South Africa must do more to keep teachers from seeking ‘greener pastures’

Around the world, many teachers are choosing to leave their home countries once they’ve qualified. It’s a global phenomenon, and one that impacts both developed and developing nations – in some positive ways, but with negative effects particularly for the source country that’s losing skilled teachers to supposedly “greener pastures”. International teacher mobility is driven primarily by the prospect of earning more money. Teachers from developing countries can double their real income by teaching in some more developed host nations.

South African teachers are often recruited, particularly by industrialised nations, to deal with teacher shortages. South African teachers are particularly favoured for their hard work, loyalty and dedication. Most of them can also teach more than one subject.

I wanted to understand why South African student teachers might find working elsewhere more attractive. What is driving their migration, either through recruitment or on their own steam? So I conducted a study with a group of final-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) student teachers from a South African university. They responded to a 27-item questionnaire whose aim was to find out their career plans for the near future.

A sample of 134 students were involved in the survey. Most (79%) planned to stay in South Africa in the year after graduating – but a relatively high number (38%) said they’d like to be teaching in another country in five years’ time. The good news is that, of the 38%, most plan to return to South Africa after teaching elsewhere for a time. There were three main reasons for migration: the opportunity to travel; the chance to earn a higher salary and professional development.

But what of those who plan to leave for good? It’s important for a country like South Africa, which has a scarcity particularly of maths, science and language teachers, not to lose its trained teachers. Policy needs to focus on making the teaching profession stable and more appealing. South Africa must ensure that its locally trained teachers are recognised and nurtured so that they have more reason to stay in the country.

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 option

Migration is always an option, especially for professionals like teachers, and is in some cases inevitable. There are no reliable figures to show how many South African teachers are lost to other countries each year. But what’s important is that the country not lose too many of its teachers, whether they’re newly qualified or established; the best and the brightest of those who are already working are also targeted, 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.

Rian de Villiers, Associate Professor: Teacher migration, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Safety at schools: ‘Keep your distance and your pen’

The department of basic education has developed guidelines to assist schools with minimising the spread of the coronavirus

‘Soon he’ll be seen as threatening, not cute’: What it’s...

There is no separating George Floyd’s killing from the struggles black people have faced ever since the first slave ships landed on these shores

How schools could work during Covid

Ahead of their opening, the basic education department has given schools three models to consider to ensure physical distancing
Advertising

Press Releases

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday