LAWMAKERS hope to convince young workers that teaching adds up.
"I want to support young teachers and keep them there," Education Minister Martin Fronc said when introducing his new plan.
The current system entitles teachers to enter 12 wage groups depending on their academic achievement and the number of years they have worked in the profession. As a rule, older teachers have higher wages and it takes years before young teachers graduate to the upper wage brackets.
This system has had a negative impact on the age structure of Slovak teachers and the fear that the Slovak education sector might soon be left with too few young teachers as the old retire is the motivation behind the new plan.
Education sector employees are also on the bottom of Slovakia's wage list, ranking among the worst paid workers in the national economy along with workers in the service and agriculture sectors.
The ministry now wants to give young teachers higher starting wages and increase their pay yearly by 0.92 percent of their starting wage.
Teachers aged 23 to 38 years currently earn around Sk10,920 (€272) a month. As of January 2005 this should change to Sk11,960 (€298) and the year after to Sk12,070 (€301).
"According to the new system, the basic wage would start on what is currently the fourth bracket and it would be increased regularly every year by a fixed percentage point of the staring wage," the minister said.
At the same time, the principle of wage valorisation would be maintained, as would the current system of individual bonuses for teachers.
The education and labour ministries would like to see the law take effect as soon as possible, preferably as of January 1, 2005.
Labour Ministry officials said that the respective revision to the law of wages of public employees could be prepared almost immediately.
"As soon as there is political support for this law we can submit the revision," said Deputy Labour Minister Miroslav Beblavý.
"The plan is a reaction to the bad age structure of the teaching force in Slovakia," Beblavý said. He noted, however, that the problem of an ageing teaching population was found throughout Europe.
It remains unclear, however, whether the Finance Ministry will approve the hike for the teachers' wages, although Fronc said that he had mentioned the idea to Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš during talks about next year's budget.
"He liked the idea," said Fronc.
Peter Papanek, the Finance Ministry spokesman, said that the ministry would agree with the plan provided that rationalisation of schools continued.
From the start of the new school year more than 100 elementary and secondary schools will either be shut down or merged as part of the rationalisation of regional education facilities.
In a separate measure to motivate young teachers to join the profession, Sk350 million (€8.7 million) will be distributed to teacher applicants in the form of loans that would help the teachers meet housing costs. The cabinet approved the creation of a loan fund for new pedagogues on August 18.
The framework for the loans was approved during the previous cabinet under former Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik of the Democratic Left party, but the money to substantiate the loans was lacking.
Now it is expected that part of the National Property Fund's privatisation proceeds and the dividends from state-owned stakes in various companies should help finance the loans.
There are around 97,000 teachers in Slovakia.
The trade union of education and science sector employees has welcomed the ministerial decision, but they warned that the hike should not take place just because of the expected layoffs in the education sector.
The unions estimated that around 3 percent of elementary and secondary school teachers were going to be cut this year. The layoffs will come as several schools merge in September for the 2004 - 2005 school year as part of the education sector rationalisation and in response to the falling number of pupils.
Paradoxically, the falling number of pupils in schools, a phenomenon believed to be linked to the lower birth rate after the fall of communism, has slightly increased the number of available teachers over the last decade.
"In principle we support the idea that young teachers get support and that the education sector receives more money in general," Ján Gašperan, head of the education and science sector union, told journalists on August 19.
29. Aug 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Jurinová