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Unqualified Teachers - Does It Matter?

Unqualified Teachers - Does It Matter?

A few years back, New York City schools started the school year needing 5,000 teachers. A system administrator when asked, ‘How do you fill those positions?’ responded, ‘We hold a mirror to an applicant’s mouth, if it fogs we hire them!
Today, worldwide:

  • A growing middle class seeks opportunities for their children to become well-educated.
  • University-based teacher education programmes are not able to fulfil the growing demand for teachers.
  • Government, private, and international schools are employing a growing number of individuals (often 10% – 30% of employed teachers) who have not, through valid assessment against recognised standards, demonstrated their ability to guide learning of students in their care.
  • Concerned school administrators realise they do not know where they will find teachers for the schools they are building and the students they intend to enrol.

Unqualified teachers can demonstrate that they meet recognised standards in the schools in which they are employed. They can do so by learning how to teach with the support of skilled colleagues and by becoming a fully qualified professional through a school-based portfolio development and assessment process.

Does it matter that teachers are not qualified so long as they have a university bachelors’ degree and a willingness to try teaching? Yes, it does!

  • All pre-primary, primary and secondary school students deserve to have teachers, teaching assistants, and school leaders who model validated expectations of effective educators in our global profession.
  • Parents expect teachers to be effective in helping their children achieve their full potential while preparing them for the world in which they will live. 
  • Schools fail when their most valuable asset – their teachers – are ineffective.
  • As educators, our professional legitimacy depends on our willingness and ability to fulfil expectations as defined and validated by an authorised government and higher education institutions.
  • No one truly accepts the idea that, ‘anyone can teach’.

National governments are increasingly insisting that educators, in international schools, be assessed to verify they are qualified by having demonstrated their abilities in line with current educational practice and across multiple educational settings.

Professional educators can demonstrate their effectiveness and become qualified as they teach through rigorous and valid assessment during continuing professional development in line with national and globally accepted criteria. 

Employed but unqualified teachers who have acquired the knowledge and skills to be good teachers owe it to themselves, their students and parents, colleagues, and employers to be recognised members of our global profession. With this recognition comes pride in achievement, increased confidence and effectiveness in teaching abilities, and often increased pay and employment opportunities.

Becoming a Professional Educator

Agencies responsible for ‘licensing’ teachers around the world are adjusting requirements for entry to the global profession of teaching in ways that are remarkably similar. Examples include school-based teacher training schemes, online coursework, assessment of prior experience, and portfolio development and assessment aligned with validated expectations of effective educators.

Starting with criteria describing characteristics of effective teachers, both England and the USA have implemented s
chool-based procedures through which employed, but unqualified teachers worldwide can gain globally accepted teaching qualifications. 

England – Assessment Only Qualified Teacher Status (AOQTS). 

A school-based portfolio development and assessment process leading to recommendation for QTS - the status required to be a qualified teacher in England. Candidates use the QTS standards outlined in Teachers' Standards in England from September 2012 as the basis for demonstrating their abilities as they teach their students. Those successfully meeting the standards are recommended to the government for QTS.

Alternative teacher professional development options for British educators include:

  • The International Postgraduate Certificate in Education (iPGCE), available to individuals outside of England, is an academic course that results in a postgraduate certificate in education. The iPGCE does not and cannot include QTS which is required to be a fully qualified teacher, unless it also includes the Assessment Only Route. 
  • The Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), only available to individuals enrolling on training courses in England, is an academic award that results in a PGCE. Almost all PGCE courses include a recommendation for QTS
  • Enrolling in a three to four-year undergraduate course leading to the award of a bachelors' degree with recommendation for QTS.
  • Some school-based training providers in England offer training for QTS without the award of PGCE. 

For teachers who learn to teach with support of their colleagues, enrolling on a training course to fill gaps in, and present evidence of, their knowledge and skills is an expensive way to confirm their claim that they can demonstrate the standards for QTS.

The Assessment Only route to QTS presents a credible and realistic approach to QTS and is the only way unqualified teachers in international schools can achieve QTS without having to enroll on a training route in the UK.

USA - Wisconsin state teaching license

A school-based portfolio development and assessment process leading to recommendation for full teacher licensure. The primary focus of the Wisconsin License Based on Equivalence Pathway (LBE) is on the InTASC characteristics (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) of effective educators and ability of candidates to model them in their teaching. 


Dr Craig Kissock
is Director of Educators Abroad, the only provider offering access to both UK and USA teacher qualifications worldwide. As an organisation, EducatorsAbroad is committed to promoting teaching as a global profession. We expect candidates to work effectively with students of different backgrounds, integrate experience and perspectives from instructional settings in other cultural contexts, and demonstrate ability to meet the unique needs of all students. As members of our global profession we must ensure that all teachers have their skills and understanding acknowledged by a recognised teaching qualification. EA colleagues do their part by providing unqualified teachers opportunity to become professional educators wherever they are located around the world.

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