Salaries a major disincentive for students mulling teacher’s job

Study shows that 70% of Sixth Formers believe teachers do not have well-paid job and only 15% think teachers have high status in society

A majority of Sixth Form students describe teaching as underpaid, difficult, stressful, and low-status, even if they consider it to be an important job, a study by Angele Pulis, a full-time lecturer at the Institute for Education and published in the Malta Journal of Education finds.

The research was based on an online questionnaire distributed to all students in state, church, and independent Sixth Forms between October and November 2023, with a total of 554 responses were collected in the study.

The same cohort also viewed favourably the daily working hours and the number of holidays teachers had.

70% believe teachers do not have a well-paid job, and the same percentage think that teaching is a stressful job. Moreover, while 90% of students agree that teachers have an important role in society, only 15% think that teachers enjoy a high status in society.

The results also indicate that the negative impression of teaching reflects what students hear from teachers themselves, their own families, and the media. Only 23.2% of students said that teachers speak highly of the profession. Only 8.6% of students claim that their parents/guardians are encouraging them to take up teaching as a prospective career. Furthermore, only 12.8% of students feel that the media depicts teaching as a desirable career.

According to Pulis, media coverage of the publicised resignation of a popular teacher in September 2023 could have influenced students’ perceptions of the teaching profession. The teacher, known for her Instagram handle @my_life_with_pixiedust, had confessed that teaching had caused her physical and mental fatigue. The video in which she announced her heartfelt resignation had over 67,700 views.

Not surprisingly, more female students than male students said that they would like to become a teacher – 6.9% of female students said they would like to become a teacher, and 17.7% said ‘maybe’, whereas only 1.81% of male students said they would like to become a teacher, and 9.03% said ‘maybe’. This reflects current trends in the profession both in Malta and abroad. In 2022, there were four times more female education graduates than male education graduates.

Sixth-formers who responded that they would like to, or maybe would like to, become a teacher were also asked to state what motivates their choice: the strongest motivators were working with children and teenagers and the nature of the job. Only 1.9% of students said that salary is a motivator. When asked to state the major disincentive for a teaching career, 64.5% of respondents referred to the salary.

Apart from calling for salary improvements, the study includes a number of recommendations, including a national campaign promoting the work conducted by teachers through short video clips showing caring teachers interacting with their students, teachers talking about job satisfaction, parents showing their appreciation to teachers, and ex-students praising their past teachers.

In 2022, Malta had a total of 10,229 teachers and lecturers, of which 66.1% were female. In October 2023, 3,408 regular teachers were employed in state schools. An additional

346 supply teachers with no qualifications in teaching had to be employed to fill the shortages of teachers.