Are you White enough?

by Alexander Charles Gardner-McTaggart (Alex McTaggart)

In many international schools, remuneration is based on where you come from. For example, Ex-pat hires, recruited abroad get the full deal. Ex-pat hires recruited locally get a lesser deal. Local hires, get an even lesser deal and unless you can ‘fit’ the field, you get no deal at all. Writing this now, I still find it difficult, as none of it makes any sense. Worse than that, it is stupid, ignorant, deeply divisive, and unjust. Yet, as most readers will recognize, this is the non-collegial reality that we call international schools’ teaching. 

When you walk into one of the ‘good’ international schools – the ones that can ask the higher fees – you will be greeted by a happy registrar who walks around a school campus of superlatives: theatre, pool, sports-fields, cosy student areas etc. The staff are helpful and friendly, educated and purposeful and for the most part, white and Anglo European. 

When you teach at one of these schools you walk into a world where payment is appropriate, working hours are decent, and benefits are the defining measure of its prestige as a school. Particularly if you are white and Anglo European. 

When you learn at one of these schools, you hear all the words, write them down, and repeat them when asked. They are about fairness, justice and making the world a better place. When you think about internationalism, you understand that being international, well-paid, and just, is about being White and Anglo European. 

When you sit down to think about it, none of it makes any sense, except in the most cynical and caustic manner. How can leadership of schools set up for a multicultural international reality officially condone, encourage and reward openly racist policies of recruitment, and fail so badly to address issues of criticality in thinking? We are all led to believe these issues are what they specialize in, and not what they fail in. When you research this phenomenon as I do, the truth ends up being clear, unjust, and entirely predictable. 

For most of its history, the field of international schools has been a small one, where the romanticism of the word ‘international’ became an alternative way to educate children of internationally mobile parents, and expats of various descriptions. In the grander scheme of ‘educational’ things, the field is mostly irrelevant. After all, research aims to find truth and generate knowledge so that the world we live in can be a better one. This is the purpose of knowledge and knowing, not having to repeat the same old errors and failures over and over like Sisyphus, but building on what works, improving what might, and avoiding what doesn’t. International schools tend to be quite clear that their international remit validates their approach to ‘making the world a better place’, to coin an International Baccalaureate (IB) adage. They have always been ‘alright thank you very much’, in that they have plenty of money, well-paid staff, and cohorts of students who come from comfortable backgrounds. 

Since 2001 the international school’s sector has expanded from 1 million students to nearly 6 million worldwide with now 500,000 staff – and growing. For perspective, England has around 475,000 teachers. What was once a small field is now nation-sized and remains small in one way only: in knowledge. Added to this, the diffused, and distanced nature of these thousands of institutions means that finding truth is expensive, arduous and mostly what researchers might call, ‘snapshot’ in nature. That means that there is little data available on the human reality of these schools and plenty on the ‘do good’ nature of their curricula, teaching, and outlook. The research has been skewed in this way, and it is understandable, as state education over the last 40 years has witnessed a dismal decline towards PISA stats, teach to test, and underfunding. For many, international schools represent a new hope where pedagogy is progressive, and teachers are valued. 

Finding knowledge is not a cut and dried matter. If you survey a thousand teachers and admin, you will find truth of a certain kind. It is the kind that policy makers tend to like, because you can put it on a graph, or chart, present it in a board meeting and talk about trends and averages. My search for truth is different. I look for lived reality, the stories, ideas, dreams, and experiences of those in education. This kind of knowledge is of the type that policy makers tend not to like because it shows what life is really like for those who live it. Not for those who live above it, aside from it, or distanced from it.

For this project, and over the course of two years I was connected with six of the most influential international school directors in the world in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. My objective was to understand their truth, see the world as they saw it, and allow them to express themselves and present their vision as they saw fit. Having collected this data through unstructured interview, observation and questionnaire I made sure they reviewed the data, and the findings just to be absolutely certain they were being represented accurately. With this done, I applied theory of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu alongside the more general work from the field of educational leadership. This is called a theoretical triangulation, and lessens the impact of my personal interpretation, putting the focus on the social theory. 

