Imagine this: You recently attended your first-ever International Teacher recruiting fair and walked away with a rather attractive Contract. But months later, after resigning your public-school teaching position, renting out your house and putting cars and furniture into storage….the phone rings. Your job offer has been withdrawn!

The voice on the other end of the line offers nothing more than a meager explanation such as insufficient enrollment, but no monetary compensation. Your life has been trashed! 

Incidents such as this are admittedly few and far between, but they do occur as evidenced by a smattering of alarming ISR School Reviews. The most recent such event can be read by logging onto ISR  and then returning to this page and clicking Here

As teachers, we unfortunately have little or no recourse when it comes to dealing with schools that treat us like disposable commodities. Few of us could afford to pursue legal compensation, and the schools know it! Do you have the resources to wage a lawsuit against a school in Malaysia when you’re physically in Wisconsin and unemployed?

Recruiters assert they provide a venue or conduit between schools and teachers and cannot be held responsible for unpredictable actions of their various school clients. That said, why are teachers blacklisted and held responsible by recruiters when they fail to live up to the terms of a Contract — even when an abusive school makes breaking that Contract necessary for self-preservation?

ISR asks: Why are there no safeguards in place to assure educators’ security? Why aren’t schools required to post a substantial bond with recruiting agencies (or a third-party agency) to assure teachers are compensated should a school renege on their Contract? ISR believes recruiters can and should put safeguards into place to ensure schools are held accountable when they trash the future for unsuspecting International Teaching candidates.

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25 Responses to Trashed!

  1. Lee Doyle says:

    Recruiting agencies are the easiest way to get an international school job, but by no means the only way; and many posters on here are correct. No matter what a school does to you, the agency that ‘works for you’ is never going to help you. Revoked contracts aside (which is rare), even the ‘good recruiters’ like Search and ISS advertise to get teachers to use them by saying that they represent the best schools. The requirements to be represented by these companies as a teacher or administrator is far stricter that the requirements for the schools on these websites. When I was hired by a school only so they could look like they helped students with special needs for the amount of time it took them to get their certification, and then they dismantled the entire department I built while still gladly taking the tuition money from parents of students with Special Needs, I reported it. I reported it, not just because it was a bad placement for teachers and they should know it, but because it was a HARMFUL place for students. The school is still represented by ISS. At the end of the day, these recruiters make more money from shitty for-profit schools then they do from you or even institutions interested in actual education.


  2. Benji Rowan says:

    Also, Search Associates states in its contract that they can fine you for breaking a contract, as well as the school. And, not only that, but there is no ceiling to what the fine can be. I’m newish to international teaching, but it seems the risks are becoming greater, and the rewards fewer.


  3. Mitzi De Leon says:

    Compensation would be great, but would the teacher ever really see any money or would it just vanish through the pipeline?
    I lived this experience with a school in Hefei, China and again, no consequences for the school. There is also the school that offers benefits on the contract, then do not fulfill the contract because the school’s handbook says something different. The school goes back and forth, between the contract and the handbook, taking into consideration the one that benefits the school and “screws” the teacher. A school in Casablanca does just that! Really, when will any system work for the benefit of the teachers???


  4. Patricia says:

    Making schools pay compensation is a great idea, however, unfortunately the reality of this situation is you would wait until hell froze before you saw any sign of the money, if at all you had any reply from the school itself.


  5. Eben Engelbrecht says:

    I have once been appointed as a school principal, appointment letter and all. I did not use a recruiter. And then silence . . . Another guy was recruited and appointed. A runaway from his own country because of sex abuse charges. What goes around comes around.


  6. Will Riker says:

    Why do we, the teachers, continue to pay agencies $250 only to be screwed over and left for dead. I can think of no other industry that treats it’s customers with such distaste. ISS and Search should be working for US since we are the paying customers. However, more often than not, WE end up working for them. Doing the bidding of senior search associates or ISS cronies and jumping though their hoops to land a job, only to be abandoned and given no compensation. It would be like buying an airline ticket, boarding the flight, only to be taken to a different city and just left there.
    I can literally think of no other industry where paying members are treated like disposable commodities. I’d love for ISR to spear head change but since the schools are loyal to the recruiters the best we can do is stop paying the fees!


    • Anders says:

      You are the commodity though – the school is the real customer. Your $250 for a 2 year subscription is nothing compared to the thousands of dollars schools pay for a placement, so it makes sense that the agencies would kowtow to them.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Screw ISS and Search. Both organizations are broken and rotten to the core. They are both run by washed up International School admin who were unable to land new jobs in their respective fields and instead shifted to recruiting. Both agencies look out for their bottom line and nothing else. They are refined liars because they crafted their trade as shallow admin members.
    I worked at an ISS Managed school several years ago. They drafted the contracts with an instant termination clause. I watched several good teachers hired at fairs only to be given positions they did not interview for or were qualified to teach. ISS prided itself in vetting candidates with requiring 2 years experience but the school, ISS managed, would just hire frat kids right out of university, Iowa to be specific. It was disgraceful. Several faculty were not certified and ISS just flat out lied on the website. It was gross.


  8. lizzie says:

    Bad luck but there are plenty of other international jobs out there. This is one of the risks you take with international schools. Visas are getting harder to obtain in many countries and owners of schools more unscrupulous. Politically the world is a dangerous place and you need to pick locations carefully and be sure your school will get you out in a political emergency.


    • Anonymous says:

      I would always have a personal evacuation plan, as I would not trust a school to look out for my well-being in a crisis.


  9. Kicker says:

    Hey I have worked in seven international schools and not one of them told me the truth at interview but none vanished the job before I got there on the other hand I have seen a large number of teachers disappear on the weekend after pay day never to return. So blame is not all one way!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Chris Wagner says:

    Issues vary. Thailand: expect having to work illegally during the probationary period.

