How to spot an international student at your school
By Kate PrenticeSchools in Australia are becoming increasingly reliant on overseas-based teachers to teach overseas languages, with the number of foreign teachers at Australia’s four primary schools increasing by 40% a year, a new study has found.
A national survey of 1,300 students, from the year 2012-13 to 2016-17, showed that overseas-trained teachers made up 20% of all primary school teachers in Australia.
The national report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPAI) said there was no doubt that Australia’s primary schools were in desperate need of more overseas-educated teachers.
The institute’s president, Sarah Wilson, said that while Australia’s education system had improved, the country’s primary school teacher shortage was not being addressed adequately and the national school teacher vacancy was growing.
“The national primary school teaching workforce in Australia has been shrinking for more than a decade, while the number and type of overseas teachers is steadily increasing,” she said.
“While the numbers of primary school staff in the country have increased, the total number of overseas teaching positions remains below the number needed to maintain the current workforce level.”
It is clear that the need for overseas teaching is growing, as primary schools have become increasingly reliant upon international teaching to teach their students.
“As a result, it is difficult for primary schools to keep up with the needs of their overseas-teaching workforce, particularly if they are located in remote or rural areas.”
The report found that Australia had one of the largest secondary school teacher shortages of any OECD country, with almost a quarter of primary schools not having a single foreign teaching teacher.
More than 40% of primary and secondary school teachers at Australian primary schools do not speak English fluently, with about half of secondary schools reporting a shortage of foreign teaching assistants.
“More than 50% of the Australian primary school workforce are overseas-speaking, yet this is not reflected in the number who have teaching qualifications,” Ms Wilson said.
The institute said there were also concerns about the long-term sustainability of the overseas teaching workforce, and that there was an increased demand for overseas teachers to help schools and universities in developing countries with high rates of illiteracy.
Ms Wilson said a number of countries had been forced to make changes to their teaching processes in order to attract more overseas teachers, including Australia.
“We are concerned that the Australian teaching profession is in serious danger of being displaced by an influx of overseas workers and, particularly in the secondary school teaching sector, where there is already an influx in teaching staff from overseas,” she added.
“For schools, there is an opportunity to increase overseas teaching numbers, while at the same time, maintaining and building skills to retain and attract overseas teachers.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the Department had made significant efforts to address the issue, including providing more opportunities for foreign teaching in the primary school system.
She said secondary schools and colleges were also looking at ways to attract overseas teaching staff.
“There are currently about 15,000 teaching assistants in secondary schools across Australia and overseas, which is a significant increase on a pre-2014 average of 6,000 foreign teaching assistant positions,” she told the ABC.
“In some of our primary schools overseas teaching assistants are on the way up, and we are also recruiting overseas teachers in some of the schools we have already established.”
The HEPAI report found schools in the states were particularly vulnerable to the issue.
In NSW, the percentage of primary teachers who were overseas-qualified had increased from 5% in 2012-2013 to 15% in 2016-2017, with Victoria the only state in the national average to have a teacher shortage.
In Western Australia, where the report found there were over half of primary education teachers being overseas-certified, the proportion of teachers who had not completed primary education remained constant at 14%.
In Victoria, the teacher shortage at primary schools increased to 24% in 2015-16, up from 17% in 2010-2011.
Ms Wilson warned that this situation would only get worse, and warned that the Government must do everything it could to ensure foreign teaching remained available to primary schools and to improve the quality of the primary education system.
“I would say that if we want to keep teaching, we have to make sure that primary schools continue to recruit overseas teachers and that secondary schools continue doing the same,” she urged.
“Primary schools are not able to keep their primary teachers if they have to recruit foreign teachers, because they don’t have the resources to do so.”
We need to get back to primary education, which means secondary schools.
“Ms Wilson also pointed to a rise in foreign teachers in the NSW secondary school system, with only about 12% of teachers teaching in NSW secondary schools in 2016.
However, the report noted that teachers were still coming to the state for the first time, as they were able to work at the