According to Robertson (2018), it is estimated that international schools will be looking to recruit an additional 145,000 UK teachers to fill the demand in the expanding educational market over the next decade. Furthermore, the requirement for teachers in this sector is forecast to necessitate a quarter of teachers in the UK, Ireland, US and Australia to move abroad each year over this period to meet demand (Civinini 2019). Even before the recent spate of school closures in response to the coronavirus, these statistics look unattainable.
Over the past three years I have established and developed the Postgraduate General Certificate in Education international (PGCEi) programme at a UK university. We now have two cohorts running with a third scheduled to begin in August 2020. The programme is based out of Bangkok, Thailand, beginning with a 5-day face-to-face induction before transitioning to biweekly live online sessions. As part of my role as Programme Director for the PGCEi I oversee the quality assurance process. On a recent trip to South East Asia I had a familiar discussion with a Head of school around the value and weight of the PGCEi in comparison to a UK based PGCE. On my travels I hear a lot about the perceived credibility of training to be a teacher in the UK and the accompanying Holy Grail, Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Indeed, some international schools will only look to candidates with this UK qualification when recruiting, which given the projected landscape of teacher shortages outlined above will surely begin to shift. The reasoning we hear for this lies in the varying quality of international PGCEs that have historically been in the market.
International versus local
The following is an interesting case study to explore that is emblematic of discussions with schools around the world on the credibility of a PGCEi course in comparison to the local UK equivalent. Let us take one of our primary PGCEi trainees who is currently working in a South East Asia international school setting. She will have completed 90 university credits (half a Master’s qualification) by the end of the course in line with what a local UK PGCE trainee would receive. She would have completed two 5000 word Master’s level assignments, including one focussed on her teaching phase (in this case primary) and one on an international theme relevant to her setting involving a case study. She would have had regular mentor meetings in school, been observed throughout the course against the UK Teachers’ standards with a final observation by a university Link Tutor all on the same paperwork a local UK trainee would be assessed. She would have attended live bi-weekly online sessions delivered from a range of university departments including local PGCE university staff with extra sessions related to the international context. She would also receive three 1-1 personal tutorials from university staff again replicating a UK trainee experience.
The differences in relation to a local UK based PGCE trainee would be the fact that trainees would not be required to teach in a second setting during the course, although frequently our trainees work in ‘through schools’ and have the opportunity to teach and observe in a variety of year groups and phases which is generally not possible for local UK trainees. Trainees would get 3 formal observations by a university tutor over the course of the programme in the UK compared to 1 internationally although mentor observations are similar. Face-to-face contact with the university is less (although we do have the face to face induction and frequent virtual sessions). The minimum requirement of assessed teaching practice is less on the PGCEi, however, a majority of trainees are working as full time teachers so will amass more teaching experience over the programme than their UK counterparts. It is also worth noting that in the recent education climate all of our PGCEi trainees have been expected to deliver online sessions of some form, unlike their UK based counterparts alongside being observed teaching in these mediums.
The QTS conundrum
So in essence our international teacher trainee is receiving something very close to what a local UK trainee would experience with corresponding university credits but tailored to her international setting. The main difference here, however, is that she cannot gain QTS through a PGCEi. And this is the point. When international schools are recruiting new teachers, they frequently look to the UK where teachers have QTS but are generally not experts in teaching international students in different settings. They perhaps have maybe never lived abroad let alone taught in different cultural settings. Yet these teachers with less international experience and expertise are being chosen over their fully qualified international counterparts who teach in international settings on the basis that they have studied in the UK so will have QTS.
In reference to the previous forecast by Civinini (2019), it is perhaps doubtful whether a quarter of teachers from the UK, Ireland, US and Australia will indeed move abroad over the next decade. The awarding of QTS is being disrupted in the UK this academic year due to school closures so maybe changes in initial teacher training are afoot.
Going forward, alongside equipping our PGCEi trainees to be ready for work in the international arena, perhaps our mission is also to work alongside schools to offer a course that rebuilds trust in PGCEi programmes, support schools in meeting increasing demand whilst also elevating the international teaching training landscape.
Civinini, C., (2019), one in four teachers needed overseas. Available here [accessed 08 January 2020].
Robertson, A., (2018), international schools to recruit more UK teachers. Available here [accessed 10 January 2020].
Nicholas McKie is an Associate Professor and Programme Director for the PGCE international at the University of Warwick. He is also a Certified Professional Coach, coaching senior leaders across the global education sector.
Contact: [email protected]