Britain Takes Teachers with One Hand; Gives Prisoners with the Other


A classroom in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where teachers may earn a fifth of the salary of UK teachers. Photograph: Myloupe/UIG via Getty Images.

Article (re)defined by SM.


The article in The Guardian outlines Geoff Brown’s efforts to recruit Jamaican teachers. Mr. Brown, the director of the Hourglass Education Recruitment Agency, was on another visit to the island to interview teachers who would help to address the significant shortage of teachers in Britain. He explained that Britain expanded their recruitment efforts to New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Jamaica; but the Jamaican teachers are highly desirable. Once the Jamaican teachers arrive in Britain, they – unlike others – were more likely to stay.


Jamaica, has been struggling since gaining independence from Britain in 1962 to rebuild its economy. While under British rule, Jamaica sent raw materials to Britain where manufacturing occurred. This cycle of extracting resources from developing countries has continued even after the end of colonization. In some cases, the resources are now in the form of human capital, especially trained professionals like teachers. The article highlights that in the 1960s, Britain looked to Jamaica for tube and bus drivers and is today looking for teachers.

In 2002, an article in the BBC News World Edition discussed a similar recruitment effort in Jamaica. The then Minister of Education noted that recruiting teachers for Britain would negatively impact the education system and exacerbate the shortage of qualified and experienced teachers in Jamaica. One teacher equated the recruitment efforts to a “rape and pillage”. Although this article was written 13 years ago, the education system in Jamaica has not seen much improvement. The present Minister of Education has emphasized that there continues to be a shortage of qualified teachers especially in mathematics and science. The “rape and pillage” has returned, as the best and brightest Jamaican teachers will be targeted to fill the gaps in the British education system while the lack of trained teachers in the Jamaican education system increases.

Mr. Brown mentioned that Jamaican teachers receive one fifth of the salary of teachers in Britain. This, to many Jamaicans is a worthwhile opportunity and so it is understandable why many teachers would apply. When individuals in developing countries are faced with economic difficulties, they often look to developed countries like Britain for better job prospects in order to provide for their families. With this understanding, the British government could compromise and build a mutually beneficial program.


Source: AFP/Getty Images

Around the same time Mr. Brown recruited applicants, the British Prime Minister visited the island to discuss the most recent investment of £25 million to build a state of the art prison. This prison is to house 600 Jamaican prisoners who have been burdening British taxpayers. Britain’s contribution represents 40% of the total cost to build the prison and Jamaica will cover the balance. Consequently, Britain will receive qualified teachers who will work to advance their economy whereas Jamaica will receive an influx of prisoners who will join an under resourced criminal justice system. Jamaica will have to maintain this new facility, pay employees and develop rehabilitative programs for the new prisoners. Therefore, Britain’s plan for this prison is not only a significant cost to the Jamaican government but also does not provide clear ways how this investment will improve or enhance the Jamaican economy. In spite of these factors, as is the norm, the legacy of colonization prevails and the postcolonial society is left bearing the burden.

Sources: Dozens of Jamaican teachers hired to work in British schools, The Guardian, Oct. 11, 2015.

UK to build £25m Jamaican prison, BBC, Sept. 30, 2015.

Not Adding Up! – Math Teachers Flee Classrooms Leaving Students In A Bind, The Gleaner, Oct. 11, 2015.

UK ‘poaching’ Jamaican teachers, BBC, March 15, 2002.

4 thoughts on “Britain Takes Teachers with One Hand; Gives Prisoners with the Other

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