China School Inquisition

blame7816329finalDear ISR, After just a few weeks into the school year someone has posted  a nasty review of my school on ISR. Actually it’s not really all that bad. I  would say it’s pretty spot on.

To come to the point, the board chair showed up at school on Monday with two attorneys and launched an all-out inquisition to find out who wrote the review. They were calling us into the director’s office one-at-a-time and interrogating us, claiming they know who wrote the review.  It’s obvious they don’t have a clue but they’re aggressive and convincing, leaving some staff in tears.

The director, who is the board chair’s lap dog, says he has a good friend at ISR who will tell  him who wrote the review. Could this be true? I would like to hear from ISR: Is this possible?

ISR Reply: Even if your Director planted his brother on our staff he could not find out who wrote the Review. Our anonymous submission forms are set up to protect an author’s identity. They are 100% anonymous. The only person who knows who wrote a particular Review is the author him/herself.

So far they haven’t formally accused anyone of posting the review. Who knows what they will  try next! I see from reading reviews that other teachers have been through this ugly scenario. One reviewer said their admin was on a witch hunt to flush out whoever dared to write a negative review. It would be reassuring and morale boosting for us at the school to learn about other teachers’ experiences in this arena and how they dealt with it as a faculty. Any support or help through this situation would be very much appreciated.

Sincerely, (name withheld)

42 Responses to China School Inquisition

  1. Ian Neil Everson says:

    It has been most informative as well as entertaining to have read these comments. I think WIZARD ESSAYS has clearly nailed it by referring to the administrators as TINPOT DESPOTS. I do not buckle under any circumstances so I would make sure that any school at which I was teaching should know that I post things on the ISR. I wouldnt flaunt it in a threatening way but I wouldnt hide my affiliation with ISR. Most of these TINPOT DESPOTS remind me of the CLOWN PRINCES of the MIDDLE EAST …PUPPETS.


  2. V j says:

    Access international academy ningbo china is running school in dictatorship. Teachers being monitored and chucked out without any appropriate reason.
    I personally know teacher who is still teaching with fake certificate .
    And a teacher working on dependent visa which is against chinese law ..


  3. shabba says:

    It is amazingly naive that people believe they have a right to write whatever they want with no recourse. If you put a notice on a staff room notice board making claims of incompetency/corruption etc etc, the management would, quite rightly, want answers. Why is posting here any different?

    Anyone who puts their faith in the reviews on this website lacks a huge amount of intelligence. Great! Keeps idiots out of the international circuit. I wonder what the percentage of moans are, compared to compliments? Must be about 90%.

    I do wonder why I am a member, sometimes.


    • Global Guy says:

      You do indeed have the right to write whatever you want about the place you work in and about those who are in leadership positions. But you also have the responsibility to accept the consequences for what you write. In a world where all that mattered was the truth that would be fine but that isn’t the situation that exists in some international schools. Teacher rights are easily trampled over and recourse against unjust treatment is difficult to achieve. That’s why ISR is necessary.

      I do wonder why you are a member if you don’t understand that.


    • teach says:

      Are you a member of management?? Or perhaps a Business manager? Have shares/money invested in an International school? Ever actually worked in an International school? Why on earth are you a memer of this site if you disapprove of people teachers speaking their mind whilst believing they will have no recourse? Are you so amazingly naive as to think that professional teachers on this site haven’t tried to approach management directly in the first place if there is a problem or an injustice? Or are you just one of the many incompetent, self-ambitious managers who couldn’t give a hoot about the standard of education a school provides their children as long as it makes money? Did you just join to see if any of your staff wrote a ‘nasty’ review of you?


    • Johnny says:

      I put my faith in reviews about a school on here and opted not to sign a contract with them. The school ended up losing the accreditation the next year.


  4. shabba says:

    Hmm. It would probably have been helpful to have included the name of the school, no?

    Makes one question the varicity of this blog. It’s reeks of one of those Facebook status updates.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Any school worth anything is only going to have its feathers ruffled a little to having a negative review. A good school will honestly reflect on what has been said, and will consider its accuracy and point of view of the writer, making internal changes if it feels it should or can make improvements.

