Teachers of Color Overseas

International Schools teach diversity but are minority teachers well-accepted  in the International teaching arena? Do non-Caucasians find it more difficult to enter the profession? Are minority teachers treated differently by parents and students? It has been reported that some schools are just looking for a “white” face to sell the image of an American education.  The following excerpts are from ISR readers:

“I am an African-American female interested in teaching abroad. I am also in an interracial marriage to a non-teaching spouse who will be coming with me. We are hoping administrators can look beyond my race and focus on my credentials.”

“I have experience in China & Japan–many people in these countries are terribly racist. I have a mixed-race child and people haven’t always been kind to her.”

“Here in Kuwait people literally point at you when you are overweight, black or in any way look different from them.”

“As a Mexican-American I felt I was overlooked for the position, and not because of my qualifications.”


We invite International Teachers to shed light on this topic, share experiences, ask questions and offer advice.

229 Responses to Teachers of Color Overseas

  1. Anonymous says:

    In my own experience so far living in Asia as a black woman, I’ve always felt that the people of the countries I’ve lived in were very welcoming towards me. I am a friendly, open-minded person and have found kindness everywhere I’ve gone. To me, it seems to be the other foreigners in the schools who have had the hardest time accepting a person of color into their environment.


  2. Yaya says:

    I experienced this in Saudi Arabia. People wanted to treat me as African and were surprised when I said I’m American. I even had to show someone my resident ID once that says I’m American. The question that continued to arise is how am I American but I look African. I actually said to one person, “Where do you think the newly freed African slaves went? Back to Africa? No, they stayed.” It was exhausting.


    • Ryan Tawanda says:

      This type of post concerns me. The issue here is that it implies that it is okay to be black if you are American but not if you are African. I think both sides of this post need to reflect on what racial discrimination is.
      If you are okay to be treated differently from Africans simply because you have a different passport, then you too are condoning the behaviour. Why should ANYBODY be treated differently?


    • Hope says:

      Agreed: No-one should be treated differently. Reality, however, applies different stereotypes to different people groups.


    • sistrunkqueen says:

      It’s part of being a member of the African diaspora.


    • Anonymous says:

      I posted previously and I lived mainly overseas in Korea and Taipei. What I’ve experienced is simply, if you’re American that gives you status. They don’t care what kind of American you are, the fact that you can teach them American English is what is the most important. Other blacks from different countries are sometimes not treated as kindly as the blacks from America, and this is what I have found in my few years in Asia.


    • Lois says:

      It is totally the opposite for me. In Saudi I am treated very well as a Black woman.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes I work in China. The kids and parents are respectable. Most of them anyway. The admin keeps wanting to keep things white!!! I have applied for new position and it seems they continue to hire the same faces. No experience and do not care about the children but only about the check!! International schools, global citizenship are what they preach ot the students but do not practice it!!!


  4. Feb says:

    I do agree with this topic. If you go to an international school website and see their teachers’ profile, you will see more younger caucasian teachers. It is also a demand from parents. They spend a lot of money to send their kids to an international school and they want the best. To them that means caucasian teacher. They also want a young teacher as they seem more fun and able to connect to their child better than older looking teachers.


  5. Penny says:

    Anybody have any ideas or thoughts as to whether they’re just as bloody racist online as they are in-person? Seeing as how if they let you stay where you are and just Skype/FaceTime it and they don’t have to sponsor your visa or airfare or accommodation, do they let up or is it even worse in online-teaching scenarios?


  6. Alan says:

    Good Day.

    I have found this thread captivating. As a ‘teacher of colour’ myself, I certainly have my fair share of stories.

    The responses here have encouraged me further to focus my Masters dissertation on minority ethnic teachers (MET) at international schools, inclusive of those who have attempted to teach overseas. If you are a ‘teacher of colour’, I would appreciate your willingness to complete a questionnaire so I may formally gather data on MET experiences, especially during the hiring process. I am also looking for individuals willing to conduct an interview over the summer holiday, most likely by email or by Skype. In both cases, anonymity and confidentiality will be respected.

    Though I know there are always exceptions, the focus of this dissertation identifies MET as:
    • certified teachers/educators from major English speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
    • either citizens or permanent residents of these countries.
    • teachers/educators who have attempted to enter international teaching or are currently teaching overseas.

    Currently, I am NOT looking for host country teachers (e.g. English speaking Singaporean teaching at an international school in Singapore) or teachers from typically non-English speaking countries hired purposely to teach a world language (e.g. China/Mandarin; Colombia/Spanish; Lebanon/Arabic).

    If you are willing and able to participate in the questionnaire and/or interview, please contact me at ac917@bath.ac.uk

    Thank you in advance.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Anonymous says:

      If you haven’t done so already, please consider completing the questionnaire on your experiences as an overseas minority ethnic teacher. I’m aware it is the summer holiday for most, but it can be done by the pool over beer, wine, margaritas… 🙂 Thank you in advance.


    • Matt Bennett says:

      Hi Alan,, Do you have a copy of your work or would you be willing to discuss it? Thanks, Matt


    • Alan says:

      Hi Matt,

      Happy to chat with you. Please email me at acheung1203@gmail.com.



  7. Daniel says:

    I’m an African American and I was a teacher at an international school in Malaysia. One day I stopped at a Chinese store for an appliance part. The owner was friendly, but when I told him I was a mathematics teacher he responded “but Africans can’t do mathematics”.


