New scheme to integrate foreign-trained teachers in short-staffed Irish schools
2018-01-15 17:03:00 -
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By Chinedu Onyejelem

 

A new project to help immigrant teachers who are qualified abroad gain employment in Irish schools has been inundated with requests.


Over 150 teachers from 40 different nationalities have contacted the Marino Institute of Education for inclusion in the programme since it was announced late in November 2017, organisers tell Metro Éireann.


The first phase of the Immigrant Internationally Educated Teachers (IIETs) project, which began this January, will survey migrant teachers living in Ireland either currently teaching or not, to find out what the barriers exists to their careers. The results of this research would inform bridging programmes from this September.


Funded by the Department of Justice’s Office for the Promotion of Integration of Migrants, the project comes at a very critical time for education in Ireland, with both primary and secondary schools facing a dire shortage of qualified substitute teachers.


Irish Primary Principals’ Network chief Pairic Clerkin recently told RTÉ News that up to 36 percent of primary schools had issues recruiting substitutes in the last four months.


The problem is compounded by the number of newly trained Irish teachers who are moving abroad, especially to the Middle East, for more lucrative jobs. 


Teacher union Into estimates that apart from retirees, about 700 primary teachers leave the primary payroll every year, citing lack of permanent contracts and low wages arising from a two-tier pay scale that discriminates against newly qualified teachers.


Unions have called for new strategies in resolving the crisis, such as reaching out to all registered teachers not currently active to return to classrooms.  However, many educators believe that the experience gap could be filled by retraining and help foreign-trained teachers to take up teaching positions in Irish schools.


French national Mélanie Schmutz is one of the immigrant teachers involved in the Marino Institute’s project. A qualified English teacher with a degree from the Sorbonne in Paris, she taught the subject in France before relocating to Ireland a number of years ago and setting about the process of having her qualifications recognised here. 


When Schmutz decided she wanted to work as a French teacher, she faced the additional barrier of having to complete a Master’s in French by distance learning to enable her to register in Ireland, despite being a native French speaker. Schmutz, who works in a secondary school in north Dublin, told Metro Éireann: “For me, it was hard to be recognised by the Teaching Council insofar as I had to get all the details of my qualifications translated from French to English. I also had to sit an exam on the history and structure of the Irish educational system.


“The Teaching Council were very helpful, I met up with them on several occasions. Once I was registered, my problem was that I was qualified as an English teacher, not French, so I was told I didn’t have the right qualification. But when I got my first job as a substitute teacher, things became a lot easier.”


She adds: “My advice would be not to be intimidated by the amount of paperwork required.” Dr Emer Nowlan of the Marino Institute says Schmutz is a welcome addition to Ireland’s pool of school teachers. 


“There is a shortage of French teachers in Ireland at present, and there are huge benefits to having native-speaking language teachers,” she says, “so we should be doing everything possible to support teachers like Mélanie.”


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