Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The View from Here - Germany - Choosing the High Road over the Easy Ride: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The View from Here - Germany - Choosing the High Road over the Easy Ride: News

Article excerpt

In times of economic uncertainty, job security gains ever greater significance. But Arne Ulbricht, a 40-year-old French and history teacher in Wuppertal, Germany, has other ideas.

Last month, Ulbricht became the first German teacher to turn down "permanent job status", unleashing a nationwide debate about whether this hallowed privilege is still relevant to the modern-day profession.

Permanent job status is still regarded by many as the main perk of the job, but just days before his formal appointment last month, Ulbricht did the unheard of and asked to remain an ordinary employee rather than a civil servant.

"There's no incentive to move on or change jobs once you're a civil servant because the job dictates what you do for the rest of your life," he claims. Staggeringly, Ulbricht will earn EUR500 (Pounds 433) less a month in future, but he's standing by his decision.

Nonetheless, permanent status, which all teachers are entitled to apply for after three years in the profession, is still much sought after. Lavish benefits include lifelong job security with comprehensive pension and health coverage at no cost, since beneficiaries only pay tax. In the wake of cutbacks, however, some states have abolished civil servant status, including the city state of Berlin in 2004.

Even the German Education Union, the country's largest teachers' union, is unsure whether permanent job status can be justified in modern German society. "Teachers no longer exercise authority as representatives of the state as they did in the past," says Ilse Schaad of the union management committee. …

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