Do NO Reviews Mean It’s Okay to Go?

okay-to-goWe’ve noticed comments on our ISR Blog & Forum venues which profess that it’s a “good thing” when a school has no Reviews on ISR, and that this probably means it’s an Okay school. ISR will agree that dissatisfied teachers are probably more likely to post Reviews; but there is, however, an aspect to the “lack of Reviews” that deserves some serious attention:

Anonymous Blog poster:  I disagree with this comment that ‘If there are no reviews, it usually means the school is OK.’ A previous school I worked at didn’t have reviews because the admin were SO powerful, teachers were scared to post their views. We would all talk about the lack of ISR reviews and about how we should have the guts to do something to let prospective teachers know the truth. A whole bunch of us have left that school and a few have finally written truthful accounts, and they’re interspersed with reviews obviously written by the administrators themselves. So yes, they write on ISR, too, to counter the negative reviews. Take it all with a grain of salt and know that every piece of information you receive helps you to make an informed decision.

Traveling Teacher:  I have to say, I do get frustrated when I read one glowing review and then immediately thereafter, one that is completely awful. Also, some of the reviews are older, so I always wonder if the school got better and is that is why teachers stopped reviewing? Or did too many bad reviews cause the school to threaten their employees to not review anymore because they would be found out and fired? Who knows?? It’s strange to me, though, when they just stop….

Anonymous Blog poster #2:  At the school where I am currently working teachers don’t post because the administrators have a lot of control and power over us. ISR is an amazing resource for international teachers. Just use caution when reading the reviews and try to read between the lines. If there are no postings, do NOT make any assumptions!

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21 thoughts on “Do NO Reviews Mean It’s Okay to Go?

  1. There is a point here about how few people post comments. At my last school about 30 of us left 5 months ago with plenty to say about that school yet no-one has posted on ISR yet ( I had planned to at Christmas ) . Allowing for couples you might have thought that there might be 25 posts ( they all know about ISR, management threatened us all if we posted. ) . Fortunately there are enough of our predecessors who have posted that can warn new-comers ( that weren’t available to us ).

    With a speaking out rate like this it will take a long time to find out about all the small or new, bad schools!


  2. I struggle with the same issue. People (Parents, Students and even teachers are scared to speak up because they feel thatthe school/institution will like take action against them or something, even when they can review schools/institutions anonymously.


  3. I work at a total crap school in China that has got through 3 principals in 3 years and the school board lies, cheats and is totally incompetent. This is my first and last year here – already got another job — but they keep hiring NQT ..who just keep coming. The kids are the ones being cheated even though it is a WASC accredited school! Amazing!


    1. From my experience with WASC the accreditation is hardly difficult to get and I’ve met school administrators boast they they have it for their schools as it’s “the easiest one to get”.

      Better to go with schools that are at least CIS members and preferably accredited, or have been through other reputable review bodies such as NEASC.


  4. At a previous International school there was a clause in our contract that prohibited teachers from posting any negative comments about the school. It may not have been legal but as guests in a foreign country with different ideas about freedom of speech, who wants to take the risk? Even after leaving the school there remains the possibility of over powerful administrator nastiness. There is not the safety net of a teacher’s union for International teachers. No reviews is not necessarily a good sign at all.


  5. It is true what a lot of people say about being scared to post negative reviews. One school that I worked for in Vietnam had an extremely high turnover of staff each year due to factors that I went in to in my review of them. I hoped that by doing this that I could help others make an informed decision. 6 months after I left them, I was approached by their Legal Department who threatened to have me deported from the country and sued for slander unless I removed my negative review. Of course I refused as I won’t be bullied, plus I was leaving anyway for another country soon. From speaking to others who left before and after me, this school also threatened them, and because of their contacts in Immigration a lot of them actually didn’t write reviews because they wanted to stay in the country.

    Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to follow through with a review, and we should all be grateful to those who do this so that we can have as much information as possible when we go to choose our next position. My current school had 50/50 reviews, so I took a chance on it and have become one of the 50% who are actually happy with it. Of course things could of worked out different, but at least I knew what the possible outcomes might have been. I think you must have an open mind when reading these reviews – no reviews doesn’t mean a good school, and good reviews doesn’t mean the school will actually be good for you….it all depends on what we are after personally.


  6. I now work for an excellent school with no reviews. The reason for that is partly because they don’t recruit through ISS or Search so these teachers, who are excellent, aren’t in the normal international teacher loop.The school is a United World College IB school.


    1. Wow, sounds like you’re able to levitate with your head up your own arse at the same time……a typically arrogant holier-than-thou UWC teacher, it appears. Guess what, Search and ISS are both able to place excellent teachers too. UWC also recruit through the Times Ed Supplement, as do lots of bad schools…what’s your point?


    2. UWC is very much on the international teacher loop. In the most recent wave of recruiting they advertised on TES for their Singapore and Costa Rica schools.


  7. The image of international schools is that they are classy institutions catering to ex-repatriate, or very wealthy, members of their host country’s population, whose offspring are bound for tertiary study in high quality universities.