What I found was that these leaders were very powerful, with freedoms and responsibilities that go far beyond what a national school leader may expect. This is good for policy makers, good for people who agree, good for those ‘on board’, and potentially disastrous for those who think differently: or are different. Welcome to the staffing reality of an international school. However, I found these people were unequivocal in their understanding of internationalism and global mindedness as the core aspect defining leadership in international schools. They drew enormous strength from their biographies of white, Anglo upbringings: service, hard work, merit, deep belief, and most of all, their values. This is what made them distinct. This is what made them successful. 

Time for a bit of light sociology. Bourdieu tells us from a social perspective that humans (agents) create ‘fields’ wherein they work. International school leaders exist in just such a field. Bourdieu posits that the more successful you are in a field, the more power you will gain, and the higher you will climb in that field. The schools I researched and the teachers in them are positioned at the top of the field, and if Bourdieu is to be believed, they play an instrumental part in defining what it is to be a successful international educator. The sociologist makes it clear that being successful is a direct result of how well the agent fits the field. That means that if your field is defined by whiteness, and stories of it, then you will be successful in it if you align with it. Conversely, if you do not fit the field, then you will experience something called ‘symbolic violence’. This means the field will reject you, and you will remain unsuccessful in it until such time as you either change or leave. 

Teachers cannot change their skin colour, nor can they change their past. Teachers are agents of transformative change, shapers of futures, and representatives of our planet to the young. 

My research found that the most senior leaders and policy makers of international schools lead the field without any open awareness of, or willingness to change the whiteness status quo they inherit. They live and embody a powerful and deeply ‘international’ reality through the lens of whiteness. These are the people, who by their own admission, shape and form the field of international schools. Despite this, they develop, monitor and sign-off on policy that privileges white, Western teachers and makes it difficult for the rest. In this way, these sites of transformation are sky-bound Elysiums where the teaching of emancipation and fairness is available to the white Western candidate who has the ‘right’ teaching qualification, the ‘right’ experience, and the ‘right’ degree. 

It is a curious situation. International schools are prepared to spend the lion’s share of their considerable budget on their white, Anglo-European staff. They retain them with expensive salaries, accommodation, repatriations, insurance, and the rest. By doing so, they actively define the field, and enact ‘symbolic violence’ to those unable to take part because they didn’t grow up in California or Berkshire or Melbourne, didn’t go to a tier one university, and didn’t train in ‘the West’. Are international schools (and by this I mean their directors and owners) really saying that some teachers are not as valuable and their contribution is worth less because they are not white Anglo-European? After all, they should know because as the name on the tin suggests, these schools are diverse spaces. It is stranger still that these schools which build their identity on values of multiculturalism and internationalism are unable to invest ‘the lions share’ of their budgets in teachers from non-white Anglo-Europeans. As if this were not enough, the question remains, why can’t international schools pay people the same money for the same job? (Some may, many don’t). Why is payment often due to local or expat status? What is this nonsense that keeps the illusion of a post-colonial advantage alive in the 21st Century? Not in some tobacco-chewing, gun-toting, white supremacist training camp, but in multicultural international schools. 

The reason is to do with something called ‘The International Gaze’. Where once internationalism was implicitly connected to sophistication, knowledge and even fraternity and solidarity, it is now much-changed, and refers more to material advantage. It is this tantalising ‘International’ advantage that these schools sell. The customers are the burgeoning upper-middle classes around the world and particularly in the global South. ‘The Gaze’ is a term that refers to how a person reacts under the eyes of a more powerful other: a patient to a doctor, a woman to a man, the colonised to the coloniser. It denotes the reaction to this power and corresponding appropriative/pandering behaviour that the gazed upon employ. The international gaze as applied by the parent-customer demands what it perceives to be advantage. It just so happens that this is, and remains, white Anglo-Europeanism. So, as this analysis shows, international schools, far from being nodal points of multiculturalism are in fact more likely to manifest as replicators of The International Gaze, not because they necessarily want to (and I am extending plenty of goodwill and ‘benefit of the doubt’ here), but because their market-orientation requires it of them. 

So, where now? What can we do as international educators? How can we change an entrenched system of injustice and bias that cloaks itself in a magic mantle of ‘making the world a better place’? How can this be possible when we model yesterday’s and today’s inequities in the very schools that seek to educate our future influencers and decision makers? What kind of systems will they put in place when it is their turn to lead? The ones we told them about, or the ones they saw us working in and profiting from? We are international educators after all, it is in our blood to seek positive change for sustainable futures. This is the question international schools need to ask themselves. What is internationalism? Is it a shared, collective representation of the diversity and difference of our world, brought together in peace and hope? Or is it defined by a privileged few, enacted by them, experienced by them, and even taught by them – by their rules and on their terms? 

