In Europe, there is a wide consensus that international mobility programmes bring many benefits to higher education students. This is particularly true for teachers training students : better foreign language skills, increased level of self-confidence, global (especially european) mindedness and cultural sensitivity are amongst the dispositions and attitudes necessary to handle culturally diverse classrooms, a common challenge faced by many european teachers nowadays.

EUROSTUDENT data reveals that teacher training students mobility in Europe is still very low, compared to other fields of study. Overall, the highest share of students who have been temporarily enrolled abroad during their studies is to be found in Nordic countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark), followed by the Central European countries in the mid-range and the South-Eastern and Eastern European countries at the bottom. Teacher training students are underrepresented among those studying abroad temporarily in most countries. Paradoxically, the largest underrepresentation of teacher training students is to be found in countries with a very high overall share of students who have been enrolled abroad.

The reasons why teacher training students are less mobile than other groups of students are manyfold. EUROSTUDENT highlights that european teacher training students are a very heterogeneous group and that there is no harmonised teacher training in Europe (Zgaga, 2008). The varying structures of teacher training course according to the teaching level that students are training for (e.g. primary vs. lower or upper secondary levels) may be an obstacle to credit mobility. Moreover, the duration of teacher training programmes varies substantially by teaching level, from two to seven years depending on the country under observation (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2013). Finally, teacher training programmes all tend to include pedagogical elements, but they differ greatly regarding the subject-related knowledge that students acquire, making it difficult to have qualifications acquired abroad recognised back home.

EUROSTUDENT invites existing exchange programmes (e.g. ERASMUS+) to place a stronger emphasis on improving the mobility opportunities of teacher training students.

Governments should also work together towards a harmonisation of the structures of teacher training across European countries or at least, a better recognition of credits acquired in another european country, in order to make international mobility more attractive for teacher training students.


What are funding opportunities for mobile teacher training students in Europe and elsewhere ? What was your experience as a mobile teacher training student abroad ? What difficulties have you faced abroad and returning back home ? Join our community to ask your questions and share your experience with others!


Ballowitz Jan, Netz Nicolai & Sanfilippo Danielle, "Intelligence brief: Are teacher training students internationally mobile?", EUROSTUDENT.


As of November 2013, the Syrian civil war had already pushed an estimated 2.1 million people out of the country to neighboring countries. The largest number of Syrian refugees are in Lebanon (756,630), followed by Jordan (523,607). Turkey is also seeing increased flows. With a native population of four million, Lebanon is ill-equipped to handle a projected influx of one million Syrian refugees. There are around 400,000 children of school age and the number is expected to reach 500,000. Syrian students are integrated into the public school system, although by some estimates enrollment is under 10%.  

Nevertheless, because of the sheer numbers, schools are now running double shifts and some even a third. Since non-Lebanese nationals are not allowed to teach, Syrian refugee teachers cannot be hired as public school teachers, although there is an accreditation exchange agreement between Syria and Lebanon. NGOs have programs to employ Syrian teachers, but only as teaching assistants and for remedial education. Many of the Syrian teachers serve on an education board that works with relief agencies to coordinate the delivery of education services. These teachers work with agencies to assess the skills of teachers who may have no documentation.

More than half a million Syrians were registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Jordan at the end of September 2013. School–age children from 5 to 17 years old make up 35% of the refugee population. More than 150,000, nearly 23% of the Syrian refugee population, live in Zaatari camp. Here Syrian teachers work alongside Jordanian counterparts, two in each class, teaching essentially a Syrian curriculum. Because of safety issues, school attendance is low, and many children work to help support their family. Those refugees who have options move out of the camps, severely taxing a public school system already overstretched and overcrowded. Schools have had to put in place a double shift system to accommodate mostly Syrian students in the afternoon. Double-shift teaching puts an added strain on teachers, who by law must be Jordanian citizens to work in public schools.

There are approximately 1,500 Syrian teachers working in Turkey’s camps for Syrians, who are not regarded as refugees, but have been given a temporary protection status designed for a mass influx of people. One camp, the Kilis refugee camp, has a school which is run by a Turkish director and a board of volunteering Syrian teachers providing classes for anyone aged between five and eighteen. At another camp, volunteer Syrian teachers have set up a school system teaching a modified Syrian curriculum. Thirty-three Syrian refugee teachers divided four large-sized tents into grades 1 to 12, with two daily shifts to accommodate all the children whose parents allow them to study. There are handcraft classes for women and Turkish language classes twice a week.


Syrian Refugees in Turkey.” Fanack: Chronicles of the Middle East & North Africa. 



Kenya is home to the largest refugee complex in the world, hosting some 600,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia and Sudan. Less than 1 in 10 live in urban areas such as Nairobi. The majority live in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. There are few qualified teachers in the Dadaab camps, and refugee teachers are paid about $70 a month. While many refugees work for aid agencies in various capacities they tend to receive meager “incentive payments” rather than proper salaries, purportedly because of Kenya’s restrictive labor laws.

A pilot program has been developed to offer 400 students in the Dadaab camps a chance to earn accredited diplomas in teaching and an opportunity to earn a university degree. Kenyan law does not allow refugees to have formal jobs within the camps but participants in the newly introduced program can hold what are known as “incentive” positions in the camps’ education and community health services. One of the project’s partners at the University of British Columbia explains:

It was felt that training the teachers was the most important thing that we could do…It would be the greatest multiplier effect on the opportunities people might have in the camps, in the future, if they were able to get out of the camps.


Brownell, Ginanne. “Bringing Universities to Refugee Camps in Kenya.” New York Times, October 6, 2013. 

