Low pay chases teachers away from public kindergartens

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With thousands of public kindergarten teachers getting jobs in the private sector, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are experiencing a severe shortage of teachers.

Statistics released by Hanoi government showed that the city lacks 2,898 kindergarten teachers. Investigations showed that many teachers have asked for a long-term leave without payment to run barber shops, according to a Lao Dong report.

Dam Quoc Khanh, vice chairman of Hoang Mai District in Hanoi downtown, said many kindergartens teachers in the area move to private schools for better pay and less pressure.

Nguyen Van Le, principle of the National Nursery Education College, said the fees in public kindergartens, about VND80,000 per child every month, is not enough to guarantee teachers a good pay.

The tuition at private kindergartens is many times higher, Le said.

He said after a year of internship, teachers at private kindergartens can make VND1.5-2 million (US$77-102) a month while the income of public school teachers is much lower.

Public kindergarten teachers in rural areas only get VND700,000-800,000 a month, even VND300,000-400,000 at some places.

"Thus, most students graduating from the college have gone to private schools."

Le said the number of public kindergarten teachers quitting their job is alarming.

The southern region is now short of around 60,000 teachers for public kindergartens, he said.

Each class at nursery schools is only allowed to have 30-35 children, "but most public schools have had to increase the number to make the most of limited teachers," the college principle told VnExpress.

The tuition standard for public schools has become "very unreasonable," he said. "My college has many times mentioned this to the Ministry of Education and Training but we've seen no changes yet."

Nong Thi Tuy Van, principle of a public kindergarten, said the payment for public kindergarten teachers has been fixed for the past ten years.

Van earns VND3.8 million a month despite more than 30 years of experience.

"My salary probably sounds great to many teachers, but it's still very low for a school principle with my experience," she said.

Job pressure

According to the teachers themselves, long working days and relentless pressure makes their lives harder.

"I used to love my job very much, but that was a long time ago," a kindergarten teacher told VnExpress.

"It was the goal of my life to become a kindergarten teacher. But after six years in the job, my fervent wish is to find another. The constant pressure keeps me tense and drives me to anger."

Many kindergarten teachers in HCMC said they work ten hours instead of eight every day.

They are asked to arrive at 6:30 a.m. to clean classes. Even a five minute delay can result in salary deductions, the teachers said.

They have to teach in overcrowded classrooms, prepare lessons at night; clean toys every week; and wash the classrooms every month.

"What irks the most are monthly inspections by school officials and local education authorities. The inspectors scrutinize everything from children's behavior, hygiene and learning improvement, to class conditions and the teachers' records," said another teacher.

"Each class has 40 children learning and playing all the time. When they eat, we have to set up the tables. Then they sleep and we have to clean up everything. It's really impossible to list all the things we do here," she said.

Another public kindergarten teacher said "I hope the government gives more support to kindergartens so we can pay more attention to our jobs as teachers.

"The job is tiring and the payment is barely enough for food and daily transport. I have little left to help my family."

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