“Teacher numbers are down 30% year on year from September to December compared to last year. Furthermore, those teachers on the market are much less willing to take risks. They are asking more questions before and after interview and they are very specific about the kind and location of schools they will consider. Most are happy to stay put rather than make a risky move. The more career-orientated teachers with consistent experience are choosing to stay home in larger numbers, because they have good jobs to keep, and lots to lose if a repeat of last year’s rescinded contracts and travel difficulties occurs. Hundreds of stories of woe flooded the forums last year, causing a lack of confidence in a written contract or offer letter. These early season teachers are the most highly sought teachers, normally available only earlier because they are strategic planners and researchers who think well ahead, they are focussing on well-known locations such as Dubai, Thailand, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai. These are places that are well understood and feel ‘safer’ from a Covid-19 perspective with lower numbers, a controlled response to the epidemic, and a well-developed infrastructure. Teachers this year are less tolerant of uncertainty and unwilling to make choices that feel risky in any way. The numbers of job applications within the two largest regions illustrates the change.
Notable trends this year are an increase in interest in Beijing, a decrease in interest in Hong Kong and in 2nd and 3rd tier areas. Beijing in past years had been the subject of terrible press in the west, mainly focussed on pollution. Now with the Beijing winter Olympics looming and bigger news stories afoot, Beijing-bashing has subsided, and more teachers are happy to consider it. The only catch is a growing perception of racism in the Far East, which is causing larger numbers of ethnic minority teachers to discount it outright.
In contrast to Beijing, the shine has come off Hong Kong which used to draw prospective applicants in Dubai-like proportions. We believe the impending ‘Chinafication’ of Hong Kong and civil unrest are putting people off. Finally, teachers are preferring larger well known cities rather than 2nd or 3rd tier cities in most countries, and we believe this is an attempt to again limit uncertainty in a very uncertain world.
All of this means that the ‘winners’ will be the best known holiday type locations in areas with a well-defined response to Covid-19 such as Dubai, Beijing, Singapore and Bangkok. Schools that will experience a far more difficult time will be those in 2nd and 3rd tier cities in China, traditionally less popular locations such as Kuwait and Egypt. Regions that are believed not to have brought Covid-19 under control will suffer, as will those that are anticipated to have a slower inoculation rollout or less developed public healthcare systems, such as many Latin American and South Asian countries.
With the pool of available teachers quite shallow combined with a lack of visibility to enrolment next year and a return to normal teaching in most countries from September, we expect a severe lack of teachers available to hire from March onwards. Schools in China, which historically plan and hire well ahead, are out in force now hiring the best teachers for the best salaries in the marketplace, leaving many forward thinking schools to wonder how they will fill all of their vacancies in an uncertain environment.”
This is an excerpt from the excellent Edvectus White paper on current trends in International School Recruitment: to see full report visit: https://www.edvectus.com/pages/covid-and-jobs-white-paper-december-2020
Even if many countries can return to near-normal by next academic year, I feel the effects of Covid-19 on teacher recruitment to international schools will be felt well into the future.