Education International
Education International

Brain Drain

published 7 April 2005 updated 7 April 2005

Rich country seeks poor teachers

How is a developing country to achieve Education For All if it loses all its teachers? Teacher drain is a particular problem in some Caribbean countries, including Guyana and Jamaica, who are hoping that the Teacher Recruitment Protocol recently adopted by the Commonwealth countries will improve matters. “They come back every year, and every time they come, we lose dozens of teachers”, complains Evelyn Crawford, President of the Guyana Teachers' Union (GTU). “They” are the British recruiters on their annual visit to Guyana to meet teachers who replied to their advertisements for applicants to teach in Britain. “Recruitment agencies from the United States and the Bahamas are now flocking in, too. Even Botswana looks for teachers here”, exclaims Evelyn Crawford. The Bahamas and Bermuda are the Caribbean countries that headhunt most from their neighbours. Guyana is one of the few Latin America’s English-speaking country. Its teachers are highly trained, but working conditions are poor, making them more open to attractive offers from elsewhere. The highest monthly salary that a Guyanese teacher could earn is € 400, which even a novice teacher in the Bahamas would spurn. Jamaica is another stop on the recruitment agencies’ itinerary. Byron Farquharson of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) estimates that 300 teachers leave the country each year. “300 out of the 23,000 teachers in Jamaica might not seem much, but it is”, stresses Byron, because “the teachers recruited are in fields where Jamaica has a shortage: maths and science”. Soft option for rich countries “Industrialised and developing countries face the same shortages”, notes Byron, “except that the industrialised countries have a way out: take our teachers!” “Rich countries really have a brass neck”, says EI’s EFA project coordinator Wouter van der Schaaf, “They fund the EFA initiative, tell developing countries that they have to plan educational provision, and when faced with a shortage crisis, they dip into the pool of teachers trained in countries that are investing in education! Foreign recruitment should be linked to a range of compensation mechanisms”. Evelyn Crawford confirms that it is not just the best teachers that are taken, but also the most experienced, who are also versed in management and administration duties. The loss of teachers is a vicious circle for countries drained of their resources. These are countries that have invested in teacher training, put public money into raising teaching standards, and at the end of the day, lose them as soon as they have built up the necessary experience. “We can’t stop globalisation, or prevent our teachers from wanting to improve their living standards, but we need rules to see that there are neither winners nor losers”, argues Byron Farquharson. In September 2004, Commonwealth Education Ministers adopted a Foreign Teacher Recruitment Protocol, which addresses the rights and responsibilities for all those concerned. The Protocol was sponsored by Jamaica’s Education Minister, and provides that recruiting countries and source countries must agree on mutually acceptable measures. Recruiting countries must guarantee teachers similar status and employment conditions to national teachers. Source countries can specify categories of teachers who cannot be recruited. Recruitment cannot be carried out during the academic year. The Protocol is binding on all Commonwealth States. EI study on the brain drain The EI Congress charged EI with carrying out a study on the brain drain in relation to globalisation, but also growing teacher and researcher mobility. The study will also make recommendations to: • Protect countries that are losing trained personnel • Facilitate the integration of qualified personnel in their country of origin • Protect personnel from exploitation and discrimination in the host country • Ensure that personnel have the right to return to their country of origin on suitable terms. To download EI's resolutions, please visit our World Congress sub-section.