Strange times

International teacher recruitment in 2020

Andrew Wigford takes a cool look at international teacher recruitment during the pandemic, and sees the 2020 recruiting season extending well into September.

Recruitment on hold

Normally at this time of year we would be dealing with literally hundreds of late vacancies from around the world but its actually pretty quiet out there at the moment. May/June is a time of year, when schools often realise they need to employ extra staff because enrolment has increased. However, at the moment very few schools know what their enrolment is likely to be next year. Many are expecting it to decrease, in fact, as a direct effect of the global crisis and resulting job losses.

As a result, many schools have put their recruitment on hold. They are not able to recruit any new teachers so we have seen a reduction in the numbers of vacancies that we would usually expect in May.


Visas and airports

The other issue that schools face at the moment is in relation to work visas. Many schools dare not employ any new staff because they cannot guarantee they will get them visas. As we know, due to COVID-19, many countries have closed their borders and they are not issuing work visas. Even in countries where the situation is relaxing, we find that visa offices everywhere are tightening up or have slowed down to a halt. And, of course, many countries still have their airports closed so even if they have a visa, new teachers may have to wait to know their travel plans. In fact, many schools are preparing teachers for the fact that their few weeks in their new school I August or September may happen ‘virtually’ only.


Applications down

One thing we have noticed though, is that there are not as many candidates applying for jobs right now. Normally our database sees about 100 new registrations a week but this has been reduced to about half that number, and these candidates are mainly teachers in existing jobs in international schools looking for their next move. The biggest drop has been in ‘first timers’ – teachers from the UK or USA, or Australia looking to go overseas for the first time. These teachers tell us they want to stay where they are, in their home country, until they know more about how the crisis will unfold. They want to be close to their relatives.

A nervous time

Another thing we have noticed is that there are a lot of teachers who are more nervous than usual about their next move. Those that have secured a new job complain that they don’t feel prepared and that their school is not giving them the information they need to make their plans. They want to keep looking even though they have signed a contract, because they don’t know if they will get a visa in time. This is of course a problem for the teacher and the school. The uncertainty may not be the school’s fault, but some can certainly do a much better job at keeping their teachers informed and in touch about the progress of visa and travel applications.

The importance of staff retention

This uncertainly is taking its toll on current staff in international schools also, we have heard that some have lost their jobs. We have been working with a new school in Europe which was due to open this September that will now not open because of lack of numbers, blamed on the virus, and the teachers and new Head are now looking for jobs again. Even some of the more established international schools are having to let some teachers go, or not renew their contracts. We have heard of this happening in Thailand, the Philippines and other parts of the world. Teacher retention is always a key issue for international schools but now with the problems many face regarding work visas, it is more important than ever to keep the staff you have.

Reassurance and communication

This news creates more uncertainty and schools should really do all they can to reassure new staff who haven’t arrived yet, that they will have jobs to come to when schools reopen. There is a lot of anxiety out there and schools will need to fight hard to keep the teachers they worked so hard to find.

However . . . .

There are some schools still recruiting (maybe because they have a very reliable local student population) and I can honestly say that they are getting the pick of some great candidates right now. We are working with schools across the Middle East, Russia, China, Italy, Kazakhstan, France, a few countries in Africa as well as some schools in the Far East and they are all filling vacancies quite quickly.

The importance of August and September

Teachers who are in the process of looking for jobs should take heart in the fact that there will be lots of good jobs still available for August, and I think this will be the case right up to end of July and beyond. Another key effect of the virus, I think, will be a much longer recruitment season this year. Many schools may find themselves in the position of recruiting staff well into August and September.

These are strange times indeed.


Andrew Wigford is based in Singapore and is the Managing Director of TIC Recruitment, which he founded in 2006. TIC specialises in the recruitment of staff for international schools.





FEATURE IMAGE: by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Support images: by Juraj Varga, Júlia Orige, Bruno /Germany & Niek Verlaan from Pixabay