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This article also appears in Educational Digest International. It is based on the following:
 A., 2020b. Washing the world in whiteness; International schools’ policy. Journal of Educational Administration and History, p. online first

About the author: Alexander Charles Gardner-McTaggart (Alex McTaggart) is lecturer in Educational Leadership at the School of Environment Education and Development (SEED), of the University of Manchester where he is program director of the MA Educational Leadership in Practice. He is co-convenor of the Comparative and International Education Special Interest Group of the British Educational Research Association (BERA). His work is located in the critical paradigm and seeks to uncover truth and power in international education and educational leadership. Alex lives between Manchester and his family home in the Austrian alps.


Bourdieu, P., 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge(MA): Harvard University Press.
Gardner-McTaggart, A., 2016. International elite, or global citizens? Equity, distinction and power: the International Baccalaureate and the rise of the South. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 14(1), pp. 1-29.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2018d. Birds of a Feather: Senior International Baccalaureate International Schools Leadership in Service. Journal of Research in International Education.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2018g. The promise of advantage. Englishness in IB international schools. Perspectives: Policiy and Practice in Higher Education, 22(4), pp. 109-114.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2019. International Baccalaureate Senior Leadership and Christianity. Globalisation Societies and Education, 17(4), pp. 458-573.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2020b. Washing the world in whiteness; International schools’ policy. Journal of Educational Administration and History, p. online first.
Gardner-McTaggart, A., 2020. Educational leadership and global crises; reimagining planetary futures through social practice. International Journal of Leadership in Education.
Gunter, H., 2013. Knowledge production and theory development: The case of educational administration. Cardiff, s.n.
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Sahlberg, P., 2006. Education Reform for Raising Economic Competitiveness. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), p. 59–287.

56 thoughts on “Are you White enough?

  1. Dr. McTaggart raises some important issues and provides much food for thought. Intentionally or not, many international schools have become the antithesis of the values they claim to espouse. We all need to ask ourselves how we have contributed to this, and how we can contribute to its undoing.


  2. International in this context means taking a Western, Anglo-European model of education to an international setting. The reason for doing so is simply that this is the model the market wants as it is, in my view correctly, seen across the world as the gold standard. So, yes, it will be defined by that standard and those with direct experience of that standard will be valued more highly in business terms than those without. There is nothing wrong with this whatsoever in a global society where unique cultural contributions should be celebrated.


    1. Who told you “that this is the model the market wants it?” It’s just one group of people propagating lies and undermining others. More innovation happens in public school system than international schools. Stop putting false labels like ‘gold standard.’


    2. The market told me that’s what the market wants. You don’t like the gold standard, don’t pay for it. You think truth is lies, set your own school up. Jealously and grievance culture will get you nowhere. It’s a business and woke nonsense won’t help you one iota.


  3. The author here with the long name is a bit trapped in his own anxiety and envy. He ought to know life in a range of industries and be open to what people truly believe – not his delusions

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Can anyone tell me the defintion of Anglo European? It confuses me and I can’t seem to find it in the internet anywhere else…


    1. post modernists, post colonailists, critical theorists and all birds of this ilk speak their own language which is utterly incomprehensible to others . Try leading one of their books, written for the field. For e.g. try an article by Homi Bhabha. I would have to venture that this definition, which by simple logic would mean Europeans from the British Isles/U.K (ergo Änglo) doesn’t mean this at all. This would now include all Europeans and even non Europeans who have “internalized”” (if not actually Anglo) the hierarchical discursive and actual power structures imposed on the globe by actual Anglo speakers (aka, Americans, British), though this, theoretically should include the French, as they were colonialists (should also include the imperial and colonial Japanese, though this is ignored by these birds, as it’s ïnconvenient to their narrative(s).


    2. Folks who passionately believe that white-skinned homo sapiens with ancestry rooted in England or Europe are only capable of providing an English education for a fee.


