It looks like the government is being forced to employ foreign teachers the face of a growing recruitment and retention crisis, but not for the benefits they bring to the classroom.

Some might say that the advantages of recruiting internationally, includes greater diversity in the workforce and introducing students to different cultures… but do our workers and students need this when they are surrounded by foreigners most of the time? If you still think that the answer is yes, you will surely agree with us that these advantages are “secondary” compared to the urgent need to combat teacher shortages, even in the short-term.

We are being told that international teachers are often “dynamic, energetic and capable teachers” who bring specialist training and diverse experiences to schools, but many are reluctant to be this positive.

Teacher teaching

The government is moving towards being forced to recruit internationally because of a lack of domestic recruits. However, using phrases such as “desperation”, “having exhausted all other possibilities”, “last resort” and “I would avoid if I could” will not stick with current local teachers, and I do not blame them!

Unfortunately, when local recruitment runs short and results in inadequate quality choices, we fear that the government will address teaching vacancies with undesirable options -hiring individuals who are insufficiently prepared to teach, increasing class sizes with currently available teachers, cancelling classes, using short-term substitutes, or assigning teachers from other fields. These solutions undermine the quality of teaching and learning.

The good news is that there is a solution. Give more incentives to the local young generation to enrol in teaching courses. Not the fast tracked ones, but the proper University ones. Because, just like not all teacher applicants are not equal (a fact we well know), neither are all teacher preparation programs or all other teacher sources. Therefore, the effective incentives would mitigate the negative effects of teacher shortages and create a more sustainable supply of well-prepared, quality teachers. We simply need to cast a broad net to yield the all-important adequate quantity of quality applicants.

TeachingOne fundamental issue is that, no matter the source of teacher applicants, the pivotal step is to select the right people from the applicant pool. It is important -essential, in fact – to select teachers based squarely on valid, research-based teacher quality standards in a systematic and consistent manner.

Locating and acquiring what we believe to be a quality applicant pool is not sufficient; rather, how we discern, sort, and select from among the available applicants is the deciding factor for on-boarding talented teachers.

It is however unequivocal that international recruitment should not be a substitute for policies intended to increase the number of high-quality teachers trained in Malta!