Emil is enjoying his favorite meal at his day care center: spaghetti with tomato sauce. But while he sits alone at a table shoveling in fork after fork of noodles, other five-year-olds giggle nearby as they eat together.
Emil is hyperactive and has attention deficit disorder, so teachers isolate him to ensure he doesn’t distract the other children. He often has to paint and even play alone, because there’s no one to spend extra time with him. Unfortunately the scene at the Düsseldorf day care center isn’t that unusual in Germany, which has a dearth of qualified preschool teachers.
According to a study by the German education ministry, 72 percent of preschool teachers suffer from job-related stress and around a third are considered in danger of getting burnout syndrome. Making matters worse, salaries normally start at around €26,000 ($32,000) and the job offers very few career advancement opportunities. So it’s hardly surprising that the country needs 120,000 extra preschool teachers – which would cost some €5 billion annually. However, Germany only spent €19.5 billion overall on public preschools, day cares and kindergartens last year.