The Truth Hurts!

Every year around this time, a few International Schools contact ISR. Why? Because poor School Reviews are hurting their recruiting efforts, and instead of using the Review information to constructively affect improvements, they just want, sometimes demand, that the Reviews go away. Now!

Schools that withhold salaries, switch contract terms, substitute poor housing for promised housing, fail to reimburse travel and/or shipping allowances, renege on health insurance, or engage in other dishonest practices are not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. If schools complain that Reviews of their modus operandi are affecting recruiting efforts, ISR affirms: This is as it should be. Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools Review is all about.

One organization that manages 3 schools recently sent this email to ISR concerning 86 ISR-hosted Reviews:

“Dear Sirs, I would like to request you to remove all the reviews related to our schools and remove our schools from your database for any candidate to write any reviews. These reviews are creating negative impact while recruitment and we are losing good prospective candidates. I hope you can do the needful ASAP. Thanks.” (Name withheld)

  Without naming names, ISR would like to share with you excerpts from recent Reviews of the schools in question. Each excerpt is from a different School Review, and each of the 5 reviewers, among other things, is concerned with an insufficient housing allowance — a problem, in ISR’s opinion, that could be easily remedied:

• “I like the school. Some great people work here, but that’s not why I am leaving. I am leaving because the housing allowance is really low compared to what actual rents are…”

• “Teachers do not leave because it is a bad school, they are leaving because the salaries are not good compared to other schools. Bigger problem: Many are now saying that our allowances for housing are poor. The allowance will not get you good housing…”

• “I don’t know how I will manage next year because my rent allowance is not high enough. Well, it is…IF I want to live in a shoe box…”

• “This is a rant regarding the shameful situation about housing and housing allowances…”

• “If they won’t give you a good allowance, I advise you to not come here. For a family with 2-3 children you must have at least 11,000 Riyal/month for decent housing…”

..As mentioned, there are other, sometimes huge, issues outlined in these 86 Reviews, but the inadequate housing allowance is stressed in each and is something that could/should be quickly/easily addressed and corrected. But instead of responding to teachers’ needs, a request was made for ISR to remove all traces of the schools from the website. Had we done so, prospective teaching candidates could be lured in. Some web sites may comply with take-down requests, especially when legal threats follow. But most definitely, ISR is not one of them!

Staking your career on the word of a School representative during a thirty-minute interview can be risky, as many, many ISR School Reviews have demonstrated. We recommend that, without fail, you must thoroughly research any school before committing to a Contract. This recruiting season, as always, you can rely on ISR to provide a safe, secure venue dedicated to Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed!

Comments? Please scroll down to participate

41 Responses to The Truth Hurts!

  1. Anonymous says:

    The truth is as easy as supply and demand. When there were few people willing to go overseas back in mid 1990’s, packages were fat and management had to treat teachers well to keep them. Now it seems so many teachers want to go overseas we become like a glut commodity. They can treat teachers any way they like because if one teacher quits, so what???!! There are hundreds more lining up at hiring fairs plus more waiting in cyberspace via Skype. Simple, really. If you are lucky enough to be happy and fairly compensated with decent package at your school stay there because those situations are becoming quite rare.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you ISR for having the most valuable infotmation out there to help us out.


  3. Andrew Short says:

    Some people believe that working in an International school should be easier than at home: less work, more free time and greater pay! This is very rarely the case. Remember in most cases the schools are fee paying and so ultimately responsible to a board of directors or owners who are expecting to make a profit. So resources, travel, housing and wages play a big part in budgets.
    Resources; these are often sourced locally for cost reasons and may not be equivalent to those in the UK or Australia etc. The budgets are often very tight and restrictive. Text books old or even non-existant, photocopying is at a premium and use of ICT facilities very varied.
    Demands made by teachers can be addressed but often take longer to deal with because of the administrative layers that need to be processed.
    Travel is always an issue and for example in many shools in Qatar you need to get permission to leave each and every time. Some governments are very restrictive to the use of the internet, or even have a poor infrastucture for this.
    So when looking at schools it is essential that prospective teachers do their research thoroughly. ISR is a great place to start, so look at the negatives and the history of reviews and make notes. Then use the website and then other internet searches to formulate your own opinion. Try and contact existing members of staff and see if they will give you practical advice long before accepting a position.

    I am very grateful for ISR and would like many more teachers to contribute both positively and negatively; but try and take the emotion out of it if possible. Emotion can sometimes distort the truth.


