US Schools Hiring Indian
Teachers To Fill Void

By Siddharth Srivastava,
Pacific News Service

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," Noflin says.
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 Texas.
"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.




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