Developing states fear 'brain drain'

Do foreign staff cause more problems than they solve? Robert Boyland and Warwick Mansell report

TEACHERS from countries where the profession is respected can find it difficult to cope with children in British schools because of cultural differences, say heads.

They believe that recruits from Africa, the West Indies and other parts of the world may cause more problems than they solve, as they struggle to discipline pupils.

Sue Roberts, deputy head of Queensbury school, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, said: "We have worked with people from the West Indies in science and maths and it has not been a happy experience.

"It has mainly been an issue of classroom management. We are a good school with, by and large, well-behaved students and they still found dealing with students in class problematic.

"Our senior staff were with them for practically all the lessons they took and the faculty staff were extremely supportive in terms of lesson preparation."

Annette Croft, head of Heart of England school, Coventry, has had to find 15 teachers to start this September. She said that, while some overseas recruits were very good and were rapidly promoted, others were "hopeless" at adapting to British classroom life.

"There is a cultural clash. South African teachers, for example, come from a culture where teachers are very much respected. Children do not step out of line and that is not the case in English schools."

Hertfordshire education authority offers free training courses to its overseas teachers to help them to settle in. Last year the authority had 200 foreign teachers in its 554 schools.

The courses cover lesson planning, literacy and numeracy across the curriculum, and the motivation and management of pupils with behaviour problems.

Opinion is divided over the damage done to the education systems of developing countries by recruiting their best teachers.

In March, Jamaica's education minister Burchell Whiteman spoke out against the recruitment of teachers from developing nations by rich countries, including Britain and the United States. He said that he was not able to offer Jamaican teachers the same money they could earn in Britain and accused supply agencies of aggressive recruitment tactics.

South Africa, India and Caribbean nations such as Barbados and Trinidad are among other countries concerned at the loss of teachers.

Egoy Bans, Oxfam's regional educational campaign co-ordinator for south-east Asia, said the practice amounted to a "brain drain" from the Philippines.

"The Government views this practice as a very good dollar earner, but it is actually expensive for the Philippines, as teachers are educated through state colleges sponsored by the Government," he said.

But Manuel Imson, the Philippines under-secretary of state for labour, felt the exchange was beneficial as the country has a surplus of 125,000 teachers and an unemployment rate of 11 per cent. It also generates pound;5.3 billion a year in foreign currency sent home to families.

"This is not a brain drain, it's a brain gain," he told The TES. "Our workers get exposed to new educational techniques and new knowledge, and they return the better for it."

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