Australia to Prioritize Overseas Teachers Visas Amid Teacher Shortage, May Offer Hongkongers an Alternative Lifeboat Option

By Rachel Qu
Rachel Qu
Rachel Qu
August 31, 2022 Updated: August 31, 2022

Jason Clare, Minister for Education and Youth of Australia, recently said visa applications for overseas teachers would be prioritized to help ease the country’s teacher shortage.

On Aug. 12, Clare held a roundtable with provincial education ministers, teacher representatives, principals, and unions on how to address the national teacher shortage. He spoke about the idea at a press conference in Canberra after the meeting “One of the things we have to do is give priority to visas for overseas teachers who want to come and work here,” Clare said.

He said states and territories should collaborate with overseas teachers who aspire to come to Australia to work to ensure overseas teachers meet state and territory standards, are certified, and registered in Australia, and ensure they get visas as soon as they want to come to Australia.

Clare said Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs, had agreed to prioritize overseas teacher visas.

On areas about attracting and retaining overseas teachers, Sarah Mitchell, NSW Education Minister, said she would like to see further plans, including fast-track citizenship for overseas teachers wishing to move to Australia.

“One of the concerns and challenges with bringing in overseas teachers is the long wait for visas. That makes potential overseas teachers reluctant to come [to Australia],” Mitchell said.

“I would like to know what opportunities are there for high-skilled people to be fast-tracked to work in high-demand fields such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).”

In July, Mitchell wrote to Andrew Giles, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services, and Multicultural Affairs, calling on the federal government to provide fast-track citizenship routes targeting teachers from overseas.

Mitchell said there are about 200 teachers currently working in NSW schools on temporary visas, and she was pushing for these overseas teachers to apply for Australian citizenship after two years in public schools.

In addition to the decision to prioritise overseas teacher visa applications, the roundtable on Aug. 12 also discussed national strategies that could be implemented in three priority areas, namely, how to encourage more people to become teachers, train students now at teacher training courses so as to become job-ready quicker, and put in place strategies to retain great teachers.

As one way to keep more outstanding teachers in the classroom, NSW had taken the lead. On Aug. 11, NSW announced the introduction of new high-paid positions for outstanding teachers.

Newly employed teachers in NSW currently start their careers with an annual salary of A$73,737 ($50,810), making them higher paid than graduates in many other career fields. A teacher can be paid up to A$117,060 ($80,700) if they are merited with either the “good teacher” or “lead teacher” tag. It can even go up to A$126,528 ($87,200) if they take on the additional duties of an assistant principal.

Education Minister Mitchell said a better system of rewarding and retaining good teachers could help attract more people into teaching careers.

Australian Teacher Shares Her Thoughts

As more and more Hongkongers choose to leave the city after the social turmoil, Australia is one of the most popular countries for them. 

Ms. Chan (pseudonym), a Hongkonger who is now working in Australia as a teacher, told The Epoch Times, that it’s really good news for Hong Kong teachers who have the intention to emigrate to Australia. She says she knows a few teachers who prefer coming to Australia over the UK. But that was before the Australian government launched this scheme. She is also pretty sure if the scheme was available back then, they probably would have applied already.

Regarding the qualification of the teachers in Hong Kong, Ms. Chan, said as long as the applicant holds a qualified degree in education. The authorities will then assess these university qualifications. However, they may need to take an English language proficiency test if the qualifications were completed in a non-English speaking country.

According to the Australia requirement, overseas-trained teachers from Hong Kong must hold recognized qualifications and may need to pass an approved English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT).

For Ms. Chan, she said the biggest challenge for teachers from Hong Kong is the culture and the difference in expectations between Asian and western students/parents.

Regarding the concerns and challenges with bringing in overseas teachers is the long wait for visas, Ms. Chan thinks teachers (or people) in Hong Kong want to leave for a different reason. They want to leave for good, perhaps to provide a better future for their family. So they can wait if the opportunity comes.

 

Rachel Qu