    3. Just read the textbooks and you will know, I am often amazed at the amount of discomfort discussing racial issues here on this forum. Not surprised there is a problem,


  5. Even worse are schools in the USA that have backwards teachers unions enforcing critical race theory. International schools can hire teachers that must flee school districts like Chicago and New York City. Racist teachers in the USA are destroying children and moral families. White teachers need a place to go and often it is overseas.


    1. @Jackie. I have read “the literature”. It’s required reading in the Maoist/Stalinist re-education facilities.. um. err. graduate schools in education (the worst) and the humanities (varying levels of evil, but overall quite evil) . One then has to write papers agreeing with “the literature”. Dissent from dogma is not kindly viewed and may be existentially dangerous to your career.


    2. I am not quite sure what you mean? Who are the racist teachers in the USA???? Are they not some of the same ones that then come to an international school overseas?


  6. Here is the root of the problem. Nearly all accredited and established international school administrators catering to expats were born in the 60’s or 70’s in the U.K. or N.America. Their peer groups at school and college were mostly caucasian. These folks were nurtured in the majority view, related cultural, intellectual, and moral superiority. Several of them also worked in similar white-majority settings back home. They simply don’t have the worldview or experience to believe in the capabilities of teachers of color. You can’t change your belief system reading a book, attending a workshop on inclusion, or sitting on an equity committee.


    1. Thanks for the generalization. It helps feed those who agree with the author’s study.

      As someone born in the 70s and who is an administrator I can tell you you are wrong. I am white, but I wasn’t the majority in my public school education. Looking at yearbooks or school photos, we had maybe 20-30% of students as white. At university, yeah it was more white but that is because I chose to go to a university far from home and it represented a lot of its local student population which was white.

      I agree that the majority of administrators are white, but I also would ask to look around at who is applying for international school jobs, who is applying for admin jobs. Overall, there aren’t a lot of people of color. I could take some guesses as to why that is, but I would be generalizing like you are. I bet there are a lot of different reasons.

      TLDR: Don’t generalize!


    2. The generalisation is done by white folk saying minority teachers aren’t good enough for teaching expat kids. They also deliberately avoid showcasing them in their marketing strategies thinking the customers will hesitate to ‘buy’ their product. There are plenty of applicants of color, but your white admin has neither the will nor the intellect to look beyond their narrow-mindedness.


  7. Though the article raises points that have been long discussed and it raises points and issues that many teachers are sympathetic to, it now does so entirely through the critical race theory prism. A theory that was actually vanquished in the halls of the Ivy Leagues schools from whence it came. often by African American Ivy league professors, such as Randall Kennedy (jousted with his colleague Derrick Bell) but what Prof John Mc Whorter has called “The Warm Cloak of Victimhood” has been too cozy for many to dispense of, while others trumpet their “wokeness”. The wholesale adaptation of the critical race theory prism. and of course the author”s “specialty” is examination through a “critical” lens, means I will be fed more of this post modernist race tinged nonsense that I’ve already had enough of, for e.g. the post colonial “gaze”, and infusing racially based so called “power structures” into everything. Yawn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I forgot to mention that of course the one place where this theory has never been vanquished in, but springs eternally effervescent are the halls of Maoist/Stalinist re-education camps.. um.. err…. education departments in academia.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think that the important question is what it takes to be considered international. Is setting English as a main language of instruction and have IB accreditation? Until these two factors are the main makers for being considered international, we will not go further in change. The ethnicity and profiles of teachers have a great impact on the crowd of parents the school attracts. There are thousands of other languages spoken around the world and English is just one of them and there are hundreds of fantastic approaches that were not categorized as IB. Can they be considered international?. I own a school where teachers come from 30 countries and we teach the curriculum in 6 different languages. I think if we decided to go to just one language and one curriculum we would have to limit ourselves to being “international” so English as main/only language of instruction and IB accreditation.


    1. Thank you Anna, This is an important issue you raise. Is English really internationalism? Well, it appears to have established itself as ‘Lingua-Franca’ and David Crystal is a good person to read on this, but personally, I would recommend Braj Kachru (1990) ‘World Englishes and applied linguistics’.

