For-Profit vs Non-Profit $chool$

If you had to pick between working at a For-Profit School or a Non-Profit School, which would you choose? Is one really that different from the other?

The general consensus seems to be that For-Profit Schools are run by greedy owners and subject to the demands of wealthy parents who expect, even demand, their children will earn As and Bs in every subject. This may be true of some schools, but teachers are increasingly reporting similar situations at Non-Profit Schools. An international educator recently commented:

“I really thought I would be treated right by accepting a position at this non-profit school. Surprise, surprise. Yes, the school is considered a non-profit on paper, but in reality the director is pulling down a huge salary. The board members are all local business people and their positions are very well paid. We even have a local consultant who makes big money. Everyone here is making big salaries…everyone except the teachers. We’re desperately short on books and supplies and you have to fight for every dime they owe us. Non-profit? I don’t think so!!

Twenty years ago most International students were expats attending Non-Profit Schools. These schools were subsidized by embassies and global corporations and provided an accredited education for the children of their employees. Today, however, 80% of all students enrolled in International schools are the children of wealthy host country nationals, and these schools are largely For-Profit Schools. International Schools = BIG business!

We’re all familiar with the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” and this may now be the case when comparing For-Profit Schools to Non-Profit Schools. Do you have something to share that could help shed light on this subject? Or maybe you have a question that could be answered by a seasoned overseas educator? We invite you to join us here on the For-Profit vs Non-Profit Schools Blog.

10 Responses to For-Profit vs Non-Profit $chool$

  1. Cynical B*sterd says:

    Whether a school is technically “for profit” or not the end result is the same. The school must make a surplus for its fees in order to cover their costs, which include teacher salaries and these are the biggest expense to a school.

    So the question is in some degree misleading as all international schools are profit making. Some put those profits back into the school in some form or another- and it is not always the case that a “not for profit school” will put their surplus into teacher’s pay as it means that facilities cannot be improved – others pay the people who investeds in the school a dividend.

    In other words the question is really once again about do you want to be in a school that pays you well or very well, has better resources and facilities and looks after its staff? And the answer has top be of course a teacher would want this.

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  2. Brian Deitchmeister says:

    I work in a not for profit school in SE Asia. the salaries are not good but better than what teachers are paid in the local schools. resources are tight and have to give a rationale for everything that you need. You have to account for every penny cent you use. At the end of the year you are required to return everything including used whiteboard markers, staple wire, even your paper name tag that was given to you the first day of the school year, or pay for it otherwise they hold back you last salary payment.

    Like was said above, you have to look for the positives such as the students are GREAT. I worked for 15 years in the states and that was horrible, so I could almost safely say that any international school has to be better than teaching in the states ever again anyway.

    As I am looking to move on to a new school after this year, anyone have feedback on any schools in the Asia- Pacific region. Any recommendations on good schools and also ones to stay away from?

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Today, however, 80% of all students enrolled in International schools are the children of wealthy host country nationals, and these schools are largely For-Profit Schools.

    Were does this 80% figure come from. There are hundreds of schools worldwide. How can this be an accurate number without access to student enrolment numbers from each school?

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  4. China Teacher says:

    Not so fast! Let’s say there is a tendency for non-profit schools to be better-run and more serious about good education, and a tendency for for-profit schools to be the opposite, but the rule shouldn’t be taken as absolute; there are exceptions.

    I had a job at a non-profit, embassy-affiliated school in which the financial picture was okay but school integrity was a disaster, theresult of a weak headmaster who let a corrupt board walk all over him. I got out of there as fast as I ethically could.

    My next job was at a for-profit school that did nearly everything right, and it was a dream place to work — everything you hope an international school will be.

    And here’s the shocker: Both of these schools were in the Middle East, a region notorious for the shameless corruption of education by for-profit schools. The Bottom Line? Don’t use school stereotypes as a substitute for diligent research on school quality. Take the time and energy to look at specific criteria, at demographics, at people, and to network around the international teaching world. That is the one thing that will always pay off with a good job at a good school.

