A few years ago I was part of an interview panel recommending teachers for a position at an international school.
One of the candidates being assessed was very proud of the 10 years’ experience that she had amassed. Her answers to our questions however were thin and aroused some suspicions. A further look at her CV confirmed that her 10 years in the job had been spent flitting between contracts, building up only stamps in her passport as opposed to developing a wealth of transferable knowledge in the role.
‘Not 10 years of experience’, one of my colleagues commented, ‘more like one year of experience repeated 10 times’. To make matters worse, it appeared that the one year that she kept repeating wasn’t a very good one at all.
I particularly remember this interview and the accompanying comment at this time of year when the international school vacancy pages fill up with positions and teachers, eager to find the next school in which they can repeat themselves, start filling in applications.
To demonstrate the magnitude of the market for international teachers, one of the most popular international school vacancy sites is currently advertising a staggering 9,889 teaching positions around the world and with 10 weeks still to go before the one-month notice window closes at the end of July, I can only foresee that the majority will be filled.
Filled they may be, but filled by whom? When I applied for my first teaching position back in prehistoric times, there was a board of interviewers grilling me on my understanding of the role and my depth of knowledge in my subject. References were taken, a police database check requested and I didn’t find out the results until sometimes a week later. The process was daunting but the thoroughness involved put the most important element of the job, the children, first.
There has been a boom in international education over the last 10 years leading (particularly within the GCC) to a gold rush in terms of the building of private schools, adding to the thousands already in situ. As a result, there is no shortage of education jobs available, making it easy for quality to be overlooked in terms of teacher recruitment and easier still for opportunist teachers to leave the stains of their apathy behind as they jump from one school to the next. Since school owners are often desperate to fill vacant teacher places by the end of August, there is no accountability either.
The simplest solution to this perennial problem is of course to involve the various Ministries of Education and Quality Assurance watchdogs. If schools were answerable for the quality of their teacher recruitment procedures and teacher retention figures through the inspection system, and were penalised where necessary through restrictions on their licences to operate or the number of pupils allowed to enrol, the loopholes, so easily capitalised on by the weakest of weak teachers will be closed to the benefit of the fee-paying parents who fund the schools and most importantly of all, of course, the children who suffer.
This might at least go some way in preventing the next round of candidates adding to the number of times they inflict themselves on the unknowing children of the region.