India is considered to be a prominent labor exporting country, but little research has been done on the outward migration of teachers. The 178 survey respondents for “Getting Teacher Migration and Mobility Right” provide a valuable new window into Indian teachers’ motivations and experiences. Notably, Indian teachers travel to at least 22 different countries for work in nearly every region of the world.

The migration of teachers out of India is happening at a time of expanded need for teachers at home following the passage of the Right to Education Act in 2009. As demand for teachers has increased, more private training institutions have opened, and at least one million teachers around the country now work on short-term precarious contracts. Union leaders and academics perceive that the teachers with the greatest incentive to leave the country are the temporary contract teachers and those working in private schools where there is less job security, and uneven pay and benefits.

A recent study by Rashmi Sharma (2013) neatly places these patterns within the shortage hiring model:

Migration of teachers from India is on a rise mainly due to shortage of teachers in developed countries which are recruiting teachers to fill these gaps from developing countries… India has increasingly participated in sending teachers for about two decades, however, since 2000, the volume has increased significantly… Education acts as a double loss for the source countries, as through out-migration of teachers a country loses not only its human capital, but also its future developmental base. Teachers are an important component of migration outflows from India, and shortage of well-qualified teachers in the Indian education system makes them even more valuable.

Within India, the State best known for sending professionals abroad is Kerala. Locals joke that when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, he found Keralite nurses there. The Keralite population is highly mobile due to a healthy local economy, a degree of prolonged exposure to overseas opportunities, and a tradition of investment in education and particularly education of women and girls. More than 5% of Keralites work abroad, many as professionals – doctors, nurses, teachers, and engineers. Local policies are designed to facilitate migration both out of and back into Kerala. Teachers can take leave for up to 15 years to work abroad and still return to their positions. Kerala officials estimate 70% of those who leave return to take their pensions, which are generous and structured to be available despite extended stints of overseas work.


Sharma, R. “Teachers on the Move: International Migration of School Teachers from India.” Journal of Studies in International Education 17 (2013): 262-283.

Walton-Roberts, M., and I.S. Rajan. "Nurse emigration from Kerala: ‘Brain circulation’ or ‘trap’?" India Migration Report. (2013): 206-223.

Survey finds only 16.25 lakh NoRKs.” The Hindu, October 31, 2013.