NATIONAL

U.K. schools a'nightmare' for Indian teachers

LONDON MARCH 29. Hundreds of teachers from India and other developing countries are lured to Britain with the promise of attractive wages and work conditions only to discover that they were better off back home. The reality, they find, is different from what was painted in the attractive brochures given by the recruiting agencies. After a few months, the majority of teachers either return home or take up other jobs, because they simply can't cope with the combined pressure of workload and unruly behaviour of students. Some prefer to mind the neighbourhood pub, than suffering humiliation at the classroom, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

``They leave because when they enter schools they find the behaviour and working conditions aren't what they are used to. In their countries, there is automatic respect for them,'' an association spokesman said disclosing the findings of a survey at a teachers' conference in Cardiff.

Britain has an acute shortage of teachers prompting schools to "import'' them, mostly from the developing countries. It is estimated that in London alone there are 1,000 overseas teachers, and yet at the last count schools across Britain had some 5,000 vacancies. Agents from recruiting agencies routinely visit "catchment'' areas, such as India to hire teachers promising them a deal they cannot refuse. Advertisements on the Internet claim that an exciting life in Britain is "only a telephone call away.''

``Teachers who come here think they've come to Great Britain. The reality is they've fetched up in a Third World Britain whose only cash crop is nostalgia. It is a recipe to get the first plane home,'' a delegate told the conference. A teacher from East London said he was reminded of schools in Zambia and Nigeria where he taught many years ago. "Hakcney (an East London borough) now reminds me of Zambia. We have managed to reduce parts of our education service to the level of a Third World country,'' he said.

One of the reasons why most overseas teachers don't stay is the shocking classroom indiscipline. "From the very first class I was shocked,'' a teacher said.

"Students were an undisciplined rabble...In a typical class there would be kids running across the tabletops, jumping on chairs. They would be yelling, fighting and throwing rubbish...They were swearing all the time and the girls were as bad as the boys. I've taught in tough schools, but nothing like this.''

Things have come to such a pass that the Government has now decided to fine parents whose children misbehave with teachers.

Low salaries, heavy workload, bullying pupils and poor prospects have combined to make teaching possibly the most unattractive career in this country.

For the first time in many years, school teachers took to the streets recently to demand a better deal, and they have threatened a strike if they continue to be neglected.

Schools are the latest to catch what is sneeringly known as the "Third World'' syndrome which has already hit the health services and public transport making Britain "Europe's offshore basket case'', as one teacher put it.

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