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). “Kenya-Somalia: Hungry for learning in Dadaab camps.” IRIN News, March 22, 2011, 


In an effort to expand the recruitment of ethnic minorities into teaching and respond to a wider European Union call for refugee support in member states, the Scottish Executive, General Teaching Council (GTC) and University partners came together to establish “Refugees Into Teaching in Scotland” (RITeS). From 2005 to 2011, the program set out to get teachers eligible for professional service by establishing official refugee status, recognizing equivalent qualifications, and assuring English proficiency. 

The Department for Education and Skills’ National Recognition Information Center helped coordinators compare “degrees, teaching diplomas and even school leaving certificates gained at, perhaps, Harare High and the University of Pristina with those awarded at, for example, Cumnock Academy and the University of Glasgow.”

Blane, Douglas. “Rites of Passage.” TES Connect, February 17, 2006. Last modified May 12, 2008. 

When faced with exceptional barriers, such as that of one woman from Kosovo whose university was bombed, thereby destroying the records of her degree certificate, GTC was creative: “We took oral testimonies from her, in which we went through her education in great detail, right from schooldays. She had shadow placements in Glasgow schools and was a big success, with the teachers confirming our judgment that she was the genuine article.” Beyond shadow placements, RITeS facilitated access to university retraining, upgrading and English courses, coordinated practice teaching opportunities in Scottish schools, guided GTC registration, and helped with the job search, interview techniques and work placements. 

In 2009, five years after its launch, the RITeS program supported 262 teachers, mostly from Zimbabwe, Iraq and Pakistan. By May 2010, 41 of the 301 registered teachers had achieved GTC registration.


Blane, Douglas. “Rites of Passage.” TES Connect, February 17, 2006. Last modified May 12, 2008. 

Kum, Henry, Ian Menter and Geri Smyth. “Changing the Face of the Scottish Teaching Profession? The Experiences of Refugee Teachers.” Irish Educational Studies 29 (2010): 321-338.

Smyth, Gerri and Henry Kum. “When They Don’t Use It They Will Lose It’: Professionals, Deprofessionalization and Reprofessionalization: The Case of Refugee Teachers in Scotland.” Journal of Refugee Studies 23 (2010): 503-522



After the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the ensuing quadrupling of oil prices, oil-exporting countries embarked on ambitious development plans that included expansion in the education sector.  The International Organization for Migration estimates that in 1970 there were about 1.9 million migrant workers in the Gulf States.  By 1985, there were 5.1 million. 

Many governments have introduced initiatives to establish English as part of the national curriculum, consequently the demand for native English speakers has increased. “Getting Migration and Mobility Right” found continued migration of Jordanian teachers to Gulf States, but also American, British, and Australian teachers working in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. On top of competitive salaries, many schools offer benefits, including housing, settlement allowance, paid flight home once a year and health coverage.  However, not all foreign teachers receive the same pay or benefits.  

A wealthy Gulf nation with a small local population, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long relied on international recruitment to staff schools. As far back as the 1970s, this meant importing teachers from within the region and treating them as a source of cheap labor.  Government figures from 2009-2010 showed that only 1,787 of the 3,154 teachers working in the state system were Emirati.

In 2011, hiring practices began to change when the Abu Dhabi Education Council instituted a new school model curriculum intended to make English a medium of instruction by 2030. This policy change meant that the Egyptian and Jordanian teachers who had been staffing Emirati schools were sent home and replaced by a new crop of English speaking recruits, largely from developed Western nations, who were hired under much more favorable terms and afforded generous benefits. 


Focus groups of teachers on both sides of this policy change reveal striking differences in their experiences. Jordanian teachers who had worked in the UAE spoke of discrimination, lack of support, and wide pay disparities between themselves and the teachers who were nationals of their host country. Jordanian teachers were paid between one half and one quarter the salary of local teachers. Most felt discriminated against by their employer, and some felt mistreated by parents and teachers as well. Few felt the experience had met their expectations.  

By comparison, the Americans and Australians who were hired as English Medium Teachers reported in a focus group that they were treated lavishly. Upon arrival, they spent the first month at the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi, where their only job was to acclimatize. They earned a tax-free income that exceeded their home country salaries, in addition to free housing, health care, several trips home, and even a furniture allowance. They noted with concern the inequity between their treatment and that of their predecessors from Egypt and Jordan, and suggested that there was even a third tier of salary and benefits reserved for the South African teachers, who fell mid-way between the Westerners and the teachers from the region.

Despite their upscale accommodations in Abu Dhabi, American and Australian teachers were assigned widely varying schools. Some reported being assigned to poorly resourced schools in desert regions, lacking even pencils, paper and books. Others reported placements in well-resourced schools located in more affluent communities. The teachers also noted differing levels of support from school administrators. 


Strikingly, American teachers explained their reasons for working in the UAE by describing their frustration and despair at conditions in U.S. public schools. With an average of 22 years of experience in public school districts, six female teachers used stark terms to describe the forces compelling them to leave the U.S. education system. One described her anguish about the high stakes mandates that set her English as a Second Language students up to fail year after year by requiring that they pass tests for which they were not prepared.  Another made her decision after a round of budget cuts in her school district that required her to take leave without pay for 10 days and made it difficult for her to pay rent. One was demoralized by the negative media attacks on teachers, and another had grown disenchanted with the direction of reforms in the public education system.


Edarabia. “Expat Teachers Aren’t the Only Ones Leaving UAE Public Schools.” The National, 2011. 

Nassar, Heba (2010),"Intra-Regional Labour Mobility in the Arab World: An Overview”, in Intra-Regional Labour Mobility in the Arab World. Geneva: International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Arab Labour Organization (ALO).