Chemists, engineers and IT specialists are among the most demanded professions in the labour market. At the same time, we are already facing an acute shortage of science teachers. Therefore, assessing the importance, role and contribution of teachers in the overall development of the country, JSC Olainfarm has created a 75,000 euro scholarship program for new chemistry teachers. The first three scholarship holders were welcomed in the spring of this year, while the next two autumn scholarships, each worth of 3,000 euros, were received by students of the University of Latvia and chemistry teachers Anna Liepiņa and Tots Koķis.

Education is the basis of any developed and prosperous country. By investing in the education system, we are also investing in the overall well-being of the country. That is why it is so important that we jointly create a system where its foundation – the teacher – feels valued, needed and motivated. It is a joint effort of the whole society, because the attitude of the society also shapes the environment and the reputation of the profession. Therefore, we highly appreciate the initiative of JSC Olainfarm by starting a scholarship program for new chemistry teachers and developing it also on the day of science teachers, giving teachers the opportunity to get to know the chemistry industry from the industry’s side,says Anda Čakša, the Minister of Education and Science, a patron of the scholarship.

In total, 11 young chemistry teachers applied for the autumn scholarships for young chemistry teachers. When reviewing applications, both their achievements and motivation letters were evaluated. 3000 euro scholarships will be received by Anna Liepiņa, a 1st-year student of the bachelor’s study program of the Faculty of Pedagogy, Psychology and Arts of the University of Latvia and a chemistry teacher at Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium, as well as Tots Koķis, a 2nd-year student of the bachelor’s study program of the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Latvia and a chemistry teacher in Riga State 2nd Gymnasium.

Most often, teachers are the ones who create and strengthen our interest in a specific subject, which afterwards directly affects our choice of profession. That is why it is so important to raise the prestige and appreciation of the profession of a teacher in society, because they lay the foundation for the development of the country. The large shortage of chemistry and natural science teachers is alarming, so it is important for us to contribute so that Latvia has young, motivated and passionate teachers. All of our scholarship holders are an excellent example of this, proving that we have excellent, inspiring and professional young teachers,” says Juris Bundulis, Chairman of the Board of JSC Olainfarm.

Tots Koķis, holder of JSC Olainfarm chemistry teacher’s scholarship, who is studying chemistry in the University of Latvia in the 2nd course and started to work as a teacher in Riga State 2nd Gymnasium immediately after high school in the international baccalaureate program, says that: “A teacher needs not only knowledge, but also experience in the industry in order to inspire students for further careers in chemistry. “Olainfarm” scholarship is a great honour for me and also an opportunity to dedicate even more time and resources to working with students, encouraging them to see the important role of chemistry and its practical application in everyday life.” T. Kokis also leads a study group at the school, where they work on solving non-standard chemistry tasks from olympiads and applying this knowledge in laboratory work. In parallel with his studies at the university and work at the school, he also works at the Institute of Solid State Physics on nanoparticle syntheses in the spectroscopy laboratory.

While, Anna Liepiņa, who is a 1st-year student at the Faculty of Pedagogy, Psychology and Art of the University of Latvia and works as a chemistry teacher at Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium, says that she has liked chemistry since school days, so this year she got involved in the project “Teaching Stuff” (Mācītspēks) and started working at the school . A. Liepiņa already has a master’s degree of food technologist, but she finds her calling as a chemistry teacher. “I like children and working with them, so I want to help them discover the wide possibilities of natural science. I have always liked chemistry, where I should say thanks to my chemistry teacher. I am glad that JSC Olainfarm supports young teachers, because this evaluation and support is very important for us, confirming that we are noticed, appreciated and that our work is valuable,” emphasizes A. Liepiņa.

Linda Daniela, Dean of the Faculty of Pedagogy, Psychology and Art of the University of Latvia, states that this year 15 new students started studies in the programme of science teacher at the University of Latvia. Nine of them have chosen to study directly to become chemistry teachers. In general, only four to five chemistry teachers graduate from the University of Latvia every year, and not all of them choose to work at the school. “Without professional and passionate teachers, there will be no future chemists, engineers, physicists, mathematicians and IT specialists who are so much needed in the labour market. “Therefore, we think that the scholarship established by Olainfarm for future chemistry teachers is an excellent example of synergy between the academic field and the business environment, which will be hopefully followed by other companies, helping new teachers to grow, learn and gain confidence in their invaluable role” says Linda Daniela, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Pedagogy, Psychology and Arts at the University of Latvia.

At the beginning of this school year, there was a shortage of 1,013 pedagogues in Latvian schools and preschools, mostly in science subjects, according to the information provided by the Ministry of Education and Science. Besides, the rate of return of new teachers remains at only one percent, which means that the shortage of teachers in schools will only increase every year. Accordingly, the interest of young people in the in-depth study of natural science subjects and taking centralized exams in these subjects remains stable low, due to the lack of pedagogues who could teach these subjects. For example, just under 14% of all high school and special school graduates chose to take a centralized exam in chemistry, according to  statistics released by the National Center for Education and Content  for the academic year 2022/2023.

Being aware of and appreciating the great importance of teachers in the educational process and quality, and contributing to ensure that we have chemistry teachers not only today, but also in a year and ten years from now, JSC Olainfarm established a scholarship program for future chemistry teachers. Within five years, it is planned to allocate 75,000 euros for this purpose, with one-time scholarships of 3,000 euros being awarded to a total of 25 new chemistry teachers.