One of the biggest challenges and issues facing international schools in China but also felt around the world, is the growing demand for qualified native English speaking teachers.
Most international schools in China have strict requirements when it comes to hiring foreign teachers. While many language schools and a few international schools are willing to skirt the law and might hire a wide range of unqualified individuals to teach in their schools, most licensed international schools will not. Those licensed schools have strict requirements when it comes to the curriculum and educational standards. As a result, they’ll have equally strict requirements for the teachers they hire – a 4 year university degree, a post graduate degree in education or the equivalent and they often insist that teachers are a native English speaker. Of course Japanese international schools in China want Japanese native speakers, French want French native speakers… But the largest growth and biggest demand remains for native English speaking qualified teachers.
iSc Research Group tracks data on international schools around the world and is the best place to find data on the industry. According to iSc Group, international schools will need an additional 150,000 qualified teachers by 2021 to match the number of schools worldwide (which had already climbed to more than 8,600 by the start of 2017). By 2021 they expect there will be a demand for over 581,000 qualified teachers for international school postings around the world.
‘ISC Research Consultant for China, Grace Shi, has said when talking about international school development in China, that “Growth is occurring, at a huge pace, in the international schools that are accessible to local Chinese children,” “Waiting lists are extensive at all good international schools and much more school development is expected. Several schools are due to open including the British independent school brands of King’s College School and Lucton School in September 2018, Uppingham School in 2019, and Westminster School in 2020; all of which will be set up to accept Chinese children.”
Demand for great teachers willing to work and live in China will certainly be increasing in the next 5 to 10 years. While global demand for qualified teachers continues to rise, increased pressure will be put on Chinese based international schools and provincial ministries of education to compete both internationally and among one-another for a share of the limited number of qualified English speaking teachers.
What’s the solution for international schools in China?
The answer for schools isn’t easy. Just as IT companies have been forced to offer not only great pay, but to also build an attractive culture and vibrant working environment that helps attract a limited pool of qualified programmers, Chinese schools and organisations will be forced to do the same. Attracting qualified teachers and their families to China will require schools to focus on quality of life, the teaching environment as well as teacher wages in order to remain competitive with the world market. More and more teachers are becoming sophisticated brokers for themselves. They understand their skill set is in high demand and they research opportunities in detail. The best teachers recognize they have options and that they can choose between a number of opportunities in attractive locales around the world. Only the schools with great facilities and resources, with strong leadership, who can ensure a work / life balance combined with great pay will be able to continue to attract the top teachers and their families.
International schools in China are turning to recruiters and head hunters for assistance in finding the right teachers for their classrooms. With many teacher boards advertising hundreds if not thousands of jobs, competition to find great candidates is fierce. There is also the time-consuming act of sorting through an ever increasing number of under qualified candidates. Many job boards will accept any applicant’s CV with little or no screening in place. Candidates can apply for any job they see, whether they have the academic background required or not. Add to that the ease with which candidates can apply to dozens of jobs at once, with a simple click of a mouse, and a school’s teacher candidate pool can quickly become overwhelming and unmanageable. Teacher recruiting companies that apply a headhunting approach can zero in on the right candidates, reducing a schools recruiting workload and the time required to find, attract and hire that perfect candidate.
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