Low pay is a frequent complaint of teachers across the world. Teachers often request a raise that would provide them with a fitting standard of living for nation-builders. Some education researchers suggest a positive link between increasing salaries and the quality of educational outcomes.
However, this relationship remains uncertain. Raising salaries doesn’t not necessarily lead to better teacher performance, particularly in public schools where salaries are based on a gradual, closed scale.
It is more or less the same in Egypt where teachers suffer low salaries and often call for increasing salaries that would lead to a better performance which would redound to the outcomes of the educational process, as if low salaries is the only reason for the current poor educational performance.
Interestingly, even with a raise in teachers’ salaries, the performance remained consistent, neither showing an improvement nor a decline. Teachers always see the raise as either falling short of their aspirations or failing to meet their needs. Thus, the raise doesn’t help make their performance any better as long as it is granted parsimoniously and is more of a palliative dose rather than a curative one, sufficient enough to bring about a paradigm shift in salaries.
Teachers’ salaries in Egypt
During the fiscal year 2020-2021, the total budget for pre-university education exceeded EGP 157 billion, of which EGP 80 billion were allocated for salaries and compensations, i.e. salaries allocated for the Ministry of Education (MoE) alone accounted for close to 25 percent of total salaries dedicated to all ministries, totaling EGP 335 billion. However, such a large proportion doesn’t necessarily mean that the financial conditions of employees serving under the MoE umbrella is satisfactory or in line with average salaries teachers in comparable countries receive. Indeed, this could be attributed to the substantial number of the MoE personnel. According to the Egypt’s 2020 Statistical Yearbook, the MoE personnel numbered 1,525,000 teachers, specialists, administrators, and workers.
Dividing the total salaries assigned for the ministry by the number of employees, we get an average monthly salary of above EGP 4,300 or a yearly salary of EGP 52,000. But the reality is far from these figures. The annual bulletin of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) shows that the average weekly pay for employees of the education sector amounted to EGP 521 or EGP 2,257 per month. The difference between the two averages is probably due to two reasons: 1) the CAPMAS’s average salary is calculated based on a sample comprising of 65,000 employees representing 624 educational institutions only and 2) the annual bulletin relied on data dating back to 2018 where EGP 65 billion only were allocated to salaries of pre-university education personnel. In all cases, low salaries mean low standard of living which leads to less job satisfaction and subsequent low performance of public schools.
Due to the lack of data provided by Ministries of Finance and Education on teacher salary structure, some websites managed to unofficially get access to salary statements of teachers with different job titles. The following table shows salaries for different teaching job categories. Looking at data in the table, we find that these are generally low salaries compared to salaries of other professions. Actual salaries may even be lower after deducting tax and insurance.
Table 1. Public School teachers’ salaries
|Job Category||Teacher||Senior Teacher||Senior Teacher A||Master Teacher||Lead Teacher|
|Planned Increase in January 2021(EGP)||325||350||395||450||475|
Source: Ministry of Education
Demand for colleges despite scarcity of employment opportunities
Besides the low salaries of teachers in public schools, it has been 20 years since the government stopped appointing graduates of education colleges in public schools. Rather, the ministry introduced “contracting” as the main mechanism for appointing teachers, where the Ministry contracts with a relatively small number of candidates compared to the total number of education graduates. Contract teachers have their contracts renewed every year before the conversion to permanent employment is made after three years. At a later stage, the Ministry switched to “competitions” for meeting its needs of teachers infrequently. In theory, these policies could have a chilling effect on students joining faculties of education as they no longer offer a guaranteed job nor a reasonable financial compensation that ensures a decent standard of living. Moreover, contrary to graduates of other colleges, education graduates have limited career pathways as they are only prepared to work as teachers.
Nonetheless, there is a high level of demand for education colleges in excess of market needs. CAPMAS’s bulletin of “graduates of universities and higher institutes” of 2019 indicates that the total numbers of education graduates is over 73,000 graduates. This high level of demand could be attributed to several reasons including:
- Together with nursing, science, and Al-Alsun (languages) colleges, education colleges retain a relative status falling between the so-called high-ranked colleges including medicine, engineering, computers and information, and economics and political science colleges and low-ranked colleges including arts, commerce, law, and agriculture. So, students who fail to join high-ranked colleges prefer enrolling in education colleges.
- The salaries public school teachers receive do not represent the total income they earn. From private tutoring, they can make twofold their salary. A large number of education graduates work in private tutoring centers or establish their own centers even before graduating.
What to expect in light of low salaries?
Low teacher pay poses two main challenges for public schools affecting the quality of the education process. First, low pay represents a push-factor for knowledgeable highly-qualified teachers to seek employment in public schools. So, a substantial proportion of teachers already hired need for ongoing in-service training which imposes burdens on the MoE. Second, low pay negatively affects teachers’ motivation, meaning some of them go to school just to perform the minimum tasks of their job without considering the quality of the educational service they provide nor working towards developing their capabilities.
Everyone looks for a better standard of living and teachers are no exception. Some teachers resort to improving their income through private tutoring or do menial jobs that don’t befit their status and social position. Teachers with good teaching skills and capabilities manage to make the transition to private or international schools for a higher pay, causing public schools to lose the best-qualified human resources they have. Moreover, a significant proportion of education graduates who fail to get a good job opportunity in Egypt leave to work in Gulf countries a year or two after graduation.
Overall, the education environment in Egypt doesn’t allow for attracting qualified teachers capable of creating a surge in the education outcomes. The education environment can be described as being talent- repellent particularly with the exacerbation of a number of problems related to infrastructure, technology, high classroom density, and high ratio of students per teaching staff. This calls for urgent intervention to consider reforming teachers’ salary structure in a way that motivate them provide quality education services.
This intervention may entail making a quantum leap in teachers’ salaries over a three-to-five year period, bringing them close to salaries in comparable countries. However, such a raise should go hand in hand with a re-evaluation process of teachers and principals of public schools to ensure the salary increase serves its purpose, i.e. improving performance which will be necessarily reflected in the quality of the educational output. In addition, teachers’ motivation need to be measured closely at intervals through ad-hoc psychological tests.
In conclusion, the low salaries of public school teachers in Egypt give rise to numerous problems that affect the performance and quality of the education system as a whole, which calls for restructuring teachers’ salaries to attract the best talents, retain existing competencies, and establish incentives that encourage teachers to give their best rather than providing the minimum performance.