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  5. pink says:

    I spent 10 years at a for-profit school in SE Asia, where the owner did plow a lot of $$$ back into the school (didn’t seem to go anywhere near teacher salaries or benefits however). So the facilities were good, but the teachers became increasingly marginalised and never cared much about maintaining the facilities, much to the owner’s disgust. The school never had a board – the owner was principal and founder – and even went to the trouble of falsifying non-existent board meetings for CIS/WASC accreditation (which it got). Promises made for accreditation, such as a teacher’s lounge, never materialized either.

    Currently I work at a non-profit school, backed by hefty financial support, and the amount of school supplies is enormous. Laptop for every teacher and child, and iPads for those children who are too young for laptops. It’s an eye opener.

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  6. coral says:

    I have worked for non profit schools and for profit schools. The non profit school was a wonderful school in Japan. It had such a special community spirit, with wonderful teachers, parents and students. Then we got a principal who took advantage of the trusting nature of the school and embezzled money along with many other horrible things. Eventually karma got him.
    The for profit school was in another asian country. The owner was a botoxed Ferrari driver. I recall being told on numerous occasions that the resources we ordered were ‘on the ship’. They kept saying that the whole time I was there. They never arrived. We did find though, that the struggle with the mad owner united the staff. We were a great bunch with great kids and parents.
    I think there is always a positive. Focus on that and nearly any teaching job can be great. Saying that, I agree with dadorunrun above. Always, always research before you accept a job.

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  7. Blazedge says:

    We are told that somewhere along the road non profit & profit motives can meet. This rubbish has been proved wrong over the past few years, if it needed proving in the first place. They don’t meet because they are complete opposites.

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  8. dadorunrun says:

    My first job was at a for-profit school and was a nightmare. I dealt with every issue mentioned in the intro. Grades were changed at the end of every semester. The kids and powerful wealthy parents ran the school. If a student had a pulse and the parents could pay, they were in. Most of the textbooks were copies. Few supplies were provided. And everything had better be returned at the end of the year. Including used up white board markers. We were charged for every item missing. It was not pleasant teaching, but at the time, for me, it was a fair tradeoff. I was living in a city and country I loved.

    I also taught at a true non-profit international school, and it was a wonderful experience. Great kids, few discipline issues, all the supplies you’d need (and expect), an open and involved administration. It was a dream job. I loved every second of it.

    My last job was at a school that was non-profit, but run like a for-profit. It was part of a university, and under the control of a national high school also under the university’s umbrella. (I never did know who actually ran the school.) An outfit that specialized in advertising was for some bizarre reason in charge of recruiting and accepting students. The company was paid for every student that was accepted. So… every student was accepted. (Memories of teaching AP history and having students need friends to translate into English their request to use the bathroom. Good times.) Everything was run with an eye on the bottom line. Supplies were rationed, health insurance cut back, pitiful housing allowance, and so on. The kids were great actually, but everything else was pretty tough.

    In the end I think you have to decide your level of comfort and how bad you want to teach overseas. I dreaded going to work at my first school. Every day as the bus that took us to work crested the hill overlooking our campus my stomach would knot up and I’d wonder what kind of Day From Hell I’d have. But my life outside of school was so fun and fantastic I sucked it up, did my job, and kept my head down. It was worth it.

    It’s certainly true that a poorly run non-profit can be just as bad. A bad director and/or principal can make it rough going. School financial troubles can bring on for-profit issues like taking on students who might not be at the academic level once expected, or shortages of supplies. You never know. BUT it can be pretty safe to assume, or at least I assume, that a non-profit is a safer gamble.

    Now, when I’m looking at future employment opportunities I take a close look at the structure of the school, especially its board, the by-laws, and the school charter. Is it a non-profit? How long can board members serve? Does the school require a certain number of board members to be parents of children currently in the school? Does an embassy get to elect a member? How many board members are local vs. expat? I do all this before I even consider looking at the employment section of a school’s website.

    When I was younger I just wanted to “teach overseas.” I’m now at an age and a point in my life where the quality of the school is far more important than where it’s located.

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