    • Barbara says:

      Very good information balancing both sides. When I was in Qatar NO TEACHER was given a travel permit their first December break as the school knew many teachers ran leaving no teachers the first day back in January. In the UAE, ADEC physically keeps your passport at times up to 3 months making it difficult to leave. Recruiters do not tell you this.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. mbkirova says:

    One thing that is generally true is that schools for horrid, spoiled rich kids pay a lot more, so if you are going to teach abroad for the money, that is what you are going to get. Do not be naive.
    But there is another issue people more rarely address, and that is ‘style of management’, mostly pertaining to schools in the East, from Iraq, Turkey and Azerbaijan (I have worked in all three) to China and Central Asia. Do not expect democracy in the workplace- management is traditionally hierarchical and as a teacher you are an underling with few rights. The boss is likely to know nothing about education, but to have been placed there through political connections or wealth. It doesn’t mean the school or management style is evil, only that it is different and usually quite unpleasant for westerners. It will be great if school reviewers warn job seekers about this so they can make an informed decision.


    • Barbara says:

      As should the recruiters warn prospective clients. I understand they are paid per head, but they are also messing with people’s lives. Leaving behind your life- sometimes selling a home, car and possessions to take what you think MAY be a difficult undertaking is hard enough, but when the reality is that some of these schools are outwardly abusive and just lie… Some people have no choice to leave. I have met many a teacher who are miserable beyond belief, but due to financial debt or responsibility have to endure. Sad-


  5. ISR Supporter says:

    Well done ISR. Teachers need some form of reference and insider information. Information is power, especially at interviews. Keep up the good work.


  6. Globetrotter says:

    Congratulations, ISR! The fact that you have received a letter from a school/employer begging you to remove the reviews on their school, means one thing only ‘Mission accomplished’! And the fact that this school is losing prospective teachers means that ISR is on the right track. However this employer still does not get it – change your leadership/management style, treat your teachers fairly and run your school like a decent, proper educational institution (and not like a concentration camp) so the school will get good reviews and therefore attract prospective teachers…it’s so simple and easy to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew Short says:

    Having worked both as teacher and management in several international schools I am pleased that ISR is around to help teachers make an informed choice about schools.
    Yes you do need to look closely at the dates of some reviews as directors etc may well have left and changes made. If schools do make positive changes then there may well be negative reviews from disgruntled teachers who have gone abroad because they think they will have an easier life. There is nowhere in teaching that you get something for nothing, however being respected and listened to for the benefit of the education of the children is an absolute must.
    Being paid a reasonable wage and supported with acceptable housing are bare minimums for schools abroad to ensure for all teachers both local and expat.


  8. Chris says:

    I appreciate this website for what it does, but is it fair to suggest that housing issues can be easily solved? Do you have enough financial information about each of the five schools for you to suggest it is an easy problem to solve?

    Using the word “easy” could undermine the work people may be doing to solve the problem. Can you defend how you came to the opinion that each of the five housing issues is easily solved?

    Maybe the schools are in financial trouble? Is enrollment down? Do they have large reserve funds they refuse to dip into? Are they all for-profit schools – if so, how much profit are they making? If they are non-profit, are they stable?

    I have not read all of the posts like you have, so you are coming to that conclusion with more information, I am just reading your article.

    Thanks for clarifying.


    • James Rolle says:

      I think you may be missing the point that schools have a responsibility to their staff to pay an appropriate amount, in this case for housing. When an international school hires you, and says they will provide housing/housing allowance, it is implied that the quality of the housing, or the amount of the housing allowance, is sufficient to live decently i that market. Whether enrollment is down, or the school is having financial difficulty, is not the faculty’s problem.


      • Chris says:

        The point is that ISR should not use loaded language. I agree with your points too. The people that run the website need to remain more impartial. This place is a voice for teachers in a market that gives them little voice – a noble endeavor for sure, but if the writers of the blog take sides, they lessen the integrity of the teachers opinions and open the door to the very thing ISR gets criticized for – a space where people complain that readers must be wary of. By keeping an impartial stance, ISR can bring more credibility to the voice of teachers.


        • A.A says:

          What language is used in this blog posting do you deem as loaded? It would be nice for you to provide some specific examples you take issue with so the rest of us can examine your claims in order to determine whether they have merit or not.

          As I mentioned below, ISR is under no obligation to provide international schools with a platform to counter criticism. If a given school feels aggrieved over what it feels to be unfair treatment they are welcome to respond to it on another’s forum on the internet, or on their own website. ISR doesn’t have to do international schools’ work for them, and as other posters have pointed out, people can use ISR as a starting point and do their own research to determine the veracity of claims made on this website. People can decide soon enough whether claims made here are legitimate or not.

