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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 00:38 GMT
UK 'poaching' Jamaican teachers
Trainee teachers at Shortwood college
How long will these trainee teachers stay?
School systems in developing countries are being ransacked by teacher recruitment agencies to fill staff shortages in England. Jamaica is the latest to feel the effect.

Last year 600 teachers left the island to work abroad, mostly in the USA and England. More have already gone this year. One high school head teacher told the BBC the recruitment raids amounted to "rape and pillage".

Britain issued 6,000 work permits to teachers from outside the European Community last year alone, official figures show.

South Africa, India and other Caribbean countries such as Barbados and Trinidad are also concerned at the recruitment of their teachers.

Burchell Whiteman
Burchell Whiteman: System "at risk"
In an exclusive interview for BBC News Online, Jamaica's Minister of Education, Senator Burchell Whiteman, described how Britain's teacher shortage has brought a sudden increase in recruitment from Jamaica by commercial teacher agencies.

"Starting in 2000 and continuing into this year", he said, "we have seen recruiting agencies come down from Britain and North America and being quite aggressive and successful in recruiting our teachers."

Jamaica's concern is all the greater because it is losing its best and most experienced teachers and those qualified to teach in shortage subjects such as maths and science.


Senator Whiteman said the loss of such experienced teachers was putting the Jamaican school system "at risk".

He said Jamaica had invested a lot in its schools, as the country depended heavily on education and training.

He added that "while we are prepared to pay our teachers well we cannot compete with the developed countries".

Dave Myrie
Dave Myrie: Hard to replace
One school to be affected is Wolmer's Boys' School in Kingston. Last year it lost two languages teachers and a biology specialist to schools in England.

Its head teacher, Dave Myrie, said it was not easy to replace specialist teachers like this even at a prestigious grammar school like Wolmer.

"It's very unfortunate and it is doing serious damage to our education system," said Mr Myrie.

He described the recruitment drive as "more like rape and pillage".


The British traditions in school systems in Commonwealth countries like Jamaica make them particularly attractive to teacher recruitment agencies.

Jamaican pupils wear school uniform, are taught in English, and still take O-levels and A-levels set by English examination boards.

classroom scene
Teachers are highly prized
A further attraction to both British and North American inner-city schools is the prospect of recruiting black teachers as positive role models for pupils of African-Caribbean origin.

Jamaica's teacher training colleges are also concerned at the loss of both teachers and, in many cases, of their own staff.

Sister Avril Chin Fatt, principal of St Joseph's Teachers' College in Kingston, says Jamaican teachers have always travelled abroad but "for the first time I have now seen wholesale teacher recruitment by commercial agencies".

She says her teachers are attracted by better salaries and because "conditions will be much better in the USA and the UK as they will not have to battle with primary classes of 50 or 60".

Shortwood is one of Jamaica's largest teacher training colleges. Its principal, Norma Darlington, has also noticed an upsurge over the last year in the numbers of teachers being recruited abroad.


"I don't know how you can stop it", she says, "when our schools are not well resourced and our teachers are looking for opportunities and experiences."

Norma Darlington
Norma Darlington: Suggests a trade-off
Norma Darlington believes one solution is for countries like Britain to put something back into the Jamaican education system - by helping to fund teacher training there.

In this way, she says, "we can serve the needs of both the countries that are recruiting and those they are recruiting from".

The Jamaican government has also suggested greater co-operation between countries like England and the countries it is recruiting from.

In a proposal sent to the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Jamaica proposed more sharing of information and mutual agreements on the training and recruitment of teachers between Commonwealth countries.

Senator Whiteman has proposed an agreement preventing the recruitment of teachers mid-way through the school year and has proposed a "win-win system" which would allow Jamaica to train teachers for developed countries at a lower cost.

See also:

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