A Perfect International School?

Many reviews on the ISR web site paint schools as Shangri-la for international teachers, while other reviews reflect the hue of a living hell. What makes an international school great? Is it a supportive administration, attentive students, a feeling of being valued as a staff member, enthusiastic parents, great facilities and  materials, colorful location, low cost of living, or is it an essential synergistic combination? If you could create an international school from scratch, or overhaul your current school, what qualities and characteristics would make it an outstanding school?

13 Responses to A Perfect International School?

  1. lilyspacer says:

    The perfect international school is not in Kuwait and will never be in Kuwait.
    There is absolutely no such thing as an international school in Kuwait and those operating under US or UK curricula are moneymaking machines.
    Students are severely disobedient and disruptive, parents are difficult to deal with at best (think rude and brash, and are big bullies), the Western administration VERY weak-bond. They bow over for the parents but are willing to stab their teachers in the back. The administration is there to look good in front of the parents and give in to their every little whim, and nothing else.
    Teachers try to maintain discipline but that is out of their control. Administration will bail out kids with behaviour and discipline problems. Grades are inflated upon request. The teachers that they hire are usually young and only there for their minimum 2 years of experience or for travel.
    I know a lot of teaching positions in Kuwait will arise. My advice is DON’T, no matter how enticing the package might seem.
    I have 10 years experience, 8 international, have worked in 3 countries not including Kuwait, and my experience there was nothing short of a nightmare.
    DO NOT accept an offer from a school there.


    • Imogen says:

      very interesting review, I have worked in Africa, Europe and the Middle east, always in international schools, nothing as hard and nasty as middle east children and schools!! not only Kuwait.


    • Roundtrip says:

      I totally believe what you are saying, but the description you give of the school in the Middle East, is an exact description of a “gifted” school I taught in in America. The parents got away with murder and so did their snotty little bratty kids. The administration bowed to the parents (mostly rich). The kids cheated, teachers wrote them up, parents bullied and threatened to sue, principal lectures the teacher and brushes it all under the carpet. Instead of a zero, the teacher is forced to give the kid a passing grade so the parents will be happy, and the principal gets to keep her/his job for a while. Every one is happy except the teacher who is once again demeaned. Sound familiar? Thanks for the warning on Kuwait.


  2. feedback please says:

    I have come to believe that there is no “perfect school”.
    There are right and wrong schools for different teachers, families, personalities, etc. After our first jobs, which I fought for in a tight market, I decided that I needed to be very honest about who we were so that the directors could determine if we were a good fit for the location, staff, philosophy, kids, etc.
    Until now it has worked. My current school needed us more than we needed them and whitewashed a few things. It is a very bad fit as far as the classroom culture is concerned. It is a disaster!! I am very demoralized by this experience. I am willing to give it one more shot, but I am growing more and more concerned that finding a school to fit the two of us as teachers and our two elem. aged kids is impossible. Our last few postings have been word of mouth and thru friends. I wonder if we need to head back to a job fair so that we can weigh multiple schools and network with other teachers. Any thoughts??


  3. Anonymous says:

    It is important to remember that there is no perfect school. There are always good and bad aspects to it… Having said that, I think the best school is one that has great colleagues. I have been honored to work with the best bunch of people for the past two years. They were professional, knowledgeable, supportive in all aspects of school life and outside of school life. They made it possible to deal with all the negative aspects we had to deal with…a basically incompetent “company” that ran the school, with a great ideas but no basis for putting them in motion. The company lied outright (but were always good about relating that to a misinterpretation of information or translation issues). It is a shame because the company had some great ideas but rarely thought long term and often appeared to have absolutely no idea what to do to achieve what they set forth to… Sadly for us it all came tumbling down and the school has been taken over by another company… but it has left much devastation in its wake:-(


  4. weedonald says:

    The concept of a “perfect” international school is basically an oxymoron. Schools are complex, living (in most cases) organisms and are constantly changing for the better or worse. Due to the 2 year recruitment cycle, the nature of staff and admin. change and with it the school population. Kids leave and new kids enter..like any organism, healthy or not. Happy teachers do indeed make for a great teaching environment if they hold their students’ success and growth as dearly as their own. Reading the reviews on this website is often totally contradictory and confusing and objective assessments are hard to come by BUT when a review is uniformly negative, with only one glowing apraisal, then you know the management have slipped in a mickey.