    In general, good schools (whether working to a high standard, or working at getting a healthy school together) don’t get bad reviews. All schools, regardless of how good they are get idiot teachers (foul mouthed, destructive, incompetent, arrogant or those that simply don’t fit in). Expect to always have a not so good comment here and there.

    I think it’s simple. Lots of bad reviews generally means a school that should not be touched with a 10 foot bargepole. Sadly, having worked in many schools abroad, there is a simple general rule to this (North America and Australasia excluded as I have no direct observations).

    1. If the school is in Europe or sub-Saharan Africa, a poor school has a really good chance of improving itself over time.
    2. If the school is in the Middle East, North Africa, India or Asia and is a proprietary school (owned) then there is little chance of change.

    Sadly, having seen China in action, Chinese business owners don’t have (in almost all cases) the knowledge of working with non-Chinese or working with different business models to make schools active and prosperous (both financially or educationally) for everyone. They usually try to implement at least a partial Chinese model and end up constantly micromanaging schools. They are particularly strongly led by parental complaints. If a single parent often complains about something it is considered a really big deal and the whole school organisation may be arbitrarily changed overnight without consultation. It doesn’t matter about what the other several hundred parents or teachers think and it usually comes as a major surprise to an owner when changes made arbitrarily result in dozens of complaints about the changes. Sadly, they then stick to their guns and ride out the storm creating a lack of credibility in the whole community. Then they will repeat their mistake time and again.

    When these difficulties arise (more often or not due to their own negligence or incompetence) they they fall back to Chinese management styles by doing the following:

    A. Appointing a head or school who is solely responsible for doing what the owner wants (or alternatively shifting the authority of the school head to someone else while still retaining the head as a facade – particularly if they have a positive Western image).

    B. Cutting back on all non-essentials. This effectively means freezing the budget.

    C. Taking advantage of foreigners by illegal contract changes or not honoring contracts with the assumption that the victim will not be able to find redress in a Chinese court of law. They also tend to victimise individuals and try to keep everyone worried about their jobs in the assumption that fearful staff will be a docile staff.

    The result of this often also leads to a complete breakdown in school maintenance, cleaning and health and safety (all three of which are often pretty poor with good management) as no Chinese staff care about anything except their own jobs and if there is no line management they will continue to sit at their computers miroblogging, chatting and shopping on Taobao all day unless someone bothers to (usually) shout at them.

    All-in-all sadly a good Chinese owner is very hard to find.


    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t think you that you are without recourse in Chinese law. I successfully sued an employer because they did not honor the contract. I used a local law firm who worked for a percentage of the settlement. They settled out of court and there you go. Never, ever let someone take advantage of you. Stand up for yourself. But becareful how you tread.


  6. Dolphin says:

    My former school new that I subscribed to ISR, which got me in a bind mid-year. A former employee wrote a bad review on the director and they did indeed question me.
    Thankfully, the poster came out the wood work and admitted he wrote the post.
    I have learned to keep a ‘tight lip’ about my subscription.


  7. roses says:

    They blamed me for writing a review when I worked in Dubai. One of my “colleagues” said I did it. I never wrote any review of that school but I won’t forget how bad I felt. School was American Academy for Girls. That was the worst experience I have ever had. I liked that school but I had to leave.


  8. Why not publish the name of this school in China?


  9. As a parent and a teacher I value sites like ISR enormously. They provide REAL information, away from the highly polished BS and marketing bluster that poor schools typically pump out to attract gullible teachers and parents

    As soon as the tin-pot despots that run most of the international schools in the world realise the power of the internet, it will be a turning point for education.

    In this case, I am virtually sure that the school management are bluffing. Well, call their bluff, and let them look like the idiots they are!


  10. Anonymous says:

    As a parent who relied heavily on ISR’s reviews to choose a new school for my kids in China, I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to all the brave teachers out there who are willing to post honest information about the situation at their schools. While I like to think we probably would have ended up where we did without the ISR input to consider, in fact it would have been MUCH harder to see behind the curtain and know what the current management and actual environment was really like. I am now referring parents with questions about international schools to ISR on a regular basis — I believe the membership is well worth the cost. Thank you again teachers and ISR for everything you are doing. Parents are listening and hopefully it will lead to more of these sham schools shutting down.


