Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Bringing Them In: The Experiences of Imported and Overseas-Qualified Teachers

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Bringing Them In: The Experiences of Imported and Overseas-Qualified Teachers

Article excerpt

Introduction

In times and places of persistent teacher shortages, foreign teachers and migrants with teaching qualifications have been sought to fill teacher vacancies. International recruitment campaigns appeal to teachers seeking opportunities for adventure in unique locations and different climates with financial incentives. Migrants with teaching qualifications are offered opportunities to re-establish their careers and improve their financial stability in their new country, but the experiences of these teachers and the quality of their working lives are poorly researched. This paper reports the experiences of imported and overseas-qualified teachers commencing in 'difficult-to-staff ' rural and remote Western Australian schools. These findings result from a broader study also investigating the experiences of interstate and novice teachers.

In Australia, Canada, the USA and South Africa, teacher shortages are well documented (Amosa & Cooper, 2006; Archibald et al., 2002; Barley & Beesley, 2007; Clarke et al., 2003; McEwan, 1999; Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2001, 2003; Western Australian Department of Education Services, 2006). Shortages occur in subject specialist areas such as mathematics; science, enterprise and technology; languages other than English (LOTE); and special education (Western Australian Department of Education Services, 2006; Lonsdale & Ingvarson, 2003) and in marginalised locations, such as rural and inner-city areas. Research that examines the impact of strategies adopted to deal with teacher shortages, such as the importation of teachers or recruitment of teachers with overseas qualifications is limited.

This paper presents the experiences of a small group of imported and overseas-qualified teachers recruited to rural schools in Western Australia, where persistent staffing difficulties exist. Over half of public rural and remote schools in Western Australia are classified as 'difficult to staff ' (Western Australian Department of Education and Training, 2007), with high rates of teacher and leadership turnover (Workman & Fielding, 2006). Similarly, Catholic and independent schools also have difficulty recruiting and retaining rural teachers (Home, 1999), with staffing shortages increasing in recent years (Edith Cowan University, 2007;Western Australian Department of Education Services, 2006). Two strategies being used by the Department of Education and Training to tackle the teacher shortage are the importation of overseas teachers and the use of migrants with overseas teaching qualifications. This paper identifies significant aspects of imported and overseas-qualified teachers' experiences, tentatively suggests factors associated with retention and attrition, and highlights areas for further research.

Imported teachers are those directly recruited and appointed from overseas to a teaching position in another country. The label of overseas-qualified teacher is applied to teachers already resident in Australia, who gained their first teaching qualification and the majority of their teaching experience outside Australia. Overseas-qualified teachers have not yet established teaching careers in Australia. The findings of this study provide some preliminary thoughts for further investigation of the phenomena, opening up a valuable research agenda.

Teacher shortages

In Western Australia, with the largest rural and remote area in Australia, the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers are particularly evident. At the end of 2007, the Minister for Education acknowledged a teacher shortage of 10%, mainly in rural secondary schools, while the State School Teachers' Union of Western Australia forecast shortages of up to 600 teachers for 2008 (Haynes, 2007). There is a public perception that imported teachers are increasingly sought to fill vacancies (Hiatt, 2006), but with inter-national teacher shortages, there is fierce recruitment competition and global teacher mobility (GHK Consulting, 2005; Goodenough, 2001). …

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