Recruiting Teachers from Abroad

By McCoubrey, Scott | Techniques, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Recruiting Teachers from Abroad

McCoubrey, Scott, Techniques

School systems across the United States are looking for new teachers, and some are finding them in the far corners of the world.

With headlines such as "Schools are Desperate for Experienced Teachers" becoming a familiar sight, it is no secret that there is a critical shortage of teachers in the United States. Teacher shortages, particularly in the math, science and technology disciplines, have been almost epidemic in countless school districts throughout the country for several years.

These are areas that can have serious adverse effects for career and technical education, which has many disciplines that require a solid foundation in math or science. If our instructors have to bring the academic skills of students up to an acceptable level before they can even begin teaching their own curriculum, then their own courses will suffer. Many career and technical educators are qualified to teach math or science. But if they are required to teach a core class, their own programs could be reduced--or worse yet, eliminated completely.

Technology's role in our field is one that grows in importance daily. With many of the jobs today requiring strong computer technology skills, there is a growing demand for courses that will provide those skills--and a growing demand for instructors to teach them.

The combined forces of a healthy economy and relatively low salaries for teachers have made the recruitment of qualified educators an even greater challenge for school systems. Faced with an alarmingly shrinking pool of qualified candidates and with competition for skilled teachers ever-increasing, school districts have adopted a variety of measures to solve the problems associated with recruitment and retention. One of the more controversial and innovative measures taken to recruit teachers has been the practice of seeking teachers from abroad.

Proponents of foreign recruiting point to the surplus in many foreign countries of teaching professionals--particularly with math, science and technology backgrounds--as a readily available labor pool that can help to remedy staffing shortages in the United States.

In 1999, the federal government, through the Department of Labor and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), opened the door for foreign recruitment by agreeing to grant H1-B visas to foreign nationals to teach math and science in America's public schools.

On February 10, 2000, following an acknowledgment by the Department of Labor of a "critical teacher shortage in Chicago public schools," Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced the selection of 44 international teaching candidates from 22 different countries to be sponsored for INS visas and work permits as part of its new Global Educator Outreach Initiative. Recruitment was done via the Internet, advertisements in English in foreign newspapers and by direct contacts with universities in other countries. In addition, recruitment efforts have been directed towards foreign nationals attending U.S. universities on student visas.

These and future candidates are required to pass a written and oral English exam administered by the Illinois State Board of Education and to be interviewed by CPS administrators and principals. Following this process, the new recruits receive a stipend to cover living expenses during a six-week orientation and training period. The school system applies to the State of Illinois for temporary teaching certificates for all approved applicants, which are valid for the first four years of employment. Within this four-year period, candidates are required to complete all requirements for receiving a standard Illinois teaching certificate.

The H1-B visas allow recruits to stay for six years. At the end of the six-year period, recruits may be sponsored for permanent visas by Chicago Public Schools. The special visa had previously been available for filling staffing shortages in universities, scientific research and high-tech industry. …

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