      A lovely thought to expand on Anna and I always find a historical angle can be so helpful and provide much perspective. When the Roman Empire grew, speaking Latin was what generated cultural and symbolic capital in order to engage in more advantageous ways with ‘the powers that be’, aka the hegemony. The Romans were pretty clear that being Roman was ‘better’ and so Latin ‘could be’ part of being a Roman. The goal was Roman citizenship for most, and not all got it. My dear colleague at RMA Sandhurst in the department of War Studies writes extensively on the Roman Empire and posits that it never really ended – that we are still living in it today: particularly in the West. What an interesting thought.

      If we were to extend this thinking to English, then we find an analogy of sorts. One point I make in the original article is that thanks go globalisation, there is no longer a ‘national’ face of global domination – it has gone international, and the face of it is generally white and the language of it is English. This is certainly rooted in a colonial history, but now manifests in a more indirect manner. It is denationalised now, and so this makes it all the more difficult to confront it using the post-colonial ways of yesteryear where you could point a finger at ‘the Brits’, ‘The Americans’, ‘The Japanese’, ‘The French’ or ‘The Germans’ etc. Where is the root of this dominance now? I believe it is globalised.

      So now, Just as the speaking of Latin presented affordances of advantage, so it is now with the English language. It is this affordance that underscores one of the main attractions of international schools to those seeking a better life (or maintaining one) in ways that engage with internationalism. In the case of your school, the many languages on offer will act as an enticement to a parent seeking distinction of a different kind. More power to you.

      In the section on ‘the international gaze’ you will note your own point, that parents choose these schools for a particular reason – for reasons of ‘distinction’ (Bourdieu, 1984). This is often a response to global dominance, and it is the bread and butter of many international schools. So, the issue I am raising is problematic, because it highlights systemic injustice, but offers no quick and easy ‘solution’ to the economic issues that may (or may not) follow an ethical redress of these matters. I am not alone in thinking that we have become addicted to a steady flow of quick solutions to very complex issues, and we tend to dismiss things with more involvement and look for those quick fixes. It is in our archaic nature, but draws very powerfully upon our cognitive heuristics that privilege deep dark schema and bias. In this way, it is by definition anti-progressive.

      On the bright side, this is not a ‘wicked problem’ (despite what some people may think), it can be resolved without disadvantaging people, but it requires a collaborative approach with multiple stakeholders. I like to think more of a rising tide that brings all boats up, rather than an ebb that disadvantages everyone. Also bear in mind that there is plenty of value in a just society. In the 1800’s in the US South, people thought banning slavery would bankrupt America. The matter was highly divisive, (see civil war), but there was that little word ’progress’ which was so popular and accordingly slavery was abolished and the US eventually went on to be the richest country on earth. Something it hadn’t been previously. Slavery was consistently ‘misrecognised’ as an economic issue bigger than it was. What was much more important was the soul of a nation.

      Finally, an opinion. I am willing to wager progress is still valuable, progressive is powerful, and that there is profit in being inclusive.

      Thanks again for posting Anna.


    2. “Critical” “Theorists” aren’t particularly well versed in history nor any other topics that don’t fit their preset ideologies. These are theses in search of evidence. In the long duree, many languages have served as the “lingua franca”” even when the world was far less inter connected. Greek, Roman, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Turkish. In fact, as recently as the 18th and 19th and midway through the 20th century, it was actually French, that was universally the language of the literate and educated classes. ( Eurocentric view, but not entirely). As things are evolving, there is a fair chance the grandchildren or great grandchildren of today’s English speaking upper middle class striving families in the developing world will be attending Chinese International Schools and learning to speak, read and write in Putong hua. I doubt “critical theorists” will be allowed as a reputable discipline in Chinese academia. So there is hope…


  9. These ideas have been discussed quite a bit on ISR. I’m not sure what this article adds to the discussion. Anyone attempting to be aware of the economic and racial disparities in education knows that discrimination, unfortunately, exists.

    Alex studied white Anglo- European teachers in nothing but white Anglo-European countries. A white man studying whiteness and privilege in Austria near his family’s home in the Alps. Why not publish more articles where educators of color share their thoughts and experiences on these issues?


    1. Thanks anonymousperson9876, your comment is very helpful.

      I think what the article shows is growing momentum in this area, which is needed – wouldn’t you agree?

