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New teaching jobs beat recession

If you are a mid-career professional looking for a teaching break, this economic downturn may well be the best chance you’ll get.

world Updated: Jul 12, 2009 01:09 IST
Aditya Ghosh

If you are a mid-career professional looking for a teaching break, this economic downturn may well be the best chance you’ll get.

Several governments are hiring mid-career professionals from various fields as school teachers, a profession plagued by the absence of academically accomplished young personnel. This means that, as countries across the world bleed jobs, the one profession bucking the trend is teaching.

Major reforms were required to attract these young minds to school education, felt educators and ministers at the ninth world convention of International Confederation of Principals and International Education Roundtable held in Singapore from July 6 to 10.

“Sourcing the right teachers is the biggest challenge today,” said Dave Hancock, minister, Education Department, Alberta, Canada. “We are trying to make good use of the recession by recruiting the right kind of teachers and principals who are vital to the nation’s growth.”

“We increased salaries of teachers up to 15 per cent and that of principals by 30 per cent. We also invited professionals in their 30s to become school principals by matching their pay scales,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The island nation has also recruited assistants for teachers so that they are spared from administrative responsibilities like marking students’ attendance.

While Singapore has introduced various incentives, including salaries at par with information technology or finance professionals and offering attractive packages to mid-career professionals, other countries are reforming their recruitment processes for teachers.

Australia and Sweden have also introduced reforms in teacher recruitment, including continuous professional development. “Salaries have been revised and capacities redefined,” said Bronwyn Pike, state secretary, department of education and early childhood development, Victoria.

“In the right climate, good human nature (comes to the fore) and that is what is required to attract talent,” said Dexter Hutt, renowned British educationist, CEO of Ninestiles Plus, an education consultancy.

“We need teachers who are not only academicians but are also capable of donning the role of counsellors and guides for students,” said Michael Barber, partner, McKinsey & Company.

But before appointing these professionals, reforms in school administration are vital, said Hutt. “Teachers are often the victims of school environments determined by the administrations. Schools must take risks to incorporate creativity that only highly intelligent professionals are capable of. Which is why schools need to hire the right kind of leaders as principals,” he said.

The Singapore government, to much acclaim, introduced mid-career refresher programmes for teachers who now need to attend university after their initial years of teaching. “But they receive their full salaries even when they are in university. We introduced career development for teachers but also introduced performance assessments and bonuses,” said Lee.