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Australia feeling the teacher-shortage pinch

Australia is facing a severe shortage of English Language teachers, according to two professors at Deakin University . Writing in the Conversation Roderick Neilsen and Michiko Weinmann argue that although the worst-hit sector during Covid was Elicos, as EFL is called locally, it is, in fact the 600,000 children in the country’s schools who do not have English as their first language who are most in need.

Australia closed its borders during the pandemic and did not provide any financial support to the 760,000 international students then studying in the country. Unsurprisingly, when then Prime Minister Scott Morrison told students to “go home” if they couldn’t support themselves, many of them did. 

As a result, virtually every English language teacher working in a private language school, university language centre and vocational college, or TAFE, found themselves out of a job. Many may have left the profession, but since only 50,000 new international students entered the country at the beginning of the academic year, a drop of 67% compared to the same period in 2019, the teacher shortage, though real, has not hit the schools and colleges as hard as in the UK and Ireland. 

Up to 40 job ads have been placed for teachers on overseas job sites in the last month, as Australian language schools have been trying to recruit from abroad. Although no permanent jobs were offered, hourly rates in the heavily unionised country start at AUS58 (around £26) and courses run for a minimum of 20 hours a week, making it a very attractive destination for under-30s from other English-speaking countries who can enter on a working holiday visa. There has also been a flurry of local ads for staff as the autumn term begins, but apart from the increase of fixed-term jobs on offer there is little sign of panic.

Instead, it is in the country’s primary and secondary schools that the shortage of specialist English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers is biting hardest, especially as, post-Covid, significant numbers of refugees and their children have arrived in the country.  

Australia requires EAL to be taught by state-qualified teachers who have studied a range of areas, including second-language acquisition and cross-cultural education, so there is no pathway in for Elicos teachers who have left the profession. However, one state, Victoria, is allowing undergraduate teachers in their final year to teach EAL part-time as long as they have covered some of the specialised courses. Meanwhile, the Australian Council for TESOL has called for all trainee teacher to cover EAL provision as part of their basic training,


Image courtesy of Adam Winger on Unsplash
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Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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