  11. Suspicious of schools with clauses that don't allow disclosure! says:

    I recently worked at a school that had written right into the contract that you were not allowed to ever write anything about the school. This, of course, includes ISR. This answered my question as to why I was unable to find anything about the school, positive or negative. Because I really wanted to work in that particular geographical area, Kenya, I went anyway against my inner voice warning me not to go. I ended up being right with my intuition about the school. There were some great experiences there and the kids were great but the administration at the head office was HORRIBLE! They shorted me money from my agreed upon salary, they gave me twice the teaching load, did not keep our residential visas current and the final straw was not getting the work permit as promised. I left using the contract against them that said I was to be issued a work permit within a “reasonable’ amount of time … after waiting for 8 months. I left. I was tired of working illegally for them. I also posted on ISR after I had my next post. Want details … see Aga Khan Academy, Nairobi, Kenya. People have a right to know about a school when we expats are picking up and moving around the world… we spend a lot of money and time to set up apartments, get phones, internet, utilities etc. and we shouldn’t have negative experiences doing it. We are a valuable asset to schools and deserve to be treated as such.


  12. struck off China says:

    I got struck off the application track for a school in China after merely posting a friendly query on an expat site. I think they were about to hire me but once my query appeared it took only a matter of hours before ‘we are no longer processing your application’. I would love to work in China, but that kind of censorship I could not abide.


  13. Anonymous says:

    I spent 2 years at a school in China and could not wait to leave, especially that I had a child attend the school. She was bullied all the time – by none other than the headmaster’s daughter. Nobody wanted to do anything because they all feared of getting fired.


  14. Dannyk1968 says:

    Which school is this?


  15. Anonymous says:

    For me I will only post to ISR when I am in a country other than the one the school is located in. This ensures that my posting can not be traced. I also do not use my personal or school laptop to post. Everything that is done online leaves some sort of trace, so best to let any evidence be inaccessible to potentially hostile parties.

    It is sad that schools will try to coerce people to find out who posted. Remember the golden rule, “If you don’t want anyone to know it was you, tell NO one.” Loose lips sink ships easily and that is especially true of teachers. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me and said, “Did you hear blah blah blah but don’t say anything.” My response is always, “I did not hear and I don’t want to hear.”

    So in summary, don’t post from within the country the school is in, don’t use a personal laptop or school laptop to post as it leaves a trace, and don’t tell anyone, no matter how trustworthy they are that you posted.


  16. Mick says:

    Typical Chinese(among other nationalities) bully and stand over tactics with a good dose of bluff thrown in. It sure shows the sort of employer you are dealing with. Any job in countries like this and you are at the mercy of the local culture and the way they do things. Sadly, this is typical of China(and again, many other countries).


  17. Joe Scmo says:

    Would you mind revealing which international school it was?


  18. With respect to the fact that this is occurring in a school in China, there are two things to keep in mind. Schools there, including public schools, are run like highly competitive businesses. Whether a school can attract students depends almost entirely on the school’s reputation. Nearly every school in China has a clerical worker assigned to monitoring the school’s presence on the internet, so if you write about any particular school, it won’t be long before the administration knows about the school.

    Secondly, and perhaps most worrisome, is China recently enacted a new “slander” law with regard to internet postings. The law simply states that any posting on the internet that is viewed 500 times, or any tweet forwarded 500 times, that contains damaging information will subject the writer to a fine and imprisonment. There is no free speech in China. Period.


  19. David says:

    Any school that responds in the manner you stated would certainly increase the likelihood of teachers not renewing their contracts. The internet certainly levels the playing field.


  20. Zoe says:

    How awful. I can’t offer any advice but I offer you my sympathy; stay strong!


  21. Anonymous says:

    Thank you everyone who has written here for all this important information. Some of those so called “International schools” out there are just not what they want to show or pretend to be, and it is vital that teachers have a say. The most worrying thing is that sometimes us teachers have our own children if those institutions, some of them run by real BS!! Really worrying!