      I also think a closer reading of my article would help here. The analysis is based upon ‘field’ once you have read and understood that section, your later comments may no longer be applicable. I would urge a more critical read than an interpersonal one because, if you are just reading the title, my name with a quick skim of the text and then my bio, I can understand your words. My name is very long and British sounding, isn’t it? However, your comments are so particularly helpful because they uncover a further of bias in this context and I am thankful to you for it. If I may, I will unpack your race-related comments a little below:

      1. A white person obviously has more advantage in this context. It follows that a white person is likely to be in a less exposed position to conduct this type of research. If you read the literature on whiteness, and listen carefully to non-white colleagues, then you will know what I am talking about.

      2. Non-white people face equal and increased amounts of antagonism and conflict in this kind of work (and often far more personal and egregious than what is going on here on this forum), these are normalised strategies employed by the more powerful (dominant field agents) to discredit the field a-typical point of view. This is because those (white) people call into question all manner of issues related to race, not least partisanship and ‘personal revenge’. E.g., “Yes this non-white person has an axe to grind / is racist themselves / is a failure and blames it on race… etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum. This is symbolic violence, and its aim is to keep the status quo, and maintain the field structure as it is. (You can see this articulating very strongly on this thread as commentators equate justice with losing money, privilege and benefits).

      3. Privilege is misunderstood and misrecognised. Many educated white people (teachers n particular) think that racism is overt and individual (as in “Jonny is a racist”, not covert and systematic (as in recruiting and remuneration policies in international schools). Here a quote from the original article.

      This symbolic violence is perhaps unrecognised by successful field agents – being white, and perhaps blind to their advantage – but it is experienced by recipients as emotionally draining and a continual struggle (Miranda 2003; Phillips 2003)
      (Gardner-McTaggart, 2020, 13)

      For my part, I work in line with the values of the University of Manchester, and it is my professional responsibility to research injustice with an aim for better futures. Personally, I believe, that people like me (white) have a responsibility to act, to counter, to expose, and to work in every way we can to redress the injustices that those with our skin colour have committed over hundreds of years and still do today. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would expect nothing less from the other.

      4. The context of central Europe with those top schools is ‘field leading’, (Bourdieu), therefore ‘field defining’. This was the crux, and pivot of the article. Not ‘getting’ that point will lead to confusion.

      I hope this helps, thanks for the comment and keep them coming.

      All the best,



    2. The few articles written by authors of colour find a real defensiveness on this very forum. Why are people here – TEACHERS – so defensive when discussing race? Are you totally unaware of what is happening in America and how that affects the world?


  10. The article raises some important points but as it is based on three schools, many of the assertions are not translatable to other contexts.

    I’ve worked in over 50+ schools outside of my home country, and I caution to label them all ‘international’ because many of them don’t label themselves as international, and depending on your perspective of ‘Global versus Local’, they can be seen as simply local, private schools in those countries.

    I now own a school myself, and having worked from the classroom to being an owner, I fully understand the economics of how schools work, including packages etc.

    Of course, discrimination exists by ethnicity, gender, nationality etc, and these bad practices have been talked about for some time, but private schools, by their very nature, are driven by capitalist imperatives, and those teachers that choose to work in private schools, maintain a system of segregation in-doing so. The idea that there should be equity within a neo-liberal system of private education is one that very few people are comfortable confronting as they themselves are proponents of those systems

    Would all teachers forfeit their ‘international’ package and all accept a ‘local’ package and still do the same job? I doubt it, and having recruited over 4000 teachers in the last 13 years, I see the assumed privilege that comes with the passport holder, not necessarily the ethnicity in all cases.

    One thing that interests me greatly, is the idea of cultural imperialism by Western educators, and how we now see a visible trend of educators importing social and cultural arguments from their home countries into the country that they are now choosing to work, and assuming that that particular society should dance to the beat of their home country.

    It pains me to witness this, and this in-itself, is Western domination, and the lack of criticality around this is where I see the biggest gap.

    Unfortunately, this discussion is very nuanced and I could talk all day about it, and still not give it the justice it deserves.


    1. Thank you for these thoughtful comments Shaun – Alex here. The study was based upon six schools in German-speaking Europe. The key theoretical tool of field analysis is where the knowledge lies. It assumes that generally, there is a field of international schools that you will witness at those job fairs, in those schools, in communications and even here on this forum. The analysis deploys Bourdieu’s thinking and says: “OK, where is the top of this field, who is it made up of, what do they think/believe, and how did they get there?” With this known (in the participants’ own words), and still in field analysis, the researcher can then assume that these people, their language, their backgrounds and how they ‘manifest’ in the social world, is what defines the field. All six directors had worked widely around the globe before taking up these prestigious positions.