    But increasingly, companies are using the ‘international’ badge to sell this dream to their local populations, without recognising the importance of investing in quality teachers and resources to realise and sustain this vision.

    I had already started working in an international school and been surprised by (i) differences between conditions promised at interview and on arrival (ii) lack of respect and trust for what professionally trained people people could offer (iii) pride in the school’s high turnover of staff (around 80%) because it ‘saved money’. I had also even dismissed certain vague elements of my contract as being due to the levels of English of the school’s owners!

    When I discovered ISR, I found, incredibly, these are patterns were actually quite common to private, for-profit schools, particularly those with leaders/ owners with little educational experience.

    Back in my home country after completing my contract I ran a workshop for a professional association about the challenges (and also rewards) of teaching internationally in my subject. I had extracted a few very choice ‘case studies’ from the ISR paid site and asked pairs to suggest (i) whether these were believable (ii) how they might respond if faced with these circumstances, and (iii) the contingency plans they may wish to consider prior to accepting any international posting. ISR was one of several sources I recommended, and all teachers still motivated to attempt international teaching after the workshop were keen to join. An annual fee of $29 is a very small investment against 2 years of potential misery, and in some countries membership could be regarded as part of one’s ‘professional reading’ and is therefore tax deductible.

    So, what if a school is not reviewed on ISR yet?
    (i) I would ask whether it is a new school. New schools (even for-profit enterprises) are still investing in resources (library, labs, IT etc) so the physical aspects of teaching may be quite rosy. If the person interviewing you seems open and a good listener, chances are that you can help the school on the right track. After all, even the most avaricious owner usually has a mission to provide ‘quality education’ etc. It could actually be an exciting environment.
    (ii) It could be a very small school. If maybe 1-5% of IS teachers post on ISR, then it may simply not have had a population large enough for the statistical chance someone has. What are the advantageous of working in a small school? Perhaps it will give the opportunity to increase your repertoire of teaching subjects.
    (iii) It could be terrible, draconian, as some posters suggest, so teachers are scared off. Remember, ISR is only one of several sources – there are also ex-part blogs, joyjobs has an ‘alert’ section if you join, and you could also just Google the school and look are the website – spelling mistakes? state of the grounds/ classrooms/ desk arrangements.

    Do your research, in the way I didn’t, several years ago!


  8. Another thing to consider is that teachers may not know about this site. I had been through a two-year contract with one school, had moved on to another school and was finishing up my second year there (and had already signed a contract with a third school) when I discovered ISR. I wrote reviews for the two schools that I had worked at (American School of Durango, Mexico…in my review I call the director, Valdez, a snake; and Colegio Marymount, Mexico…the only review) once I discovered the site. Had I known about this site earlier, I probably would not have signed my contract with Shenyang Pacific International Academy!


  9. You have to take all of ISR with a pinch of salt. It’s so true that empty vessels make the most sound, and some of the rantings come from teachers who I can envisage that you would certainly not like to work with, and certainly didn’t cooperate in their schools.

    However, ISR is certainly doing a great job in highlighting (outside of personal reviews) the inequity of teacher intimidation in more than one country.

    While I can certainly see some bad school owners and leaders threatening teachers in ways to discourage postings here (or elsewhere) the reasons for no reviews or reviews stopping could also be:

    No reviews – no one at the school knows about ISR
    Reviews stopping – could be that ISR was being used as leverage or threat by teachers (yes it’s not unknown is it) or there was a storm in a teacup and that settled down.

    Just some additional thoughts …


  10. I last worked at a school that I would not recommend to teachers (example: management physically assaulted a teacher on campus).

    This school has no reviews and is not even listed on ISR. The reason for not posting is I don’t feel a need to spend money to review a school that I have moved on from. Also, if I posted I am sure management would spam the reviews calling me a liar.

    Other teachers who have left this school that I frequently keep in touch with have shared similar opinions (what’s the point? Why spend the money? Fear of backlash, no protection from local laws/libel suits…etc).


    1. You don’t have to spend money to post a review. Posting is free. To read reviews, you have to have an account.


    2. You don’t need to be a member to post a review. Do us all a favor and review the school you were at. There is a link on the home page of ISR that says post a review or something like that. It’s near the top of the page. I’ve used it. Anyone can. So help us out and tell us about this school.


    3. I was always under the impression there was a fee involved. Thanks for letting me know there is no fee to post a review.


  11. In the universe of International Education, no news is NOT necessarily good news. As a few bloggers have already mentioned the teachers may be intimidated by the bully tactics of fearful administrators or they may be indifferent to the lot of others. I saw both in my overseas experience and also at home, where the Boards held teachers’ careers to ransom and we had severe constraints on relying on our unions to help us out.
    No reviews mean simply that…nobody has posted on ISR yet but that doesn’t mean there will never be a posting either positive or negative. If you have doubts, check the school directly and talk to ex or current employees if you can but have your questions ready and well planned. When a school procrastinates or equivocates, that is a warning sign so take notice of things that bother you….your instincts are usually right!


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