Teachers' Pay Raise is Actually a Cut
It was announced on Friday that teachers in the Czech Republic are to receive a pay raise averaging 850Kc per month. It was a lovely little announcement by the Minster of Education Jan Sokol, dutifully reported by CTK and the newspapers, and it made everyone feel good about themselves. It is also a dishonest piece of misinformation.
If the figures given are all correct, then in reality, teachers are actually taking a cut in pay. Let me explain:
The average monthly salary for a teacher in the Czech Republic is between ten and eleven thousand crowns, depending on who you believe. As a matter of interest, this is about equal to the average salary in the Czech Republic in general which in August 1997 was reported to be about 10,500Kc. Obviously these figures are skewed, as everyone knows, by the statistical outliers, that is by people who work in the "financial services" sector, and equally obviously, many younger teachers make much less than this average. Still, it would not be too far off the mark to say that the average teacher's salary last year was about equal to the Czech national average: 10,500Kc.
An additional 850Kc on top of that would seem to be equal to an 8% pay raise. Not bad, you say, but wait. Inflation is projected to be more than 11% in the upcoming year, so this is "8% pay raise" will be more than swallowed up by inflation. In real terms, that is in terms of what the average teacher's salary will actually buy next year, the new salary figure is a reduction. Minister Sokol, in fact, furtively announced a pay cut.
Of course, economic times are tough in the Czech Republic, and citizens are told that everybody should be ready to tighten their belts. Fair enough, maybe, but at least the government could be honest when it tugs on the belt!
I could make the obvious statements that everyone knows deep down; that education needs to be supported because the children are the future of the country. That should be clear to everyone, however, so I'll leave the platitudes aside today and instead tell you about our personal experience in various Czech schools where my wife and I worked for three years.
Our experience in Czech schools was on the whole extremely positive. Compared to the teaching experiences of my wife in British schools, Czech schools seem better. Were it possible, she often says, she would rather teach in Czech schools.
Professional educators are familiar with the commonly given differences between Czech and British schools. The former tends to be dominated by "chalk and talk" and the latter is characterised by more "creative learning". Indeed we saw some teachers relying perhaps too much on rote learning in the Czech Republic, but we also saw other things.
Working at half a dozen schools over three years, we saw many teachers using innovative methods which engaged their students fully in lessons. We also saw much more disciplined students in the Czech Republic. There seemed to be a culture there in which education was respected and considered important. Compare that to the district in which my wife now works where adult illiteracy is 21%, and the picture begins to take shape.
Of course, most areas of Britain do not have such a problem with adult illiteracy, but it is also true to say that our area is not the worst in this country. In any case, we challenge the reader to find a district in the Czech Republic with anywhere near such an illiteracy rate. Quite simply, respect for formal education is more universal in the Czech Republic than it is in Britain.
This is precisely why a pay cut for teachers and the devious way it was presented seems so strange to us. We know times are tight, but in our experience, Czech schools have great public respect, so why is this pay cut going through?
This is yet another example of the blindly accepted government announcement combined with superficial reporting in the media. Citizens have been led to believe that their teachers and schools are being supported adequately as they expect, but in reality school funds are being reduced. For an issue as important as education, there should at least be more honesty in the public discourse if not more money in the purse.