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Teachers Ready to Fight for Pay Hikes

The Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ) says it's prepared to use tough measures to secure higher wages for teachers.

On Monday, OAJ president Erkki Kangasniemi said teachers and kindergarten instructors are ready to defend their wage demands by using tough measures during the next round of negotiations one year from now. He says they've already begun preparing for the fight.

Kangasniemi adds that the trade union supports the government's plan to decrease taxes, particularly for those with mid-range salaries.

"Nearly all public sector fields dominated by educated females fall into this group. Teachers' salaries are far too low considering their level of education and the demands of their work," he says.

Kangasniemi says he's pleased that next year's draft budget takes special consideration of improving education and preventing the ostracism of students. However he says that proposed funds for additional resources are quite low.

"Adequately investing in basic education is the best and cheapest way to prevent children from being ostracised or discriminated against," he says.

Education Is a Popular Field In spite of low salaries, education has become a popular major at universities. This spring, applicants faced fierce competition to earn study spots. A general appreciation for teaching has improved the popularity of the job, even though public discussions on daily school life have been predominantly negative in recent years. Unruly students, difficult parents, school violence and low salaries are typical complaints. Heidi Lammassaari, who is just starting her education studies at the University of Helsinki, says teaching is still important work, even though its status has changed. "I was attracted to teaching because it's meaningful. Most likely, that's what others who want to become teachers are thinking," Lammassaari says. Teachers Disenchanted But many teachers already in the classroom are less enchanted. About half of all teachers say they've considered changes fields. Furthermore teachers rarely say they would choose the same job again, if they could do it all over. According to a poll last spring by OAJ and the magazine Kotiliesi, only 13 percent of male teachers and 21 percent of female teachers said they were satisfied with their career choice. Hannu Laaksola, the editor-in-chief of the teachers' magazine Opettaja, says there are several reasons for teachers' dissatisfaction. "Many teachers are probably taken aback by the low salaries, but also by the demands and stress of the job, and other factors such as violence and emotional distress," Laaksola says. YLE

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