Concerns over teacher losses from Caribbean nations and small states spurred action and research into the growing phenomenon of teacher migration. The issue was first raised at the conference of Commonwealth Education ministers held in Botswana in 1997. At a subsequent 2002 meeting of Commonwealth Caribbean Education Ministers in Barbados, delegates learned of large scale recruitment of teachers from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Specifically, Barbados had lost 151 teachers to overseas recruitment; Jamaica had lost 350 teachers to New York City, and more than 100 to the U.K. The Cayman Islands Education Minister acknowledged that more than 70% of teaching staff at government schools were expatriate labor, with about 50% coming from the Caribbean, but the large-scale recruitment of teachers by the U.S. and U.K. forced the islands to compete for the best-qualified teachers.

Ministers developed the Savannah Accord, a plan of action calling on Commonwealth Education Ministers to examine teacher loss and the impact on each country’s education system and to mandate the Commonwealth Secretariat to develop a draft protocol for the recruitment of teachers. The Secretariat commissioned a study to inform the drafting of the Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol. The subsequent report named teacher loss as a global phenomenon impacting both low- and high-income countries. There was evidence of considerable “south-south” and regional recruitment of teachers (for example, between South Africa and Uganda, Guyana to Botswana, India to the Seychelles), although the larger scale movement tended to be either “south-north” or between countries such as Canada and the U.K. 

Education Ministers and the Commonwealth Teachers’ Group used the research in collaborative consultations to explore the ethics of international teacher recruitment and clarify all parties’ roles. The outcome was the adoption of the Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol in 2005.

The Protocol, designed to be a standard of best practice, addresses the following core issues:

Rights and responsibilities of recruiting countries, including:

  • to manage their domestic teacher supply and demand in a manner that limits need for recruitment;
  • to give advance notification of recruitment drives;
  • to establish employment conditions for recruited teachers that are the same as for nationals; and
  • to provide orientation and induction.

Rights and responsibilities of source countries, including:

  • to improve the attractiveness of teaching profession; and
  • to establish categories of teachers whose recruitment they will not support.

Rights and responsibilities of recruited teachers, including:

  • transparency and full information; and
  • compliance with terms and conditions of contract.

Monitoring and evaluation of international recruitment, including:

  • collection of data.

Future action, including:

  • assessment of equivalences of teacher qualifications;
  • comprehensive study of teacher flows; and
  • promotion of the Protocol as a standard of best practice.