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Trials, tribulations and triumphs of transnational teachers : teacher migration between South Africa and United Kingdom.

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The aim of this study was to analyse teacher migration between South Africa (SA) and the United Kingdom (UK). An understanding of teacher migration and migration patterns is of vital importance especially to SA. As a developing country, SA is losing valuable assets, namely professionals (teachers, doctors, nurses) to developed countries. There is a return stream as evident in a cohort of teacher migrants returning to SA. However, increased mobility is a direct occurrence of the forces of globalisation, and neither the loss of professionals (brain drain) nor the brain gain is unique to SA. Nevertheless, the need to understand migrant teachers' decision-making is salient: firstly, as a step in creating avenues for discourse on addressing the flight of 'home-grown' professionals and attracting ex-patriots back to their home country. Secondly, in furthering an understanding of global labour migration, and finally in developing and expanding on existing migration theories in a globalised world. This study was multi-layered. It investigated two distinct cohorts of teachers: ninety experienced teachers (part of the teaching fraternity) and thirty novice teachers (student teachers in their final year of study at Edgewood College of Education in SA). Within the category of experienced teachers, three separate divisions of teachers were identified for examination, namely premigrants (teachers about to embark on their first migration), post-migrants (SA teachers already teaching in the UK) and return-migrants (teachers who had returned to SA after a period of teaching in the UK). Various theories influenced the study: economic theories of migration, identity theories in education and Marxist labour theory. Within this theoretical framing the influence of globalisation as a process in facilitating cross border mobility was emphasized. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used in the study. Teachers' voices were favoured in the study as an expression of the complexity of their thinking, attitudes, behaviour and hence, identities. The study commenced by examining the reasons for novice and experienced teachers exiting the SA teaching fraternity, to work in schools in London in the UK. Then it explored the latter teachers' experiences in those schools and society with a view to revealing their integration into new socio-cultural and political milieus, and highlighting their transnational identities. Finally, experienced teachers' reasons for returning to SA were probed. In tracing teachers' trajectory from pre-migration (before migration) to post-migration (in the host country) to return migration (back to the home country), the study attempted to analyse patterns of transnational migration in a globalised context. The study identified the emergence of a new breed of teachers: transnational teacher-travellers. These are teachers who traverse a country's national boundaries at will. They are at ease trading their services in a global market, all in the pursuit of attaining a kaleidoscope of goals simultaneously. SA teachers were generally leaving their home country for multiple reasons of finance, travel opportunities and career progression. None of these reasons were mutually exclusive of each other. Migrant teachers' experiences in the UK were extensive, from professional growth to salary satisfaction and travel. However, teacher stress from incidents of reduced classroom discipline and loneliness stemming from family separation impacted on migrant teachers abroad, and contributed to return migration. An evaluation of the data on migrant teachers' motivations, experiences and goals led to the development of a model to understand the transnational migration patterns of teachers traversing from developing to developed countries. The model is sculptured from Demuth's (2000) three phases of migration: pre-migration, post-migration and return-migration. A basic tenet of the suggested model is that teacher migration is a non-linear process. It is initiated and sustained by complex, concurrent push or pull factors in the home country and pull or push factors in the host country. Further, teacher migration is propelled and perpetuated by the influences of globalisation and socio-cultural networks between countries.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2005.


Transnationalism., Emigration and immigration--Social aspects., Emigration and immigration--Economic aspects., Teachers--Job satisfaction., South Africans--Great Britain., Theses--Education.