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The teacher recruitment crisis

With stories of teachers being unable to re-enter China after leaving at CNY in 2020 and a general sense of uncertainty over visa applications, many teachers are opting to leave Asia after completing contracts.

Teaching staff have taken pay cuts, unpaid leave and many of the international schools have frozen pay increments indefinitely. 

While schools in Hong Kong have introduced bonuses to staff who resign before a certain date, this model is not a reality for many schools, as student enrolments decline and many schools are self - funded i.e., no financial support from the government schools are not in a financial position to offer such incentives ongoing.

With these challenges set to continue and, schools are becoming more receptive to engaging with recruitment agencies – this has not always been the norm.

In terms of how schools recruit teachers, they have a number of options available:

i) Online and Print Advertisements – advertising in the local newspapers and on job boards (including education specialist websites.

ii) Referrals – hiring through existing relationships (e.g candidate referrals schemes)

iii) Recruitment agencies – are the preferred method of hiring with new school entering the market. The main reasons for choosing this method is confidentiality. These schools are in the process of working with the EDB to have their license approved and they don’t want to jeopardise this by commencing the hiring process prior to having the license approved. Specialist recruitment agencies such as Top Schools have a solid understanding of the market, we have relationships, networks and a comprehensive database of candidates who are looking for new opportunities. We work closely with these school and provide strategic advice on Recruitment, Marketing & Admissions.

Due to the current climate, Recruitment agencies are playing an increasingly important role in helping school fill open vacancies.

Schools in general have had mixed experiences working with recruitment agencies, this is mainly  due to the wide variation in quality of agencies in the market as well as the cost associated.

Top Schools specialise in the education only, we are an experienced trusted brand in Hong Kong and we understand the market! We have strong relationships and networks which we can call upon at any given time, whether it be sourcing a candidates, looking for referrals or recommending a candidate a school who we believe is the “right fit”.

So, what are the benefits of the agency model for schools:

  • A ‘one stop shop’ specialist solution for sourcing and matching candidates

  • Outsourcing administrative tasks (e.g. background checks, scheduling interviews) in a short timeframe

  • Flexibility of assessing a teacher in a temporary role before deciding to hire on a permanent basis

  • A more effective overall cost solution when the shorter time and lower effort incurred by the school is considered

  • Access to the best teachers, often referred to the agency by word of mouth

Our inhouse research has revealed that there has been a gradual shift in the perception of recruitment agencies, schools are receptive to using agency recruiters due to the supply and demand constraints.

It is becoming increasingly harder to recruit teachers from abroad, this is due to border closures, visa constraints and quarantine restrictions, therefore if agencies are able to offer access to a pool of teachers then schools will be receptive to the use of recruitment agencies. Recruitment agencies can be seen as an increasingly attractive choice in the current supply-constrained market given their ability to proactively source teachers.

Agencies have been actively building a pool of candidates by recruiting from both domestic sources as well as internationally. Agencies use job boards, referrals/word of mouth, as well as social media when recruiting teachers.

In summary, as we continue to face challenges when hiring teachers, it is important for schools to retain teachers and the most common way to do this is by offering Professional Development, nurturing and training young teachers and provide teachers with a teaching environment which offers growth, flexibility and autonomy.


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