      So, there have been some very helpful comments here. To start with, there are a couple written by non-white educators, which if you take the time to read, I am sure you will agree, are sobering and painful. Unfortunate though that is, these confirm the field analysis by showing how the field is indeed defined in this way, because when most people (the more dominant field agents) here seem to be concerned with losing money (economic capital), these non-white commentators are talking about symbolic violence levied at them because they do not quite ‘fit the field’. There are also other commentators in this thread who rather perfectly demonstrate (no, I did not pay them to do this 🙂 ), quite how the dominant field agents use their cultural capital to keep things the way they are. They for their part deploy a range of communicative strategies to do this ranging from the more interpersonal ‘cancelling’, and discredit, to the more functional: focus on the economic ‘realities’. While the anonymised commentary allows for a more pronounced degree of ‘enthusiasm’, the views and comments expressed are perfectly aligned with the field analysis.

      I am surprised at the amount of commentators who immediately misrepresent the thinking in my article as ‘They will hire local staff, and everyone gets less money”. The article does not even once so much as hint at this – but I certainly take the point being made. This tells me that the field represents the local teaching populations as threat, and this thinking is (typically?) deployed by dominant field agents (and those performing ‘the international gaze’) in order to maintain an underlying spectre of scarcity. In most living groups, scarcity promotes competition – this is only natural because in order to survive, we have to compete for resources that may no longer be abundant. So, from a leadership perspective, invoking scarcity is a deeply divisive anti-collegial strategy, but, in a somewhat dark way, it can ensure dependency on the provider of the limited resources – i.e. the employer and its representatives.

      Also, very helpful were some comments to the effect of ‘the locals want the white face -its what they are paying for’. This confirms my analysis based upon ‘gaze’ in this case, the international gaze. Through a complex history emerging from colonial pasts, the ‘gazed upon’ (the locals) demand the advantages of the gazer (the culturally advantaged). So, we see the international gaze is a compounding issue in how the field is defined by demanding whiteness – or so we are led to believe. I think more work is needed here, and I am not entirely willing to accept this quite yet.

      Finally, the article never once talks about people getting paid less. It is ironic actually, because this has become the common thread following an article that talks about whiteness in international schools – draw your own conclusions. The article talks about the ways that payment is decided, that they are essentially not only unfair, they are unjust. For sure, it would be unjust to do this in a national private school, and it would probably be illegal in a lot of state schools, but to do it in international schools is somehow doubly insulting because they are supposed to be international. (It’s a simple point really).

      I hope this helps.


  11. In my 25+ years’ experience working in the MENA, I have noted that remuneration is indeed based on where you come from. Reasons for this may not be as obvious at first glance. Arab communities have budget constraints. They recognize that the cost of living varies across the globe, so a USD1,000 doesn’t go as far in the USA as it may in Pakistan, Malawi, or Egypt. Other factors are also considered, for example the expats from USA, UK, and Australia pay tax back home, while other nationalities do not. Such western expats are compensated in order to draw them (and their expertise). Regardless, we need to keep in mind that if you are offered a job and don’t agree with the contract terms, you are free to decline the offer.
    The article seems to have focused on three schools in the EU and refers to the ‘White, Anglo background’ of its staff. Why is this peculiar to the author I wonder.? Consider the demographic of the EU. Compare this to schools in Africa, which is the second largest and second most-populous continent. The demographic of educators there is reflected accordingly. This is not about discriminatory practice, it reflects a ground reality.

    I may have totally ‘missed the boat’ in my reading of this article, but I wonder – what is the author’s hypothesis?
    Is it that IB schools cannot benefit (as much) when the teacher cohort are white, with Anglo upbringing. If so, this smacks of that naïve slogan to ‘decolonize education’. I say naïve because the problem with this is that knowledge is not ‘different but equal’ and discussions about curricular content are precisely about differentiating superior knowledge – that which is worth preserving and passing on to a new generation – from mediocre knowledge which is not. Under this rally cry, Academics who have not voluntarily diversified their reading lists and updated course content to make it more inclusive will find themselves under pressure to ‘internationalize the curriculum’. Although the vocabulary might be slightly different, the intention is the same: to decentralize the western intellectual tradition and the canonical works that comprised yesteryear’s higher education, in favor of teaching content that can be shown to represent biological, rather than intellectual, diversity.
    At its most cynical, this is a marketing technique, designed to attract revenue-generating international customers to learning institutions. Martin Luther King dreamt of a day that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skins. Why does the author seem to be doing this?


