International recruitment has been and can be used explicitly to increase the labor supply, resulting in depressed wages and working conditions. In 2005, the Heritage Foundation, a U.S. think tank, published a paper advocating the recruitment of mathematics and science teachers from abroad as more cost effective and efficient than increasing compensation to attract more domestic teachers. The paper recommended tripling the size of the temporary work visa program (from 65,000 to 195,000 visas per year) used to bring skilled professionals into the American workforce.

Just as troubling is the structure of the temporary work visa program through which a majority of teachers are hired. The most commonly used visa for teachers, the H-1B “Specialty Occupation” visa, is issued to the employer, rather than to the worker.  The employer maintains full control, not just of the migrant’s wages and working conditions, but also of his or her ability to remain in the country. Whether a teacher stays, and for how long, is entirely in the hands of the school district. The visa is designed to last for up to six years. However, if the employer decides to terminate employment, the visa also terminates. While H-1B regulations do allow migrants an option to attain permanent residency status, only the employer can put forward this petition, and it requires the employer to document that there are no qualified local candidates for the position. Thus, the temporary and employer-controlled nature of the work visa can erode job security, undermine union-negotiated due process protections, and exacerbate teacher turnover in schools with high need.

In general, the positions for which teachers are being recruited from abroad are the most difficult to fill positions in the most difficult to staff schools. While international hiring practices may place a teacher into the classroom, they do nothing to address the root causes of the staffing shortage. They also create a situation in which migrant teachers are assigned to some of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. education system.

A pronounced teacher shortage in the United States in the 1990’s began a wave of alternative approaches to staffing schools, including international recruitment and a program called Teach for America (TFA). 

Started in 1990, Teach for America recruits graduates from top universities to teach in high-needs schools for two years.  Notably, these recruits are not licensed teachers.  Teach for America’s founder recently launched a worldwide program dubbed Teach for All that promotes similar programs in 31 countries and is growing rapidly. From 2002 to 2011, TFA recruited nearly 30,000 teachers for temporary jobs in U.S. schools, while international recruitment accounted for more than 76,000 teaching visas issued, also with temporary status.

Find out more here !


Johnson, Kirk A. “How Immigration Reform Could Help Alleviate The Teacher Shortage.” The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1884 (2005).



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. 


Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, a non-governmental organization under the Chinese Ministry of Education, was established to promote exchange between China and other countries and strengthen the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language. Chinese Embassies and Consulate Generals help Hanban establish cooperative relationships with education ministries, educational institutions, organizations, and associations of Chinese language teachers. These agreements often include the placement of Chinese language teaching advisors and teachers to primary and secondary schools and universities in other countries. The teacher placement program has two tiers: the Volunteer Chinese Teachers Program and the Government Sponsored Teachers Program. Started in 2004, the Volunteer Program primarily recruits recent liberal arts graduates with a bachelor’s degree or above. Volunteers are placed overseas for one year initially, with the option to stay up to three years if they receive strong evaluations from host institutions. Hanban offers volunteers training, a living allowance and international travel costs, but no salary. Local hosts are expected to provide housing, medical care and local transportation. By the end of 2012, Hanban had dispatched more than 18,000 volunteers to 101 countries.

By contrast, the Government-sponsored Teacher Program is smaller and more selective. In 2006, there were 357 posts for government-sponsored teachers, covering 92 countries. Unlike Volunteers, these teachers are required to have at least two years of classroom experience, in addition to a degree and language fluency. The placement is generally for a two year term.

Hanban’s growth has been rapid and its reach is expansive. As of 2013, it reported 429 Confucius Institutes and another 629 Confucius Classrooms in 115 countries, with more than 10,000 teachers and volunteers working in and through them.  Interest in learning Chinese is also increasing rapidly. The number of foreigners taking the Chinese proficiency test rose from 117,660 in 2005 to 3.5 million in 2012.

Find out more here !


