The shortage of teachers, particularly in rural American regions has become a critical problem. As a result, the lack of applicants to fill in vacant teaching posts is addressed by way of the cultural exchange program that entails hiring teachers from third-world developing countries, albeit on a temporary basis.
What is a Cultural Exchange Teaching Program
The Cultural Exchange Teaching Program, also known as J-1 Teacher Program is in reality a non-migrant method of giving teachers from third-world developing countries, the chance to develop and enhance their pedagogic skills by allowing them to teach in U.S. primary and secondary schools for a limited time.
As opposed to accepting a formally offered teaching job under an approved U.S. working visa, foreign teachers working with a J-1 Visa are not afforded with opportunities to vie for a permanent teaching and apply for residency status as immigrant. That is because J-1 Visas are good for up to three (3) years only, although with options to extend for one year but only up to two (2) times.
This denotes that after a maximum of five years, a foreigner holding a teaching job in a U.S. public school under the cultural exchange program has to go back home. Another foreign teacher with a J-1 visa will then be hired to replace the outgoing and homeward bound cultural exchange teacher.
Criticisms Against the Continuous Hiring of Foreign Teachers thru the Cultural Exchange Program
The shortage of applicants for teaching positions came about mainly because of low pay. As teachers walked-out or went on strike to demand higher salaries that will at least equal the average annual salary of $56,000, many had taken on other types of jobs with relatively higher pay. The shortage is aggravated by the fact that fewer college students do not plan on becoming future primary or secondary school teachers.
The practice of hiring of foreign teachers coming from countries like the Philippines, via the Cultural Exchange Program provided a workable solution; but became common for public schools in U.S. states with low budget provisions for education. However, the seemingly permanent and increasing use of this approach has received strong criticisms.
First off, it is seen as an abuse of the exchange program and does not truly serve the purpose for which the cultural exchange is intended.
Secondly, foreigh teachers are being taken advantage of because the low salary by American standards is higher when compared to the salaries received in their respective home country.
Thirdly, it only permits the government in both state and federal levels to keep teaching wages low, and therefore allow long-term and even greater budget cuts in education.
Overall, this will not solve the growing shortage of U.S.-based educators who will apply for vacancies in primary and secondary public schools.
Randi Weingarten, president of the national teachers union known as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), issued a statement that says
“Districts will continue to recruit internationally as a way of solving the teacher-shortage issue, rather than increase salaries.”….“The union (AFT) will fight for everyone working in our communities, regardless of where they’re from, since the use of the J-1 visa program to fill long-term shortages is an abuse of an exchange program in delivering education to our kids without the benefit of fair wages, and protection of employment rights in the workplace.”