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A "Mikätzchen" being welcomed in 1964 at a Düsseldorf school

A "Mikätzchen" being welcomed in 1964 at a Düsseldorf school
Source: dpa

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Mikat's Kittens to the rescue!

NRW education minister Paul Mikat (Christian Democrat) comes up with a scheme to overcome the shortage of school teachers.

The problem is North Rhine-Westphalia needs another five thousand teachers in the early 1960s. When a ninth year of schooling is made compulsory the situation becomes untenable: something has got to be done.

Paul Mikat, the incumbent NRW minister of education and only 37 years old, finds a solution: housewives! Side-ways career-movers are encouraged. Mikat targets married women who are "no longer fully occupied by family responsibilities" and now have time for school duties. Male applicants are not unwelcome either...

The teachers associations protest, fearing the quality of teaching will decline. Nevertheless, on 1 January 1963 the auxiliary teacher training scheme takes off - with one-year crash courses. 1,910 women and 434 men pass muster and can take up their posts when the school term starts in 1964.

Referred to in common parlance as "Mikätzchen" (Mikat's Kittens), the temporary teachers are for the most part assigned to the second and third forms and supervised by a "mentor".

After two years on the job they have the option of doing a fast-track pedagogics programme and joining the teaching profession for good - no fewer than 1,200 "Mikätzchen" become regular civil service career teachers.

The exercise is repeated in 1964 and 1967 - and again proves successful. But as the universities are also encouraging their students to go into school-teaching, soon there are enough qualified staff to go round. In fact, by 1975 the educational authorities have a very different problem: namely, how to prevent the glut of teachers on the job market ...

Philipp Sanke

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