Icelandic grade school teachers demanded better pay and improved working conditions as they assembled at Reykjavík City Hall yesterday, RÚV reports. They delivered a list of almost 3,000 signatures, representing 60 percent of grade school teachers, expressing their discontent to Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson and urging city officials to react to the serious condition of the school system.
Wage negotiations took place yesterday between the Union of Icelandic Grade School Teachers and the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities, and it is expected that a new wage contract be presented to teachers in the next few days. Two previous wage contracts have been voted down by teachers.
“Teachers are first and foremost demanding better pay,” commented Ágúst Tómasson, one of the teachers. “The low pay of teachers has resulted in the school system no longer being sustainable in terms of providing teachers. The number of teachers in the system who have a degree is going down and the number of instructors is going up,” he stated.
Teachers maintain that changed working conditions cause people to quit teaching for other jobs. There is also inadequate renewal in the profession, with the number of first year education majors only a third of what it was ten years ago, Vísir reports. In 2006, that number was 244, compared with only 79 this year. The requirements for graduating with a degree in education were increased in 2011 when the curriculum was extended by two years and moved to a graduate level.
“The average age of teachers, I understand, is 48 years,” Ágúst stated, which means that “many are in their sixties, and few are being hired.” He noted that while there are fewer than 100 first year education students, about 300 teachers are about to retire.
“The [grade school] system itself is collapsing,” Ágúst lamented.