Shangwu, Sun, Zhao Huanxin, and Tang Yue. "Hanban shops around for a wider choice." China Daily, 9 10, 2013. 


Using poverty reduction and access to quality healthcare and education as indicators of development, rather than economic growth, the Philippines went backwards over a decade when remittances tripled.  

An estimated one in seven Filipino workers works abroad. The Philippines is an important model not just because of the volume of nurses and teachers it sends abroad, but also because the government has built an extensive bureaucratic infrastructure to facilitate the export of workers.  

The country documents more than $1 billion per month in formal remittances. In the decade from 1998-2007, remittance flows into the Philippines nearly tripled (Schelzig, 2005). Although research shows that remittances improve the standard of living for the majority of families with migrant members, remittances alone have not been sufficient to spur broad-based development in the Philippines. In fact, there is evidence that the loss of nurses and teachers is hurting public health and education systems. The Migration Policy Institute indicates that these remittances would improve access to education and health in recipient households. However, since families with access to remittances can bypass broken public health and education systems, the enormous amount that workers send back is not a force to improve the quality of services in a nation’s public hospitals and schools for all.  


For example, the Asian Development Bank (ABD) presents a rather bleak analysis of poverty over time in the Philippines:

“The magnitude of income poverty in the Philippines worsened from 1985 to 2000… There were over four million more poor people in 2000 than there were in 1985” 


As for education, ADB identifies three main challenges in the Philippine education system: declining enrollment, poor quality, and increasing dropout rates. 

“Where children are able to access public elementary schools, the teacher-to-pupil ratio is high and has been growing steadily…Quality of teachers is another issue... English skills, traditionally one of the competitive advantages of the Philippines, have also deteriorated. A recent government study has shown that only one in five public high school teachers can be considered proficient in the English language.”

The Philippines has the highest teacher-to-student ratio in Asia and in the greater Manila area it is possible to see 100 students or more in a single class.  The common n assertion oft-asserted premise that the Philippines has a surplus of teachers is misleading.  The Philippines does not have a shortage of teachers in the country, but rather has a shortage of teaching positions in the school system due to inadequate funding and would thus need to hire more teachers to reduce class size and improve the quality of education.

More persuasive than the quantitative concerns about outward-migration of teachers are the qualitative issues.  The Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) is the primary government body responsible for facilitating labor export.  Even a report from this body suggests a negative impact from the recruitment they facilitate: 

“In Philippine education, brain drain is said to be evident in both the public and the private school system, though more felt in the former.  The fields most vulnerable are special education and elementary and secondary science and mathematics education… Those leaving for teaching jobs abroad are generally with better credentials. Finding suitable replacements for them is not easy.”

Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). 2006 National Manpower Summit: Overseas Employment, A Brief on the Migration of Teaching Professionals. POEA: 2006.


Schelzig, Karen. Poverty in the Philippines: Incomes, Assets, and Access. Hong Kong: Asian Development Bank (ADB), 2005.


The Spanish government sponsors a number of programs designed to promote Spanish language and culture abroad. Spanish Centers abroad are schools that offer an entirely Spanish curriculum taught in Spanish. These schools enroll predominately local students from kindergarten through high school and offer a diploma equivalent to a Spanish high school degree. The Spanish government has also initiated agreements with educational authorities in Argentina and Brazil to establish ‘Mixed Centers’ that offer dual curriculum and employ both Spanish and local teachers.  

Spanish teachers’ overseas placements through the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (2012-13)
Andorra 86 United Kingdom 63 Belgium 52 Switzerland 50
Colombia 52 Argentina 51 Alicante, Sp. 21 Bulgaria 15
France 114 Brazil 154 Luxembourg 17 China 2
Italy 55 Germany 50 Australia 7 Slovakia 29
Morocco 351 USA 1105 Austria 1 Hungary 18
Portugal 75 Netherlands 8 Canada 46 Poland 30
Czech Republic 20 Romania 10 Russia 9 Turkey 1