Teaching Stem subjects ‘seen as a job which doesn’t pay well’
New maths teacher Kate McDonald opts for Middle East for travel, experience and earnings
Kate McDonald, a recently qualified maths teacher, is now based in the Middle East.
Kate McDonald is one of a dwindling number of teachers who has qualified recently to teach a Stem subject.
She qualified from her two-year professional masters of education at UCD in 2016 as a maths and geography teacher.
My geography classes were 400-plus, while my maths classes were held in a classroom with roughly 30 students
McDonald was one of just eight maths teaching graduates for the course. By contrast, more than 40 students qualified as geography teachers.
“It was the same situation during my undergraduate years. My geography classes were 400-plus, while my maths classes were held in a classroom with roughly 30 students,” she says.
“The majority of these maths students I did not see again in the masters of education or in schools as teachers. I would guess that they went on to pursue another profession.”
She says career prospects for graduates with maths or Stem qualifications are very good, which means fewer numbers are opting to pursue teaching qualifications.
“The sad truth is that teaching has been in the media a lot in recent years regarding the pay scale disputes. Teaching is now seen as a job which doesn’t pay well or at least not as well as it used to,” she says.
“The PME [professional masters of education] course is also over €12,000 to complete, which is not feasible for everybody. Students who qualify with an undergraduate degree, especially in maths, have better options when it comes to better-paid jobs.”
McDonald says she was lucky enough to secure a job offer, but points out that many young teachers are only able to access fragments of work rather than permanent teaching posts.
She opted to teach in the Middle East for a combination of reasons, including travel, experience and earning potential.
“There is no tax on the income of a teacher in the Middle East,” she says. “Accommodation is covered, either by school accommodation or by an accommodation allowance. All bills and maintenance are covered.
In the Middle East, there is a great opportunity to save money and go home with a substantial amount for whatever the next stage in life is
“Return flights are covered, either by the school booking them or by allowance. There is a considerable financial bonus if a teacher completes two consecutive years in the school,” she says.
McDonald says the accommodation crisis in Ireland means if she returned on a starting salary, she would simply be working to pay to keep a roof over her head.
“In the Middle East, there is a great opportunity to save money and go home with a substantial amount for whatever the next stage in life is,” she says.
McDonald also feels the mismatch between the needs of schools and the graduates produced by teacher-training courses is making it harder for many young teachers to find work.
“If each university admitted graduates to teacher-training based on the projected needs of the system, then there would be a far greater opportunity to secure a teaching position following your PME.
“That would mean a fairer playing field in obtaining a teaching position in Ireland.”
* This article was amended to correct an error