Out of Africa... into my filing cabinet;Talkback

9th April 1999 at 01:00
I have a file in my home office which is filled with the CVs, certificates and references of talented teachers. For lack of a more specific title, I have named this file "Africans", after the continent from which they come.

The file languishes in my cabinet simply because, as a recruiter for international schools, I have been unable to place the candidates in appropriate jobs. My company's business is, by and large, with British international schools. Yet while I've managed to place Australians, Asians and Americans, I have yet to place a black teacher.

The head of one school in the Middle East, for example, told me that the parents of his students would refuse to accept a black teacher (there are some part-time Arab teachers at the school but they are paid less than white teachers).

But I've also been warned off putting black staff forward for a school in Eastern Europe because of the difficulties they would face in life outside school.

Perhaps international schools place too much emphasis on the "national" in national curriculum. In their quest for teachers who have been raised and trained in England, they are missing out on rich educational possibilities.

Part of the mission of these schools should be to promote cultural diversity, not just within the student body but within the teaching staff as well. That should also mean educating local communities and governments to the benefits of a life free of racial preconceptions and stereotypes.

Tom Bartlett is based in Milton Keynes

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