Who wants to be a teacher?
In Sweden the answer is: Not too many. While in our neighboring country Finland, the teaching profession enjoys status and ten to 15 applicants fight for the same place at university, in Sweden the interest for teaching has never been weaker than now.

Last year there was just one applicant per available spot at the university. Says Metta Fjelkner, chairwoman at Lärarnas riksförbund (Teachers’ Association): “We are at a crossroads now. There’s either going to be a radical change or the profession will lose even more of its attractiveness for the young.”
Fjelkner believes the lack of career paths is one reason for the waning interest. If you study to become a teacher then you should be a teacher, it’s as simple as that she says. Teachers have had some of the worst salary development of all professions during the last 15 years, and that’s the major problem.

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“The salary part is extremely important.” When Saco (Sveriges Akademikers Centralorganisation – The Swedish Confederation of Professions) investigated 36 different university educations, they found only one to be downright unprofitable: The teacher education. It is wiser financially to begin working as a teacher right after high school. “A civil engineer has just as long an education as a high school teacher and has a recommended beginning salary of 29,600 SEK ($4,348). That’s the level at which most teachers retire,” says Fjelkner and adds that most teachers have a starting salary of about 21,000-22,000 SEK ($3,080 - $3,227). A report from Lärarförbundet (The Teachers’ Union) last year shows that 4 out of every 10 teachers, 80,000, were thinking about a career change.

“It’s the diametrical contrast to what it’s like in Finland, where the teaching profession has such a status it’s alluring, so alluring in fact that salary is not an issue. But if Swedish employers think we can reach that level without doing anything about the salaries, then I say that’s not going to work,” says Fjelkner. So what must happen? “The profession can only be restored with an increase in salaries. And with the right attitude and political bravery it can be done. The State authority must mark that it is willing to raise the salaries in order to show the importance of the profession. If that’s done, I’m convinced more people will apply.” Fjelkner adds that without a well-educated body of teachers, the Swedish school is sure to degenerate.