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South Africa must invest in their teachers

More and more teachers seeking ”greener pastures”

Its been happening around the world for a while now, teachers leaving their homes and immigrating to greener pastures once they have qualified. It’s a global phenomenon that’s impacting both developed and developing nations in mostly a negative way as coutnries are losing skilled techers.

International teacher mobility is driven primarily to earn more money. Teachers from developing countries can double their income by teaching in more developed host nations.

South African teachers are recruited by industrialised nations to cope with teacher shortages. South African teachers are preferred as they are more hard working, loyal and dedicated with most South African teachers knowing how to teach more than one subject.

Contributing factors that make South African teachers immigrate:

  • 79% plan to stay in South Africa for a year after graduating
  • 38% plan to teach in another country in five years’ time
  • 38% plan to return to South Africa after teaching elsewhere and saving

There were three main reasons for migration:

  1. Better Travel Oppurtunities
  2. Chance to earn higher salaries
  3. Professional development and exposure to international standards

What about the teachers that want to leave permanently? South Africa has a scarcity of maths, science and language teachers – we cant afford, as a developing country that suffers with poverty, unemployment and crime, to lose qualified teachers.

Our policy should focus on making the teaching profession stable and more appealing to ensure that locally trained teachers are recognised and nurtured so that they have more reason to stay in the country than to leave.

Greener pastures?

Of the students I surveyed, 8% said that they planned to teach in another country upon graduating and 8% were undecided. Another 4% indicated that they would not be entering the teaching profession at all.

Australia was most students’ preferred destination country. More than a quarter of the students (27%) who were planning to teach in another country preferred Australia, followed by the United Kingdom (16%), South Korea (16%) and the United States (14%). The most important reasons for choosing these four destination countries were higher salaries, friendly people, family and/or friends as residents. The students also cited those countries’ high standard of education and opportunities for professional growth.

A small percentage were planning to migrate to Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Scotland.

For the most part, students were motivated by pull rather than push factors. Some were worried about bad working conditions, bad social services, an unsafe environment and South Africa’s high rates of unemployment. Mostly, though, they were focused on what other countries had to offer – pull factors.

They indicated that their most important migration needs before leaving South Africa were information about health care, accommodation, salary scales, banking assistance, cost of living (transport and food costs), methods of learner assessment and tax advice.

Making South Africa a more attractive for teachers

Migration is always an option for any professional,  like teachers, and is in some cases inevitable. Its important that not too many new qualified or experienced  are not lost to the international playground and remain in South Africa where they are seriously needed, especially in scarce skill subjects such as maths and science-related subjects.

More must be done to make teaching an attractive, stable profession in South Africa. This can be done by improving teachers’ working conditions and salary scales – particularly those who are teaching scarce skills subjects. Policy makers and authorities must monitor teacher recruitment agencies carefully to ensure that there isn’t a mass exodus of teachers that catches the country by surprise.

This is important if the country is to keep at least some of its qualified, passionate teachers and build up skills in areas like maths and science.

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