Is Every Review on this Site Negative?

Many thousands of International Educators depend on ISR for the inside word on schools around the world. We’ve been following a thought-provoking discussion on the ISR Forum that’s focused on the abundance of negative School Reviews submitted to ISR. With recruiting season under way, we thought this conversation a timely topic to explore.

Forum excerpts:

ISR Member: I’ve been coming to this site for years to research schools. For the past 2 years (at least) there is not one school that sounds like it would be worth applying to or to send a child! Am I just imagining it? Or is international teaching not what it used to be?

ISR Member: My best guess would be a combination of two factors:  1. An explosion of international schools around the globe… you can imagine, a lot of these schools are set up as get-rich-quick schemes by people with no background in, or clue about education. So they genuinely are crappy places to work. 2. People are more likely to leave reviews when they’ve had a bad experience than a positive one. Human nature.

ISR Member: I’ve worked at five of the schools reviewed on ISR. The majority of the posts about those schools are accurate, or were accurate at the time they were written. The relatively few propaganda exercises are easily detected.

ISR Member: I think the paid side of site is actually quite positive. Many schools that I know of are aggrandized dumpsters.

..ISR Asks: What’s your take on this topic? Why are teachers posting so many poor Reviews of their schools? What’s the current state of International Teaching? Has it changed drastically? How do you pick a school that’s right for you?

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25 thoughts on “Is Every Review on this Site Negative?

  1. Schools that are profit driven will always put profit first; I don’t know that this will ever result in an environment where teachers are able to comment based on pedagogy and wellbeing of students or staff. I’ve lived and taught in 6 countries and never once have I put my kids in an international school where I’ve worked. They go to local public schools, where we know that English teachers are actual teachers (and not just English native speakers and, as is so often the case in international schools, therefore – by default – « qualified » to teach). More and more it strikes me that parents and educators aren’t questioning the core values of these places.


  2. I have written at least two reviews in the past, both extremely positive, because both schools and their admin were outstanding and I truly wanted to praise them up and a means of thanks for the wonderful experience. With these two schools the majority of reports they received were also very positive, and the occasional negative, I recognised as individuals, who generally had a negative outlook on life. Another school I once worked at, does have several negative reports (not written by me) and it’s interesting to read them after having worked there, as in retrospect they came across as quite accurate. I myself would never write a negative. After all who ever it was, helped you to move on. Its something to keep in mind.


  3. I do not agree that most posts are negative. I have posted three times for schools I have been at ove rthe past 8 years and the posts I write are my perception in as honest a way as I can put my experience. This means that I put the good, the bad and whatever I feel is going to help my colleagues decide if the school will be the right place for them.
    Sometimes you have to share some negative things because no school is perfect. Teachers who read those things have to weigh them in their own minds to determine if they are issues that they can live with.
    We all have different expectations for what makes a great school, a wonderful community and we have a variety of interests that we will pursue outside the classroom and work. It is important to hear all aspects of a job when making a move around the world is a huge undertaking.
    I have lived in Trinidad, Egypt twice and in Kenya and am now in Colombia with a new search just beginning for the next year. I appreciate all sides of someone’s experience and use ISR for what it is, an opinion of one individual.
    I look for patterns with in the posts and all points of view contribute to my decision. Thanks to all who take the time to let us know how things were for you, I am grateful for your input here.


  4. I have a suggestion. Have each school reviews separated into three major sections. 1. specific school reviews. IE: curriculum. discipline issues, general organization etc .. 2. Housing, salary, medical care, and various other school based contract agreements. 3. Community activities outside of the school environment IE: restaurants, parks, sports, pubs, community groups, car expenses, activities, travel within the country, etc …

    What I dislike most about the ISR reviews in general, are the personal attacks on admin. or general staff morale based on personal experiences within each of the reviews.

    In essence, no who is a prospective employee of the school actually gives a shit what your personal opinion or sour grapes is on a certain admin. member or colleague. Please leave that stuff out of the reviews; leave it in your lunchroom bitch sessions. It does not belong in each ISR.


