International schools need international teachers, and if your school is reliant on a supply of western-trained qualified teachers, you should be aware of new global trends which may affect your ability to attract and retain the best in the next 5 to 10 years.
Trend 1: The West is not producing teachers fast enough to meet demand at home or abroad
After years of budget cuts and changing goal posts, teaching has fallen out of favour as a career choice. The UK government has missed its own targets for filling teacher training spots for the past 5 years, resulting in a shortfall of 7000 teachers. The shortage is particularly acute for STEM teachers at secondary level.
STEM subjects have been undersubscribed by western students at university level and STEM graduates are easily lured into lucrative jobs in the technology sector. In the UK in 2015, 31% of physics teacher training posts went unfilled. STEM graduates who do enter teaching have a higher dissatisfaction and higher attrition, compounding the shortage.
Trend 2: More teachers are needed to work internationally
At a time when many domestic schools cannot get enough teachers, international school demand for western-trained teachers has increased. By 2025, the number of international schools is expected to increase by 88%, yet the number of teachers will only increase at best by 8%… if teacher training targets are met.
The popularity of British-orientated international schools is of particular concern, because of the relatively fewer number of British teachers available compared to the number of British international schools.
Trend 3: The rise of Chinese dual curriculum schools will be felt globally
There are currently over 800 international schools in China and until recently almost exclusively open to expatriates. Yet, China currently has over 3.6 million “dollar millionaires”, many of whom are parents with the means and desire to educate their children alongside the world’s brightest. With a cultural affinity for education and increasing private wealth, China represents a huge untapped market for British, American and Australian ‘brand name’ schools such as Haileybury (Australia), Wycombe Abbey, Wellington College and Kings College (all UK).
What will be the impact of this new breed of school? The potential scale is staggering and the number of schools catering to Chinese parents will soon dwarf the number of schools in the UAE and current Chinese Schools for expats, leading to more demand for top quality experienced teachers… and a budget to pay the very highest salaries. But where will these teachers come from?
Trend 4: Child Protection gets complicated
Child protection in an international context is far more complicated than in the domestic one. There is no single registry for sex offenders, no single police check, nor do all countries accurately record crimes and share them.
Reference checking can be complicated in an environment where contract lengths/terms vary by school, where normal staff turnover is 25% annually and where the average tenure of a Headteachers is 2-3 years. In such an environment where change is the norm, how can you ensure you are hiring a suitable teacher?
International schools must be aware that if they do not shore up their child protection and hiring procedures to take into account the international environment, their children as well as their brands will be put at an ever increasing risk.
What can be done?
International school leaders must work in an ever changing landscape and teacher recruitment is certainly no exception. What is most important for owners and school leaders to understand is that what worked last year may not work this year and a having strategic focus on teacher recruitment, screening and retention is an urgent imperative. Those schools with more modest school fees or in less popular locations, and those seeking mainly British teachers will first feel the pinch, but by 2025 unless an unexpected and disruptive change occurs, it is hard to see how the majority of international schools can remain unaffected. Schools are advised to approach teacher recruitment in the same way they approach student recruitment – as a financial imperative rather than an afterthought. Partnering with a reputable agency can help provide a strong safety net.
About the author:
Diane Jacoutot is the founder of two international teacher recruitment companies, and the Managing Director of Edvectus. With worldwide recruitment teams based in Dubai, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Auckland, Cape Town and Toronto who are internationally experienced ex-teachers, Edvectus aims to provide comprehensive and bespoke solutions to international schools and governments worldwide.