The recruitment process and contract terms have far reaching implications for a teacher’s ability and willingness to assert her/his rights or raise concerns or questions. 

Unethical practices

There are documented examples of instances in which recruiters

  • Intimidate teachers
  • Force migrants into housing contracts
  • Misrepresent pay
  • Charge inflated fees
  • Require the use of predatory lenders 
  • Threaten to rescind migrant teachers’ visas 


Some ‘online agencies’ collecting fees in advance are actually shady and sometimes sham private institutions seeking to exploit workers’ intense interest in posts abroad (Duttagupta, 2014). 

A Delhi-based recruitment agency with a professional-appearing website had no apparent brick and mortar headquarters at the street address provided.  

Increased Cost

Asymmetry of information and a “chain of actors” in international recruitment both increase overall costs by adding layers of fees. 

When a position abroad promises to substantially increase a teacher’s earnings, recruiters often feel that they can charge higher fees, employers may be tempted to pay lower wages that will still be comparatively attractive, and source countries hope for returns in the form of increased remittances.  

Recruiters have a financial interest in making “pull” factors seem as tempting as possible and too often mislead teachers by encouraging inflated and inaccurate expectations about life abroad. 

Online teacher recruitment agencies “overall are selling schools a low-cost, low-hassle ‘solution’ to teacher shortage problems while, in many cases, encouraging teachers to see registration as a first step to a fun-filled life of travel and adventure.” (De Villiers, 2011)..The sites often lack frank discussions of the real challenges of working abroad: such as classroom management or pupils with English as a second language.


Agencies screen for attributes considered to lead to success in teaching in a new cultural context

  • Self-management
  • Emotional resilience
  • Cultural awareness
  • Sense of humor

However, for some teachers, race or nationality is an indirect criteria. 

One agency hiring for schools in the United Kingdom selected no African teachers, despite them constituting 10% of the applicant pool. The reason offered: English is a second language for these candidates, whereas Indian South African applicants are native English speakers (Manik). 

Government-sponsored temporary work visa programs circumvent workplace equality laws and are “quietly reclassifying entire sectors of the U.S. workforce by race, gender, national origin and age.” A look across visa programs finds employers sorting workers into jobs based on racialized and gendered notions of work. This is in part because employers can ‘shop’ internationally for workers on employment agency websites that advertise workers like commodities. 

Race and country of origin may also affect terms of the recruitment contract. For example, migrant nurses recruited to the U.S. from high-income countries are significantly less likely to experience a violation of ethical recruitment principles than nurses from low-income countries (Pittman, 2012). Indeed, some problems are only faced by nurses from low-income countries, such as 

  • Needing to provide collateral and pay fees
  • Having their contract changed without their consent
  • Having immigration documents withheld
  • Not being informed of where they would be working.

Not surprisingly, this pattern of discrimination against nurses from low-income countries persists at the worksite, where they are three times as likely to be underpaid and to face threats of deportation. Discrimination in the healthcare sector is relevant. Many of the agencies recruiting teachers internationally originally formed to facilitate nurse migration (Bartlett, 2014). Second, patterns of discrimination appear to be the same in the education sector.


de Villiers, Rian (2011), "South African Teachers as Mobile Knowledge Workers in a Global Labor Economy", University of Pretoria. 

Duttagupta, Ishani. "Shady agents are to be blamed for illegal immigration from India." Economic Times, July 1, 2012.

Manik, Sadhana (2010) “Covert Research: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater”,  University of Kwa-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

Pittman, Patricia. "Ethical Recruitment Practices: Strategies to Level the Playing Field." Alliance for Ethical Recruitment Research Presentation (2012).