    1. Johnathon, the educational professionalism of admin, and their ‘vision’ is vital to how happy you ultimately will be in a school. The micro-managers, the vindictive ‘little’ people on personal power trips, the ‘x knows nothing about education and over rides the voice of experienced teachers’, these regular shenanigans make all the difference to how you will experience your career in international schools. I value these parts of reviews particularly in judging whether I am going to waste my time with these amateurs, and the answer, sadly borne of depressing negative experiences, is an emphatic ‘no’.

      To think otherwise suggests the teacher has bought into the now outdated ‘silo’ model of teaching: ‘me in my classroom with my students teaching my subject my way – all’s well with the world.’ But to be sustainable, consider ways in which this experience (when it works) can be extended and shared, to benefit those outside the immediate teacher-student circle; your colleagues, your faculty, and the school’s future students and teachers. A thoughtful admin should have in place mechanisms that recognise that consider sustainable improvements.

      Life is short, but we can chose how we live it. I appreciate the checklists and admin reviews ISR provides, and if readers don’t want to reflect on an individual’s ‘bitch session’, they are free to do so at their peril. Think however, why the reviewer’s experience was so bad that it motivated such a posting, even if you might have expressed it differently.


  5. The reason most comments are negative is that teachers write their comments after they have had issues or are leaving the school. Most comments are written when teachers are aggrieved or still highly upset – they have an axe to grind, and this forum is perfect for them to debrief. As in most aspects of life, many of us do not take the time to report about the good experiences. This is why negative comments seriously outweigh positive comments.


  6. I have tried in my two postings about Chinese schools to be as objective and balanced as possible, but even with years of hindsight my overall judgment still leans toward the negative. I do get the impression that working conditions have worsened since the nineties, reflecting the realities of globalization. Harsh reviews, however, can have their benefits, as shown by Reuter’s article on one chain of schools here; it seems to have helped promote better policies in a rival chain – with whom I have agreed to sign up for another two years! False attempts to accentuate the positive often just remind one of Monty Python’s song in “The Life of Brian”.


  7. One reason for mainly negative school reviews that has not been mentioned is the point in time when these reviews were written. I would guess that most are written in a short period after leaving a school. If you are leaving a school then there is a higher chance that you are unhappy about something. If you were truly happy then you would stay and probably not be looking for jobs and checking ISR.

    I would propose that there needs a ‘cooling off period’ after working at a school before a review can be posted. Eg. If I say I worked somewhere between 2010-12 I couldn’t get it published until 2013.
    This would stop the knee jerk reaction of writing a negative review I think we all get when we leave a school we are currently unhappy with.

    I think when teachers look back at previous schools after sometime (preferably 2 years as this gives the novelty of a new school time to wear off) they are in a position to review more fairly and see both the good and the bad.


  8. Why would teachers leave inaccurate negative reports?, this site is for other teachers so comments are to prevent people moving faraway only to find their situation may not be what has been promised. The posts that read like something taken from the school policy documents are the ones more likely to be false/inaccurate.


  9. I have actually found schools with great reviews. I think that if a school really makes a positive impact on the teachers, it will be reflected in the reviews. There are a lot of hate posts as well. Not all reviews are based on everyone in that particular school’s perception. When I look at reviews I look for specific things. How are the children? Is there PD available? Is the accommodation clean and safe? Does the school deliver on their basic contractual obligations? Is the country safe and the salary sufficient for the living cost in that particular country? These are the main things I think you should think about when you look for a new school. I do think too many people focus on the personal experience rather than giving vital information about the school


  10. I have found this site/ reviews most helpful. I have changed my mind re teaching at certain international schools – as I am not going to travel halfway around the world to be treated poorly.


  11. I am a new teacher and I am sorry to say that so far the schools I dealt with are terrible. The owner only care about the bottom line (money). I feel sorry for the students and parents who expect more for their money.


  12. To help schools that have a good reputation, I think ISR should identify and separate them from the rest of the schools. Schools such as Bangkok Patana or UNIS in Hanoi, Vietnam, do not need this obviously but there are little known schools that could benefit from this. You have schools such as Miras School or the NIS in Kazakhstan that get bad reviews but others such as ISA or AIS in the same city that get ignored but are considered good schools. Just a suggestion.

    I do agree with the comments above, I found that of the schools I worked at in ISR had accurate reviews despite the negativity of the content.

