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December 29, 1999
Chicago To Shop for Teachers in India, Britain
R S Shankar
It is not just the high-techies who are in short supply in America.
The inner city schools, which face continual student indiscipline and charges of teacher indifference, are facing shortage of teachers. And soon recruiters from Chicago could come to India, Britain, Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka in search of teachers.
Faced by a shortage of school teachers, New York imported over a dozen teachers from Austria two years ago.
Now, the Chicago public school system has convinced the US Immigration and Naturalization Service to allow 50 foreign teachers to work in the city under special visas. The teachers will be given a two-month training, and will be paid a minimum $ 35,000.
If the program works out successfully, the INS could not only increase the number of teachers brought from abroad but also let other cities follow Chicago. The US Department of Education estimates that 2.2 million teachers are needed to meet enrolment increases in the next 10 years.
Many American teachers have been taking early retirement from public schools citing poor working conditions, high pressure of work and growing indiscipline.
"Given the pessimistic situation in our public schools in big cities, only the most desperate foreign teachers would want to come here," said an Indian teacher who has been a history instructor in a New York school on condition of anonymity.
"They will fill the gap, but will the quality improve?"
After 20 years in public schools, he is prepared to quit. "When I found out last week in newspapers that many teachers and principals have been helping the children to cheat in the examination in order to boost the school image, I thought it was too much."
"Seeing children bring knives and firearms into the schools was horrible but cheating encouraged by teachers was worse."
Called the "global educators outreach program,'' the Chicago initiative will help fill 400 vacancies in the Chicago school system which, with 20,000 teachers and over 400,000 students, is America's third-largest school district.
Chicago officials said this week that the recruitment effort was focusing on countries with sizable English-speaking populations.
The first three recruits for this semester are a Chinese scientist, a physics teacher from the West Bank and the head of a British school in Colombia.
Teachers will be granted six-year visas to teach foreign languages, math, science and computer skill.
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