  5. the major points which make any school an international school is the team work between the member stuff, it’s the first abse of an intenrational school plus the good communication between the school stuff and the parents, third thing is the syllabus is it international one or just for locals, it should follow the international standerds of education which fit anyone from any country kind of schools which we can call it a global schools that mix all the cultures togehther and represent or reporduct it through the school wide events.


  6. Tom says:

    Common features of good schools:

    1. Accreditation from a genuine US, Canadian or British authority, plus IBO, College Board, CIS as appropriate. It cannot be bought or faked.

    2. Demographics of students and staff. You are looking for national and ethnic diversity in students, great majority of western staff.

    3. Student achievement stats: IB and AP tests taken, pass rate, graduation rate, western college acceptance rate, etc. Good schools brag about this stuff, it shouldn’t be hard to find.

    4. Reputation of leaders. School heads and principals who are professional educators, have been around and have good reputations, teacher loyalty. The leaders set the tone for the school, always.

    And don’t forget to check your own attitude. If you go around looking only for problems, that is what you will find.


  7. Imogen says:

    Yes, I think there are some really good international schools. The right community is important, Enthusiastic teachers, stimulating place, (not possible in all countries), supportive parents and bosses. Respectful children and parents. Small schools are easy to find all this, large schools more risky I think. I worked in a great school in Madagascar, small, not the great facilities but wonderful community, Then I worked in Jordan, big dreadful school, not support from anywhere, not stimulating place, real hell!!


  8. me2ucairo says:

    On the one hand I think that teachers are looking for the perfect school in the absolute. A place does not have to be perfect in order to thrive. After all we do not live in a perfect world. I also feel that many teachers feel a sense of entitlement which also sets them off on the wrong path leading only to disappointments.

    However I do have to agree with “happyteacher” in that many teachers will be much happier in schools which are non-profit. I know that in the Middle East it is not so easy to find a school that is non-profit and since most of these countries are still industrially developing, the rules (and in many cases the laws) are reminiscent of 19th and early 20th century industrialism/capitalism. Such rules tend to make workers unhappy.

    Wherever one chooses to teach, one must keep in mind that one has to make one’s life one’s own life and have part of that life outside of the school environment.

    It is time for contributors of IRS to take some control, stop the cycle of their victimization complex and enjoy aspects of their lives outside of their workplace. International teachers are invited to and accept a position to teach in a host country. If they have issues with the school, guess what no school is perfect! Deal with it and live.

    On the other hand if one feels one is being unduly taken advantage of, that might just be a sign that the school/host country is not a right match for that particular person. If that is the case, move on and search for a better school/host country match which will meet desired needs.


  9. happyteacher says:

    There are certainly perfect International Schools out there: I worked in one in Manila for ten years. I would suggest that a school which is not profit based would be a good beginning. An outstanding school needs enthusiastic teachers, supportive parents, supportive administration who value you and a standard of living / pay scale that rewards you for the professional that you are. The other aspects such as facilities are highly desirable and I have found that if the qualities I mentioned are in place, the students will flourish. It also helps if the school is in a location that means you can pursue hobbies / travel so that you have a healthy work / life balance and your salary is enough to support this. Happy staff = happy students = happy parents.


    • whatever says:

      I agree with all what happyteacher has said. Most of all Happy staff = happy students = happy parents
      Absolutely true. Of course with all other points mentioned need to be included to reach the happiness of all for all.


  10. blackrabbit says:

    if those are the qualities of a “good international school”…I have really missed the boat. I have experienced just the opposite.


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