- NEW DELHI, India -- With
Indian tech workers no longer wanted in the United States, the buzz here
is all about teachers.
- A shortage of up to 700,000 teaching instructors in the
United States has drawn U.S. school administrators looking to plug the
gap to India. The reasons, according to the recruiters, are the same ones
that caused high-tech companies to hire Indian engineers during the dot-com
boom: Indians, they say, work well and work hard for salaries that are
low by U.S. standards. And their knowledge of English is good enough to
teach American kids.
- George Noflin, principal of Greenwood High School in
Greenwood, Miss., visited India recently and interviewed 85 teachers. He
hired three for his school. "The quality of teachers in India is unbelievable,"
- The number of Indian tech workers heading to the United
States has dropped sharply compared to previous years. The high demand
for teachers comes as thousands of Indian H1-B visa holders -- a temporary,
specialized work visa -- in the United States are returning home.
- The teaching shortage in the United States is attributed
to the profession's low regard, dismal pay and high turnover. "No
one wants to teach these days," Noflin says.
- According to the National Commission on Teaching and
America's Future, a third of new teachers in the United States leave the
profession within three years -- and half leave after five years.
- Survesh Rudra, a middle-level Indian government official,
recently returned to India with his son after a yearlong scholarship in
America. His wife chose to stay after she was offered a teaching job in
- "Because she has more than five years experience,
her salary is more than $35,000," Rudra says. "That's dismal
by U.S. standards, but great by Indian."
- In India, Rudra's annual salary would not be more than
$2,400, with little ability to save. Even accounting for the high cost
of living in the United States, Survesh Rudra says, his wife can still
save a minimum of $12,000 a year. Indians, especially women, Rudra says,
are great savers. If his wife can hold onto her job in America for three
years, her family will be able to afford a reasonably good lifestyle in
India for the rest of their lives.
- Indians leaving to teach in the United States look somewhat
different than the tech workers who headed west for green cards, U.S. citizenship
and possibly American wives. The teachers are predominantly housewives
who take up teaching jobs not only for the money, but to accompany their
kids to school and keep themselves mentally occupied.
- "There is a new-found respect for the teaching community,"
says Sunita Saxena, who teaches at the Delhi Public School Vasant Vihar,
in New Delhi, and has been on several teaching stints to the Middle East.
"For many of us who have been seen as people who barely contributed
a supplementary income, the prospect of earning dollars opens new vistas."
- However, there is a flip side. A few years ago, a shortage
of teachers in the United Kingdom encouraged a large number of recruitment
agencies to hire teachers from India. But soon the demand dried up, and
the teachers found themselves without jobs or stuck in appalling working
conditions as they entered other employment to support families back home
used to the largesse from abroad. Many ended up being deported.
- In fact, despite their happiness at being back among
family and friends, Indian tech workers returning from the United States
have had difficulty adjusting to significantly lower salaries -- typically
25 percent of what they made in the United States -- and the resulting
lifestyle changes. Many would return to America if given the chance.
- But for now, it seems that Indian teachers have nothing
to fear. The teacher shortage in America is huge. The writing is there
on the blackboard for all to see: techies out, teachers in.
- PNS contributor Siddharth Srivastava is a journalist
based in New Delhi.