          International schools already have enough advantages (in terms of wealth, resources, power and influence) in dismissing or downplaying legitimate claims of maltreatment of staff without giving them any more. Places like ISR offer teachers one of the few avenues they have to express their grievances freely without repercussion or feeling the reach of the very places they are warning us about. Allowing schools who are guilty of employee maltreatment an impartial footing would only serve to delegitimize valid concerns, or worse would dissuade potential posters with valuable information from posting here out of fear that it might not be taken seriously.

          I for one like this website just fine the way it is. I’m perfectly capable of verifying whether a review is legitimate or not without the input of the school in question.


  9. Akhtar Hussain says:

    To be honest, why people leave their homes? Just to work in a far away land, away for the comfort zones, their homes?
    Absolutely not,… I am sure more that 90% would be working away from their homes to earn for better living for themselves/their families, but with dignity & respect.


    • Globetrotter says:

      Dear Akthar,

      Millions of individuals are moving around the globe mainly because they cannot find job in their own countries. We are forced to find work abroad to support ourselves. Yes, our salaries are higher than what we are likely to receive in our home countries but for many of us, there is no other option. However, foreign professionals should never be at the mercy of ruthless employers who seek to abuse and exploit educated people who are trying to make an honest living. I have been through this for the last 18 years in all the places I worked at, outside my home country.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Akhtar Hussain says:

        Thanks for the reply. We are on the same boat actually. I am travelling & working from the past 25 years in totally diverse countries/cultures. Have been through all best & worst of my days. But that’s part of the story.


  10. Domhuaille MacMathghamhna says:

    This reality reflects the pitiful state of many badly managed and administered schools who must hide the truth rather than face it and improve. This is due to the absolute lack of supervision and accountability internationally. The accrediting agencies are a joke and the poorest of losers become administrators in far too many schools overseas.
    ISR is one of the few places one can trust to get a complete picture of what a school is really like, along with doing your due diligence,

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chris says:

    At the same time, people who post often have an axe to grind and wish to retaliate. Anyone using ISR needs to read the posts with a skeptical eye. Trends and patterns in posts are revealing, not individual rants. Old posts can also be meaningless as directors and teachers come and go. Use ISR as a starting point. Then do your own independent research.


  12. Stuart Cone says:

    Don’t go near a for-profit “proprietary school.” You are working to make some greedy, slimy person/family rich.s


  13. Stranger Things says:

    Keep up the good work. This website is totally necessary! Lots of schools are doing dodgy things and getting away with it.

    My Philippines school (name starts with the letters Br….) makes us give our commitment to the next school year in December but then only gives our contract in May when it’s too late to jump ship. They have the upper-hand for sure, offering fewer benefits than the year before.


    • David says:

      Why stay there then? Move on.


      • Barbara says:

        David- Its not always easy or even possible to up and leave… I was in Qatar where your employer has to physically give you permission to leave the country and when they KNEW I had had it, I was refused a weekend travel permit- In essence being held hostage. And that DID solidify my decision and I DID LEAVE soon there after- However, I also lined up another job first and was lucky to have a friend working in a very prestigious school in Beijing that was willing to take me mid-year in the position of permanent sub until I will be given my subject area in August… But I had to hustle and take a lot of crap before I left… I also am sitting doing nothing and drawing no pay until school starts in China in February. I can afford to do this and mooch off my daughter for 3 months- Not everyone can. What if you have a family and children with you or are in debt? Its just not always possible.


  14. David Jones says:

    I appreciate the point but I have read many reviews that I know to be untrue about schools where I have worked. There does need to be some opportunity for schools to challenge false claims so that teachers are not misled.


    • Antipodia says:

      It would be extremely helpful to us, David, as well as support your claim with evidence, that you list some of these schools where you worked that had these ‘many untrue’ reviews.[Mmm, doesn’t this sound a teacher talking?]

      It seems probable you have worked in administration, as I have. Unfortunately, the way that classroom teachers (the usual posters of these reviews) experience their context reflects their powerlessness and their ignorance, as they are likely not to be privy to the aims, deals and occasionally even well-intended ambitions of their school boards (or owner).

      ISR provides a truly democratic voice for all who work in this unregulated industry.


      • Barbara says:

        I agree Antipodia. I am furious and spitting tacks right now over how totally abused I was when I returned after the summer break and while I definitely showed discontent, if anything I soft-sold just how awful the school I was in IS- And the only reason I have not openly named it is because I will need references. People need to have a place where they can be HONEST and believe me, even though I read the reviews on this site regularly I had NO IDEA what a hell-hole I was becoming an indentured servant to.


    • anon says:

      You sound like a sock puppet “David Jones”, if that’s your name.