    Vietnam: staggeringly high levels of dishonesty. Many schools are incapable of communicating. and you should read the contracts many come up with. Bizarre!


  11. Marian Catholic says:

    It’s very hard for licensed teachers to land a full-time position in a public school in Canada, and perhaps in the USA too, because there are too many licensed teachers and not enough schools to accommodate everybody. I wouldn’t give up my career back home to temporarily teach overseas. I’ve been teaching in Asian public and international schools for a very long time because I couldn’t secure a full-time teaching position back home. Most foreign teachers I’ve met overseas are there because they are uncertified to teach in their native countries and wish to do something worthy with their college degrees and, of course, pay off their student loan debts more quickly. For these people, it’s moving from an insecure state to a secure one.


    • Phil says:

      I think your “most teachers” comment is a huge generalisation. I met very few, if any, teachers in my 17 years overseas that were uncertified to teach in their home country.


    • nahcuur says:

      As they are teaching in Asia, I wonder if they are referring to EAL teachers working in the private sector, rather than international school teachers? In my experience, the majority of the former were uncertified.


  12. Grumbles Maxwell says:

    Glad to see ISR taking a firm stand here, and I agree with the wording (i.e. drawing attention to how recruiters will blacklist teachers even when the specifics of their “breaking contract” are very much in dispute, but rarely bat an eye at schools doing the exact same thing). An inconsiderate teacher can cause headaches for a school, and it’s understandable that mechanisms exist to punish such teachers. But a school is an institution; it’s not life and death. An inconsiderate school can flat-out “trash” teachers’ lives and leave them stranded.

    I don’t see an equivalency between a teacher “breaking contract” (whether it’s arbitrary, the result of a good-faith disagreements in which there is no “meeting of the minds” on the job, or because a school is breaching the contract or placing the teacher in a dangerous/untenable situation) and a school “breaking contract.” I don’t see the equivalency because the latter is FAR more devastating to the material well-being of a human being. And yet the major agencies will flip the seriousness of contract breaches around, chastising teachers that their “word is their bond” while making empty promises that they will hold schools to their word.

    Again, I’m glad ISR is (talking about) taking a lead here. I think ISR has the potential to be a positive force for change. I’m still wary of ISR’s lack of transparency (I understand the legal arguments for the paywall, but on balance I reject them) and its, at times, heavy hand of censorship on things that aren’t even related to the paywall/defamation concerns.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Years ago there were so many more jobs than teachers so if this horrible thing happened wasn’t that hard to find a job. Now there are many more teachers seeking international jobs! Fortunately most of the schools need the teachers they contract with. New schools or schools under construction with projected opening dates are riskier in my opinion. I was offered in China and then school didn’t finish construction on time so they sent me to their sister school in another country. Nothing was as agreed upon. When I complained to the big employment agency that had represented this school, they didn’t care. I quit giving my $250 registration fee to that agency and now use TIE online or agencies that don’t charge fees. Frankly you get nothing for your registration fee. I also think dual agency should be disclosed to teachers. Dual agency is the employment agency taking money from you and the prosective employer for agency services. This guarantees agency will be more responsive to schools as schools are where agency’s income comes from.


  14. Dan futterman says:

    This is why I stick with ISS or Search Associates. There are definitely still schools that do not live up to their contracts through these companies however, to be honest most of the people who have terrible indiscretions with schools are not on search profiles. I am at one now.


    • Grumbles Maxwell says:

      Plenty of horror stories about both (more Search than ISS, though) not siding with teachers even when the evidence seems pretty compelling that the school was in the wrong.

      It’s one thing for a he said/she said situation to arise and for an agency to take no position. It’s another for a Senior Associate to ban someone from the Search platform and say that they don’t even want to hear the story. That’s actionable, and people should be more outraged.


    • Janee56 says:

      I got a job through Search years ago and had this happen to me. The board of my future school rescinded all new overseas contracts at the start of May, after I had handed in my notice, done all my visa paperwork and had given up my apartment. I had been overseas for a while, so was able to scramble and get something through networking. The director of the school in question also helped me so I landed on my feet.
      There is no guarantee no matter what you do.


  15. Ian from UK says:

    How about ISR taking a lead on this? I can’t think of another teacher-focused organisation with a higher profile to get the ball rolling, perhaps working with some of the bigger, more reputable schools to put a code of conduct in place and approaching insurers to see if there could be a scheme to protect teachers, paid by the schools. This cost would be low for the big groups but start to set a competitive bar that eventually others would need to jump over to get the best recruits. Other standards such as contracts in own language, minimum healthcare cover, personal accident / liability and property insurance, assistance with accommodation, communication, day-to-day organisation could follow, perhaps on a tiered basis. I am not aware that anything like this exists today. Ultimately this would all cost and perhaps parents would need to pay more, but their children would be receiving a better education as international teaching would become attractive to a wider teacher pool and ex-pat teachers would be under less external pressure. Even joining a very good school is stressful and risky in ways that taking normal employment in your home country is not. I am always surprised that organisations like CIS have not done more in the area of standards-setting for teacher contracts end held schools to greater account. They have an “ongoing external quality assurance process to enhance student learning” but there seems to be little focus on general teacher welfare which I would have thought would be an important contributor to achieving this aim.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. AllyB says:

    Consult a US Lawyer or make contact with a Malaysian lawyer.


  17. n_n says:

    Have you tried asking the recruiting companies? I would love to see their answers – provided they even dignify giving them.


  18. Brian Meegan says:

    Recruiers care about those who pay them the most money. Schools pay recruiters more, so ….


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