What’s Hiding in International School Websites?

At ISR, we spend considerable time reading School Reviews and looking at corresponding school websites to verify certain information.  After viewing thousands of school websites, we’ve concluded that schools with multiple poor Reviews on ISR have websites that share similar characteristics. As we head into recruiting season, we thought now would be the perfect time to share what we’ve learned:


Under Construction, 404 Pages, No Website at All!
An International School with a poorly functioning website is unacceptable and shows a distinct lack of investment in technology, an antiquated business model and/or an inability to keep pace with the modern world. A poorly functioning, or non-existent website can signal low transparency and a purposeful lack of communication with the school community at large. ISR advises you to proceed with caution.

English-Version Website Non-Existent
Schools catering to an International community should, and must, have an English-version website. Lack of one suggests a school that caters to locals only and lacks an International/diverse population.

Welcome letter not signed by Director. No Staff Directory
Websites lacking a personalized Director/Principal welcome letter should send up a red flag. Be wary of school sites with generic welcome letters or mission statements signed with, simply, “School Principal.”  These schools are frequently represented on ISR by School Reviews that tell of excessive staff/admin turn-over.  

Well-established, well-run schools not only display a photo of the person in charge, a brief run-down of their qualifications, and a signed letter, but also a directory of staff. Admittedly, some schools do not name their staff and/or admin team to protect their identity. As such, this may be a sign of anti-American or anti-European sentiment in the community. ISR recommends you exercise caution when considering schools without admin/staff transparency.

The Same Few Expat Kids Are All Over the Website
Alarms should be going off in your head when you spot the same few expat kids in multiple photos. Chances are the school is trying to look international when in reality it’s made up of a predominately local population. The few expat kids scattered throughout the website are usually the children of the international teaching staff. On the other hand, if you are looking to teach in a school that caters to mostly host nationals, this could be a good sign.

Facilities and Canned Photos Galore
School websites with lots of cropped photos of facilities and stock close-ups of individual kids may have something to hide. Teachers often review such schools by saying they have unfinished construction, unopened sections of the campus, issues with student population, run-down facilities, poorly constructed buildings and/or a non-international student body.

Accreditation Badges Missing
Last but not least is an item we think of as a Yellow Flag. If you see a school website without Accreditation badges, or that does not mention the agency that accredited the school, it’s an indicator further research is needed on your part. Lack of Accreditation badges can mean the school lost its Accreditation for failure to meet standards. In such cases, Reviews of the school usually reflect this point. Many never-accredited schools do, however, receive perfectly fine Reviews.

As always, we remind you:

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion Board

14 thoughts on “What’s Hiding in International School Websites?

  1. In countries where documents can be just/bought made how do the accreditation authorities verify that what they are given is legitimate?
    It would be worth checking. In many countries they wave regulations when they see foreigners but is that ethical especially when it is an educational institute?


  2. As a Principal with proper credentials I worked hard to update the web site-the moment I left they simply replaced my name with the new Principal’s name and left all my info attached ?? They are on their second replacement and still use my info to describe the Principal’s experience: incoming Western professionals who should know better have a responsibility to represent themselves accurately on the school’s website…I did !


  3. Having worked across cultures in national and international schools, it’s buyer beware, you need to use your head and not your heart. Think about why you are going international. These are my thoughts:
    Are you wanting adventure?
    Are you wanting to save?
    Are you wanting to move up the ladder?
    Are you escaping from something or someone?
    Are you wanting to share your passion for teaching with students?

    Each of the above will determine whether you will do your research or go with the flow?

    Schools can be good or bad the title national or international may or may not tell the full story. Come on be real apart from the international title aren’t schools in our home country similar some you would like to get into some you would want to avoid?

    My experience in a national school ( espoused to be) in Turkey was amazing, culturally and professionally. My Egyptian experience in a national school ( espoused as an international school but not in its name) on both counts was detrimental to health and profession. My Russian experience ( international school) was mediocre.

    Things are often hidden read and research.


  4. Lahore American School is local. Not even any embassy students at this school. Embassy staff and global corporates no longer send families to the city. Suprising that we still see expat teachers blonde children in pictures. The admin at LAS refuse to have their pictures posted on facebook,website,even Linkedin because of threats to their lives.


    1. That is why all the staff receive hardship pay !! Nothing hard about living in Pakistan for expatriate staff !! Its the best of both worlds !


  5. Anonymous – You need to take into account that some places in the world it is now very dangerous to publish the names, details and images of staff for fear of kidnapping (Latin America) or terrorism (many parts of the world unfortunately). Do your homework thoroughly for a change. Contact the people in these schools and ask them why they do not publish their staffs’ information and you may find out that in manly places it is because the teachers, not the administration, prefer it this way.


  6. Photos of the same foreign staff used throughout websites and a lack of a staff directory should be red flags and require further investigation. I worked for a school in Baku, Azerbaijan that “wanted to be western” which lasted two years. They summarily removed 99% of the foreign staff but kept an American head of school for advertising purposes. Photos of foreign staff are all old. These people no longer work at the school.


  7. Also worth researching are exam results compared to other international schools in same city. If the others are published but it’s is not, then why not? In some places where there is a lot of competition, some international schools become the default ‘SEN’ (cynics might say ‘takes all’, ‘drop-out’ etc.) school for that city. If that’s your ideal choice of students, fine. If not, be wary. You might be teaching classes where the academic level is not what you are used to.


  8. Compare performance standards of school to the UK average or some other appropriate recognised measure. Although, you can get problems at high achieving schools. A school is what it is so apply to what appeals to you. Not all teachers apply to highly academic schools and for some the experience of travel is important and teachers make compromises.


  9. I think before a teacher leaves their own country to seek a better life tour your own country and really get to know your own culture – Overseas school use us, abuse us and have no respect for us – after all we are nothing to them – think about it, yes they will be nice on the outside and chat and try and find out things but reality is the real teachings are the schools in Africa that pupils are passionate about learning, some having no school shoes but they have big dream. There have been a few students I wouldnt waste my time on. Please people before you all come down on me like a ton of bricks, Its an opinion based on many years of experience,


  10. I agree with the photos on the website. The international School of Islamabad has photos of kids who graduated years ago but as they were embassy kids it is used as a marketing tool but in reality it is a total local school .

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Some very good advice here. On the point about staff directories, the EU actually protects people in this way under the General Data Protection Regulation of 2016. I have also known of cases in other countries where a school has removed such details to protect people from abusive husbands who may wish to try to track them down.


  12. # three is ridiculous. Staff directories are often behind a login, to protect staff from random emails and spam. Businesses and hackers often troll school websites to gather data for spam and email attacks. I also find the implication that host-national schools are “less than” really insulting. One of the best schools I’ve worked in was 95% Turkish. (Of course, one of the worst schools I’ve worked in was 98% Egyptian, so there you go). There are also some crap schools that have a diverse student body. Rather than suggesting these schools are somehow inferior, especially since they are a growing part of the international circuit, with fewer and fewer companies sending families overseas, just have “warning signs” of dodgy schools in general.


    1. Well, this is “International” schools review after all… Not “host-national” schools review. I personally give host national schools a very wide berth!

      Liked by 1 person

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