    • Ronald Tyson says:

      David, there may be some untrue posts by teachers, but I have never read one written about schools where I have taught i the 16 years I have taught overseas. So far, I could add to the recounting of how bad the situation was at the for-profit schools, and I have taught at some of the better ones. Without sites like ISR it is very difficult to do due dilligence about a prospective school. They will too often advertise only positive and often somewhat misleading information about themselves, conveniently omitting negative information.


    • Anonymous says:

      My point is that balance is needed and not always expressed. If there is a feature of the school or management that needs accurately berating then fair enough. It’s just that reading some reviews give the impression that their target school has no redeeming features.
      By the way I am a teacher but just not one of those who moan about doing their job and criticise everything they don’t agree with. Some colleagues do get a raw deal and they have the right to expose the schools who lie and cheat. However the anonymity ISR provides gives the crackpots and disenfranchised opportunities to post scurrilous reviews which cannot be challenged.
      In a world of free speech, challenging misinformation and having corrections published is important.
      ISR does seem to attract mostly negative responses maybe because happy teachers don’t tend to get trapped in a bubble of self-pity. So, I’m just suggesting fair and balanced reviews that actually help teachers work out whether they can accept the pros with the cons.


      • A.G. says:

        “Fair and balanced” reviews-this isn’t FOX news, Anon. It’s a website that allows for information to be disseminated by teachers about schools in an unregulated industry, as one of the posters above mentioned. Any given school is welcome to challenge the accuracy of a review by providing concrete evidence to the contrary in a forum where it is publicly available to all-which would be the internet.

        As for happy teachers not being “trapped in a bubble of self-pity”, yes, Anon, unhappy people are not going to post nice things about schools-probably for a good reason as well.

        One more thing, Anon-speech on the internet, it’s not free. I’ll assume you’re suggesting that American 1st Amendment constitutional rights are somehow applicable everywhere else all the time. They’re not; ISR is not a governmental body imposing its will on your freedom of expression. It’s a private organisation that can publish whatever it wants as it sees fit on it’s own website. If schools don’t like what they see here, they are free to establish their own website to challenge it. ISR is under no obligation to provide them with such a platform.


  15. Robert Page says:

    The same situation applies here in Mexico, no support for staff from administration. Students behavior horrible, impossible to give quality education, basically babysitting rich kids.


  16. Chuck says:

    As long as ISR stays true, it will continue to be successful. I for one trust the site and it is always confirmed later when I speak to educators.


  17. Burnt Once says:

    Heads up people. Be careful because some of these so called review sites have been intimidated into removing and altering reviews. I only trust ISR. I learned the hard way


  18. Barbara says:

    I left my last school last month after completing 2 years. As I started in late November (which means I took the place of a runner- true), I was there for 3 different school year sessions and had a different manager/administrator each year: One being worse than the next. My first year upon arrival I was given a completely different position than that of which I was hired- teaching 2 separate subjects, one of which I am not certified to teach and have NO EXPERIENCE. There were no texts for the subject, so I winged it. Next year I WAS given what I was told (no choice mind you), but was STILL teaching a subject of which I was not certified. Final straw was when I was switched to primary from secondary AFTER I returned from summer break as per orders of my 3rd new manager. I AM certified for primary, however have NEVER TAUGHT IT and am extremely weak in math. But it gets better. Four Primary teachers just did not return in September- Just didn’t show up, so myself and a brand new teacher basically were given the kids from all 4 who quit and were told it would only be until new teachers were hired- Well after a month we were told no new teachers would be hired and oh well. Thus leaving 2 teachers with the workload of 4, HUGE numbers in our classes and more than twice as many parents to stay in contact with. Let me also throw in I was in Qatar and the student behavior is beyond horrible. The job was not doable. I sent E-mail to the owner, the manager numerous times. I requested meetings that were mostly ignored and finally just said enough and WENT HOME- Aside from knowing that un-certified “teachers” were paid more than me for half the class schedule and living in substandard housing- which I just dealt with, being given a double load was just beyond acceptable. I could of course list many-many other unprofessional occurrences, but this is just a sample of what so many International schools are like. And it is because the owners are in it for one reason only… MONEY!!! Teachers and staff are replaceable.


  19. mautio1 says:

    I posted comments regarding a school and within two weeks was threatened with termination if I did not shut up. I informed parents as to contract non-renewal at the end of May and was terminated the next day. My parents told admin their thoughts loud and clear but I left. Admin in many schools do not care about staff. They just want the money.


  20. Barbara says:

    Sounds like the school I just left with housing- EXCEPT just about everything else concerning working conditions and treatment of staff was/is pretty bad too. For those of you unfamiliar “riyals” is the currency of Qatar.


  21. EnglishManInTheKnow says:

    ISR has been a game changer in the international school world and I, for one, am very thankful to have a resource to compare schools.

    Liked by 2 people

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