  22. Patricia says:

    Many countries do not have the concept of free speech. Reading the reviews can be very helpful in decision making as there clearly are places to avoid. On the other hand, as the responder above mentioned, one should not be surfing ISR at work. Sometimes the most vehemently negative reviews don’t have their intended impact of persuasion, so paranoid administrators are doubly hurting themselves by engaging in witch hunts. Schools that intimidate teachers should definitely be talked about and made public. Sometimes we all “suffer” the consequences of free speech but that is a good thing because it will help weed out the schools that are not good places to work and raise the standard.


    • it's a jungle out there... says:

      This is an important point to keep in mind. Some places do have free speech in theory but it is implemented differently or poorly or if you end up in court against a powerful or rich person/company/school you will lose anyway, regardless of the legal merits. There was a very famous case here where I live (somewhere in Asia) several years ago in which a lady complained somewhere on the net (on a blog?) about the treatment she received at a hospital and the hospital took her to court for criminal slander and also won damages, which she had no hope of paying (which then means more jail, possibly, for contempt of court…?) In fact, there is nothing special about this case so far, as these things happen often, except that then this case got some publicity and the popular outrage and subsequent public scrutiny meant the case was overturned on appeal. Ok, so the point is I agree that you need to be careful because even if what you say is the absolutely the truth and you can prove it and there was no malice, they can still throw the book at you. Also, very good advice also about not browsing at work etc. but if the school is convinced you are the person doing something or just wants to get rid of you and is very rich/powerful you might in an extreme case find they come to your house with police and seize computers for evidence. Mmm, maybe that is being a little too paranoid! But hypothetically possible. In any case, you should assume they have access to this website and the comments on it, there is nothing stopping them from subscribing like you and me…


      • Patricia says:

        Yes, especially in this international arena we do run the risk of corrupt/unethical dealings of ridiculously wealthy or powerful individuals who simply want to get their way. Almost every school I’ve worked at has board members who think the school is there to serve them and usually the directors and business managers follow suit. Your example of how you can lose even though you are right is very relevant.


  23. weedonald says:

    It would behoove you to verify what legal protections and rights you actually enjoy when communicating with ISR, in China and for that matter when doing anything there.
    The entire story is a repeat of what many so-called ¨international schools¨ will do to save face and appear ¨wonderful¨. Keep in mind this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abusive and excessive intimidation and disrespect for individual and group rights. There will be more, from reneging on contracts, to failure to pay promised bonuses or whatever serendipity the owners decide to visit on their employees..


    • Qatar says:

      I also experienced something similar in Qatar. Recognize that many of these administrators who are running these schools are marginal at best. they are constantly trying to please their boards and position themselves for their next school, rather then try to create excellence in the school.

      These administrators will use intimidation tactics like isolation, lying, creating stress, holding back paychecks and more. If you do feel you are not comfortable there, go to another school. Life is too short to be daily in a work environment that is out to get the staff.

      Remember the truth always rises to the top and you have an army of fellow teachers who support you and others in similar situations.


      • Anonymous says:

        When looking for a school it may be useful to verify if a school is not for profit. If no one is pocketing the the tuition or loosing this tuition they may not act in this fashion.


  24. John says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that some schools monitor the internet usage on school computers and on laptops given to faculty. They may not know who wrote a review but to be on the safe side you should avoid going to ISR or similar on a school’s computer…


  25. Shocking says:

    Keep cool. This happened at my school in Qatar. They yelled and stomped and threatened and acted like rabid dogs looking for a bone. The director pulled that same crap about his friend at ISR who would tell him who wrote the review. Pure BS!! He eventually looked just like the fool he was. Hang tight and this shall pass. Hard to believe some of these places call themselves “schools”!!!


    • jan says:

      Right on! Relax, let them rant, however your working conditions become strained, just finish out the year and seek another place.The person most likely is now gone….


      • Reality check says:

        Trouble is that some people just move from school to school – often because some Principals/Directors just write positive references to get rid of people (I’ve even seen that as part of a severance package contract) combined with some Principals not bothering to take up references because they are desperate for staff (and that’s a warning sign for any prospective employees if a school doesn’t take up your references).


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