  8. Abraham says:

    I am a US citizen of African descent. I am also a licensed teacher (dual certification, math, ESL) with a master’s degree and ten years of classroom management and curriculum development experience. I finished my PhD (global education) last year, and want to teach English language abroad, so have been applying EVERYwhere–Asia, Europe, South America, The Middle East… I also have CELTA certification and TEFL experience among adults, with specialties in the business and medical fields.

    I would be happy to share via private email the responses of more than four dozen recruitment exchanges with TESOL institutions around the world. Recruitment officers haven’t all been professional with me–some have even been dismissive of my qualifications, asserting that the more experience a licensed teacher has, the less desirable (s)he is. Perhaps this reflects recruiters’ experiences trying to teach new protocols to tenured faculty. But some recruiters, and not a few, have directly told me that my age (I’m now 46) and my race are grave problems and make me extremely unattractive to schools. However, I’d been applying to teach abroad since my early thirties, so question the relative effect of my age on my failure to find a job abroad.

    My latest experience was with a company recruiting for positions in the Middle East. I very carefully checked their requirements and, just being factual, I surpassed each, and then some. Yes, competition may be fierce, but I do not think there are many Columbia PhD grads with more than a decade of experience teaching–and both state and federal awards–and multiple state (NY) teaching certifications applying to teach overseas. I feel confident about this assessment because I have queried program chairs overseas about qualifications of their most successful candidates and current staff. They’re always excited to get my application, but once I attach my photo to the application, I’m somehow passed over.

    I don’t mean to seem conceited at all. But I have worked in education very long, am well credentialed, and have outstanding objective student outcomes to corroborate my claims. And yet, after looking for overseas positions for the past six years, and intensively over the past year, and after having traveled all over the US for a handful of interviews, I have never succeeded in winning a contract. Never.

    A final point. When I first started teaching math, one of my students and his family became close acquaintances of mine. That student decided college wasn’t for him after an unsuccessful bid at completing his bachelor’s over a six year period. Nor could he hold down a job in the USA. I’m not ridiculing him; I’ve always supported him. However, about three years ago he flew to Spain to take a TEFL course, and before completing his certification (not CELTA, but a smaller, newer operation), had seven–SEVEN–full-time contract offers, each with an attractive salary and benefits package. He is now a highly ranked instructor overseas, a teacher leader and the main public face for his school. I cannot help wondering why I have failed repeatedly to secure a foreign TEFL post while my one-time student has one despite not having a US degree. Nor can I help wondering if his being white is the advantage he possesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      Hello My Sistah Sorry about your troubles Have you considered HBCUs for a stateside job for a few years? They maybe more receptive to you than white institutions. Also get online with Facebook groups like Brothers and Sisters in China/Japan or Black teachers Abroad. They are great for networking and job leads. You are a threat to them. I understand because I have been there. I was in China for four years. I am now in Atlanta working and studying. I’m saddened but not surprised about your mediocre white student getiing a full time job in Spain. it is hard to get a work permit in Spain. Keep your chin up and network online. Have you tried to reach out to the Columbia Alumni or Obama? LOL
      Good Luck


    • I am studying for a MA in Applied Lingusitics, and I would like to hear from minority female native-speaking English teachers who have worked or are working in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the study is find out whether this demographic of teachers experiences discrimination from students and colleagues. I would like to recruit about twenty teachers to complete a survey, and at least five to take part in an interview. Please note that data collected will solely be used for this study. Your input is very important, as there has been little discussion concerning minority native speaking English teachers. Any help that you can offer is much appreciated. If you would like to take part, then please contact me on maresearchhelp@gmail.com




    • Tyler says:

      Has this research taken off or ended?


    • Debbie Bruno says:

      Can you contact me? My email is below. I’m a journalist writing an article on this very subject.


    • Chris says:


      Your resume sounds very impressive. Any school that decides not to hire you are fools and not even worth dealing with.

      I would suggest you look into working for universities, international schools, foreign owned language schools in management, curriculum development, or an IELTS examiner through the British Council.

      I know it can be frustrating, but don’t give up! I wish you all the best in your search. Let us know how it goes.

      Take Care,



    • Born in Africa says:

      I have heard numerous stories like this. Check out Seoul Foreign School. They will NOT treat you this way.


    • Anonymous says:

      You have to be christian to apply there. If not, don’t bother. Chadwick school in Incheon hires ethnic minorities. I have found there a quite a few schools in China that will hire coloured teachers. One of those schools even made the coloured teacher a head teacher.


    • Tookie says:

      I’ve worked with people of color in Egypt at international schools there. Specifically, Nigerians (who were wonderful). You could try looking there, but don’t expect a super high salary. Average is approximately 1,500-2,200 monthly. By law, housing must be provided to you in addition to your salary (or a housing allowance given so you pay your own rent rather than live in specific teacher housing). They also must give you a plane ticket to get there. Usually, you get a settling in one-time payment.
      Some countries hesitate to hire based on age due to visa restrictions, and also for applicants having higher qualifications because they assume you will be expecting a much higher salary than they can give. Sometimes, it’s oddly as simple as not wanting to hire single applicants (as schools get more bang for their buck with married teaching spouses who both work at the school, sharing housing, etc.).
      You can try to apply in the Sultanate of Oman (where an American passport carries the assumption that you are equipped with highly coveted good English skills) too. Sorry you’re experience has been so negative! Don’t give up. Perhaps the right fit for you just hasn’t presented itself yet. Try seriousteachers.com and make a profile there. Then schools can find you as well as you doing a search for them. I’ve been employed through them and so have several