    On a more positive note, I had “local” friends who were able to teach and get a western salaries at schools with bad reviews for the very fact that many teachers were not going there. This included schools in China and Malaysia. Despite the negativity, they were happy to earn 2-3 times more than they local salaries.


    1. I also like your idea. It’s not necessary to rank schools, but it’d be great to have a section of positive comments. Like another user said, it’s pretty easy to weed out the ones that have been written by an administrator to uplift their reputation.


  13. There might be other reasons that such a preponderance of negative reviews exists;

    1) Most ex-pats are used to unionized and publicly funded schools whose standards, while often low, are strictly maintained and supervised, nonetheless.

    2) Many ex-pats have a rather romantic and unrealistic view of what teaching overseas is really like, or at least they do at first. They soon learn the reality and express their dissatisfaction and deception here,

    3) A few teachers are rather chauvinistic and condescending of overseas standards and schools, and when they encounter less than acceptable situations (in their view) they vent on this site and others.

    4) The calibre of administrators overseas is well below that found in school boards and private schools at home, for the most part, Out of 5 overseas schools i worked in, only 2 had fairly competent administrators. the remainder were parental ass-kissers of the highest degree and were neither competent nor professional.

    5) Different cultures breed different value systems. The schools ¨adapt¨to local expectations and demands (grade-fixing, tolerance of cheating, buying success, etc.) and it becomes endemic, hard to change and the new ¨normal¨ so one has to fit in or leave.

    IMHO these consistent negative reviews prove that overseas schools lack proper supervision, standards, leadership and values that are founded in educational success not just making a buck fast and furiously. IF, someday, overseas teaching becomes as strictly regulated as our home traditions, then perhaps we’ll see better reviews. Until then, keep up the good work ISR!


  14. Comment 2 and mautio1 both sound true to me. When you look at the schools that are not – for – profit and those that the owners take every cent they can then which do you want to work in ?

    Mautio 1 is right about the rich kids who expect the grades without doing the work .


  15. Hi:

    The proliferation of for-profit schools in the international world has increased the number of schools. This means more schools competing for quality teachers and administrators. This growth has outstripped the supply hence schools of a lesser reputation do not attract the quality needed for a school to succeed.

    Additionally, people like to vent their negativity much more so than expounding on the virtues of a school. Some ex-employees feel the need to “set the record straight” about a school or administrator. Of course the satisfied employees do not have the same impetus to voice the idea that everything is fine. And, some people are simply not fit to teach, especially overseas. I have encountered several teachers that felt that the US or UK or Canadian schools were bad and that a change of scenery would find them a good location to help them blossom. Unfortunately the location change was only a location change and they were still miserable.


  16. The British school I worked with has had massive turnover of heads and teachers in the last decade. Two of the heads even disappeared with school funds not able to be accounted for. Grades were changed due to parental pressure. And a person described as the school attorney was not even legal to work as such. The decrease in Western student and replacement by local students/parents lead to a gradual decline in standards, honesty and international exam (IGCSE and A-level) results.


    1. Are you indicating that Western students are superior to students from other regions of the world. That is ethnocentrism or outright racism. This is not the place to spout that type of xenophobia.


    2. Don’t be silly. The context of this website is international schools teaching in English. If the school turns into a glorified ESL program rather than a serious content/skills/thinking program designed for education in content instead of basic “my name is..”, of course the “quality” will have degraded.


  17. There are a lot of negative reviews on this site and for good reason. I’ve been at 5 International Schools and 4 of them were not fit to be called “schools.” In one school the director actually negotiated directly with parents for grades. At another one of these so called “international schools” we were not allowed to assign homework or give a grade lower than a “B.” The kids knew it and just goofed off all day. There definitely seems to be a trend in international education that is destroying its image. This site is the best site I know of to ferret out these schools and avoid them. Are there a lot of negative reviews on ISR? Yes, and for good reason. Of the five schools I’ve worked at I would say the reviews on this site pretty accurately reflect the realities of each of them. Some of the reviews are a bit harsh but right on!


  18. The people who own the schools are profit driven. Usually , they have no clue about education and they do not care. Teachers who have heart and experience fight administration that caters to rich parents who are raising children entitled to cheat, steal, lie, be lazy. I worked in 4 international schools. This is a common denominator.


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