InterviewsTeach Better

The impending teacher crisis we should all be worried about

Please tell us a little about yourself and your work
I’ve worked in international education throughout my career, in the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, South East Asia and the Middle East. In 2014 I founded Consilium Education, an educational consulting company facilitating international start up projects, and providing a range of training and advisory services to schools around the world. Consilium also publishes International Teacher Magazine.Andy Homden

Why in your opinion will there be such a shortage of teachers in the coming years?
In May 2015, the numbers of students in international schools passed four million for the first time, according to the research conducted by the International School Consulting Group (ISC). The demand for teachers to fill schools offering international programmes continues to rise in response. There are indications that there are now also increasing pressures on traditional sources of supply – essentially the Schools of Education in the most developed English speaking countries, which are having difficulty in attracting the best qualified undergraduate or post graduate students into their teacher training programmes. Anecdotally, drop-out rates from the teaching profession are reported to be rising, especially in the USA, which in turn exacerbates the problem of supply for all schools, including international schools.

Is this a global or regional challenge?
This is a global challenge: schools in the UK, for example are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit the sort of teachers that they need. This problem is not just the experience of state or government schools. Prestigious independent schools are reporting similar difficulties, and the issue is not restricted to the traditional shortage subjects such as Maths or Physics. Finding good class teachers, particularly for the early years is also becoming increasingly difficult. Ironically, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that western English speaking economies – particularly the USA and the UK are now emerging from the global recession: traditionally in more upbeat economic times, students entering university are less likely to start a teacher training course, which in more volatile economic circumstances is regarded as a safe option for developing a future career. As the UK is also experiencing a short to medium term growth in population, not least because of growing net immigration, a major teaching shortage is anticipated in the next five years, which will have a significant impact on the growth of British international education.

What do you think needs to be done to address the problem?
One very visible trend in the UK is the increasing number of gateways through which potential teachers can enter the profession. Although studying for a Bachelor’s degree in education or Degree + PGCE is still the most common way to train, talented graduates, especially in shortage subjects, are being encouraged to enter teaching by a variety of programmes such as Teach First and School Direct. These schemes, which are also echoed in the USA, enable requalified trainee teachers to work in a school full time, often in a salaried position, without the need to attend a training institution as a full time student. Following this example and to meet the growing need for international teachers in regions such as MENA, three things need to happen:

  • The number of teacher training places involving the kind of high quality courses needed to meet the standards required by international schools must grow in the region itself
  • Regional teacher training colleges need to attract high quality undergraduate students from developing economies outside as well as inside the MENA region
  • International schools which are deemed fit by their host country regulators to play a direct role in graduate teacher training must be given the opportunity and incentive to do so

In effect, MENA countries which have made the judgement that it is in their national interest to encourage the growth of international education funded by private capital must also become significant producers of international school teachers, rather than just receivers. Governments and educational investors will need to work together to make this possible. Visa regulations affecting the education sector will need to be scrutinised and if necessary reformed. Investors will additionally need suitable incentives not only to educate children in the K-12 sector, but also to train their teachers.

Is there an opportunity for technology to help overcome this challenge?
Technology of itself can neither significantly diminish the demand for high quality teaching expertise, nor increase the  supply. Trainee teachers need supervision, mentoring and coaching as they develop their craft in placement schools.

Technology cannot meet this need. Is there any way, then, in which technology can help? Perhaps on a minor scale. K-12 distance learning is one area that has been transformed by on-line access to a huge variety of courses and the resulting growth of home schooling in the international K-12 sector may have a minor impact on the need for new international teachers (Link). Distance learning has also become a regular feature in some schools offering the IB Diploma course. The IB has authorised the provision of individual on-line Diploma level courses in IB centres, which allows a school to broaden its curriculum in Grade 11 &12, without necessarily employing additional staff. This is a very welcome development, and works. See Pamoja Education. However, in the wider scheme of things, technology is not set to have any kind of major impact on the growing demand for teachers in international schools for the foreseeable future.

Andy Homden, Founder, Consillium Education

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