU-level guidance on various topics relating to the teaching profession, establishing the Erasmus+ teacher academies that create communities of practice, and promoting cross-border teacher mobility. Over the years, the European Parliament has expressed continued support for teachers and for making the teaching profession more attractive. In February 2024, it held a plenary debate on the working conditions of teachers in the EU, with the participation of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.