National Audit Office: Shortage of qualified teachers is greater than previously thought

1/26/2024 | 9:00 AM

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TALLINN, 26 January 2024 – The shortage of teachers in general education schools who meet qualification requirements is actually even greater than the Estonian education information system indicates, the National Audit Office concluded in its audit report published today. In addition, the number of teachers with insufficient subject-specific competencies is a problem: of the nearly 500 teachers in the audit sample who teach natural and exact sciences in basic schools, more than a quarter were not trained to teach these subjects.

The National Audit Office finds that the Ministry of Education and Research is drifting further from its targets set in the action plan for ensuring the next generation of teachers. Although the target set there is that 90% of teachers in general education schools must comply with qualification requirements by 2026, the target is unlikely to be met. Whilst in 2014, 90.2% of teachers met the qualification requirements according to educational statistics database Haridussilm, their share had fallen to 81.2% by 2022. The target will be moved even further when Estonian language proficiency is added to the qualification requirements from 1 August this year.

“The audit revealed that there are no correct data on the qualification requirements of teachers,” said Audit Manager of the National Audit Office Rauno Vinni. “In the sample of the National Audit Office’s audit, about one in four teachers of natural and exact sciences did not meet the qualification requirements.”

Whilst the data in the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS) showed that 82% of the 486 teachers of natural and exact sciences at basic schools who were included in the audit sample complied with the qualification requirements, the audit revealed that in reality, the share of teachers meeting the qualification requirements was lower (76%). There are two main reasons for the problem – heads of schools make mistakes when assessing qualification requirements because there is too much room for interpretation when assessing compliance, and data is incorrectly entered into EHIS.

The National Audit Office points out that the shortage of adequately qualified teachers worsens the quality of general education. The analysis by the National Audit Office showed that in a situation of teacher shortages, lessons in natural and exact sciences are often taught by other subject or class teachers working at the school, and by “career switchers”. A teacher may thereby be formally qualified – they may have both the required master’s degree and a teaching profession – but at the same time they may not have had the necessary training in the subject they teach. However, teaching subjects such as chemistry, physics or maths to a high standard requires not only mastery of the subject, but also knowledge of subject didactics, i.e. the practice and theory of teaching the subject. Heads of schools, owners of the schools and the Ministry of Education and Research have paid little attention to developing the subject-specific competencies of teachers.

“Teachers often teach more than one subject, but in the sample of the National Audit Office’s audit, only 34% of teachers had the necessary training in all the subjects of natural and exact sciences they teach,” said Audit Manager Rauno Vinni. “This is too few. In addition, 27% of the teachers surveyed lacked the necessary training to teach the subjects at all. This is too many.”

The National Audit Office advises the Ministry of Education and Research to make more efforts to streamline teacher qualification data in EHIS. The assessment of qualification requirements should be better explained to the heads of schools. Accurate and relevant data on teacher compliance with qualification requirements is needed to see changes in the teaching workforce; to understand what needs to be done in order to ensure quality education and how much money and people are needed for this.

The National Audit Office advises the Ministry of Education and Research to support more actively both the development of the subject-specific competencies of teachers and their compliance with qualification requirements. Teachers need more systematic support to meet qualification requirements and to improve their subject-specific competencies, as the level of teachers’ knowledge and skills has a direct impact on the quality of education. It is necessary to move decisively forward with the implementation of the action plan for the next generation of teachers, as well as with other education policy decisions, such as the reorganisation of the school network, which could provide resource savings and make it possible to create better working conditions for competent teachers – higher salaries and a reasonable workload in their profession.


In the course of the audit, the National Audit Office assessed the compliance of teachers of natural science, physics, chemistry, geography, biology and mathematics (i.e. natural and exact sciences) at school level III, i.e. grades 7-9, of municipal schools with the qualification requirements, as the situation with teachers of this area is particularly critical.

The qualification requirements for a teacher in basic and upper secondary schools are a master’s degree (higher education for teachers of elective subjects), teaching profession and Estonian language proficiency. Proficiency in Estonian was not analysed in the audit as this requirement will enter into force on 1 August 2024. When assessing the compliance of teachers who worked at schools before 1 September 2013 with qualification requirements, a teacher can also be considered to have met the qualification requirements if he or she has acquired pedagogical secondary specialised or higher education or higher education in the subject he or she teaches and has pedagogical competences.

The audit sample consisted of 486 teachers of natural and exact sciences at school level III from municipal schools with up to 250 pupils. The sample of the National Audit Office covered 20% of all teachers who taught subjects of natural and exact sciences at school level III in municipal schools in Estonia in the 2022/2023 study year.

Secondly, the National Audit Office looked at the subject-specific competencies of teachers of natural and exact sciences. There is no single, specific definition of subject-specific competencies. Generally speaking, subject-specific competencies are the knowledge of the content of a subject (speciality, subject area) and the theory and practice (subject didactics) of teaching it. Defined in this broad manner, subject-specific competencies cover all the teacher competences described in the occupational qualification standard of a teacher. The National Audit Office relied on diplomas and certificates of formal and continuing education to assess competencies. They show the training or preparation of teachers to teach the subject. Independent self-development and the development of subject-specific competencies (e.g. through work experience, mentoring, collaboration, etc.) were not analysed.

Priit Simson
Communication Manager of the National Audit Office
+372 640 0102
+372 5615 0280
[email protected]
[email protected]



  • Posted: 1/26/2024 9:00 AM
  • Last Update: 1/26/2024 8:54 AM
  • Last Review: 1/26/2024 8:54 AM

The audit sample consisted of 486 teachers of natural and exact sciences.

Photo: Margus Ansu

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