Burning out of early childhood professionals, can we stop it?
A worrying trend in Hungary as early childhood professions remain unfilled due to low salaries and high levels of stress. Call centers pay twice as much, a professional said.
By Zsuzsa Laszlo, REYN Hungary Project Manager at Partners Hungary Foundation.
Budapest – A roundtable on current trends in the professional development of early childhood educators turned into a heated debate on the status of the early childhood profession.
The event organized by REYN Hungary, gathered experts coming from the higher education sector, early childhood NGOs, researchers and practitioners.
The attendees added to the agenda points something that everyone in the room felt highly important: the early childhood education and care (ECEC) profession has become unhealthy and non remunerative.
ECEC workers leave their jobs to change profession, for example a preschool teacher went to work in a call center for a salary twice as high, she said.
Early childhood jobs remain vacant
There are approximately 5000 health visitors in Hungary that due to low salary and administrative burden looked for work in other fields. Regions with a high Roma population are facing the biggest shortage of professionals. In Nógrád county nearly one third of the jobs (27 percent) are vacant (abcug.hu).
The same is valid for other positions such as pediatricians, preschool teacher and social worker. These are non-attractive professions for the newcomers, due to low prestige and salary. According to data from the National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK), over 60,000 children nationwide lack pediatric services.
At the event, participants from the audience talked about their professional and personal situation: low paid salaries, no professional support, no supervision and extreme workload, fatigue them or lead them to burn out.
A researcher shared her research results on what would help to prevent burn out of ECEC professionals. The keyword is prevention: professional supervision, coaching, sabbatical years and study visits are all activities that professionals should be granted. The debate went on on how ECEC professionals could raise their voice in order to advocate for their needs. Participants agreed that REYN (Romani Early Years Network) should be a platform that could support them in this.
A positive story
To close on a positive note one teacher shared an example of inter-agency work that made her proud. She asked the major of her city to read his favorite fairy tales to the children of her school. Following the success of the initiative, she asked the major to pass this task to a colleague of his at the municipality. The next month the notary of the municipality read his favorite fairy tales. Then he passed the task along to another colleague etc.
With this very charming practice the school and the municipality staff started to bond and work together in more projects.
Notwithstanding the success of this and other initiatives, systemic interventions are urgent to address endemic problems in the early childhood sector in Hungary.
Read more about REYN Hungary.