    1. The main point of the article is that international schools should be more international – in their staff. This is because they promote themselves as diverse and multicultal space. This is quite a rational ‘ask’. I am sorry if the idea behind the article is not clear. I hope this helps.


    2. If two teachers with similar accredited credentials and track record are hired by an international school, the school should treat them on par, pay a similar compensation, and provide same opportunities for career progression, provided they make similar contributions. You can’t put one on a pedestal and undermine the other. Only local taxes matter, not how much college debt you have back home. Do you know how many people of color are in leadership positions at international schools? Extremely few. Just see their names on the paid side and google their names.You will just see all white faces and it’s an exclusive club. They will hardly talk to folks who don’t look like them at job fairs. It’s about walking their mission statement talk and it’s as simple as that.


  12. I have to fully agree with the author and the points raised applies to a vast majority of private international schools, both for-profit and not-for-profit. Of course, there are exceptions, but even they are doing the bare minimum. Here is what needs to be done:
    1. Train your faculty in anti-racist education and establish reporting channels followed by consequences for aggressive and rude behaviour. Both faculty and staff should be taught to treat others like they expect to be treated.
    2. Admission officers should not intentionally avoid classrooms with teachers of color when giving a campus tour to prospective parents. What kind of internationalism is this?
    3. Provide due representation to all faculty on both academic and non-academic committees based on individual strengths, not merely based one’s linguistic power.
    4. Stop writing leadership jobs profiles to intentionally filter out teachers of color, even when the latter have Western credentials.
    5. Give all teachers their due in your media and marketing campaign. Don’t offer excuses based on customer-demand. If you can educate their children in international-mindedness, you should darn well educate their parents, too.

    It’s a shame when people of color lead Fortune 100 companies and conglomerates as CEOs, we have heads of schools who constantly undermine their minority faculty. So much for PhDs and EdDs.


    1. I think it is pretty hard to train schools in anti-racism if they don´t have many teachers of colour!!! One of the worst problems is people who have no personal experience of racism trying to now talk about racism. It is the same as “To Kill A Mockingbird” being hailed as the paragon of the black experience—written by a white person, because the curriculum did not find a black author worthy! I find it rather shocking at the defensiveness of many of the people on this forum. That pretty much highlights the problem!


    2. And now from the point of view of a student. Her classroom teachers and most specialists are white except for some of the language teachers. In her year group just 10% of the students are white. Less are native English speaking. So, she is a minority in her school. However, she is asked to represent the school more than the majority children. She’s a marketing director’s dream. Blond, sporty and a good student. She’s all over the brochures and other materials from the school. She seems to represent this ideal at the school but it’s a lie. It’s a sham. She’s happy and loves school. However, her closest friends look like her. The local kids are very rich like many of the other students. She’s a teacher’s kid and hangs with the other teachers’ kids. It’s not what I expected to happen. I pictured more mixture in her friends. After all, she was born in E. Asia and has always lived overseas in Asia. Is there a natural separation that is cultural perhaps? My kids were always in demand in China because the parents wanted their children to speak English. Unfortunately for them my kids spoke Chinese. Their popularity waned since they weren’t of use. What does that say? It’s a bit sad. It makes me think that we’re being used. Used for marketing. We often get criticized for our lack of assimilation or cultural understanding but we are also kept at arms length. If we are treated as separate people as commodities, then how will things change?


  13. The school I work at is diverse. Students from more than 30 countries. Teachers and Administrators from more than 10 countries. Various religions, sexual orientations, and melanin concentrations. The foreign hires do get paid more, but the local hires could get paid more if they moved away from family and friends and worked in another country. To my knowledge hiring is done on merit, I don’t think there are quotas in place , though there are very few male teachers in elementary and middle school. there are more males in administrative roles, but they aren’t exclusively male or exclusively Caucasian. The high school faculty is almost equal gender wise, and shows a diverse constellation of skin tones. It is a not for profit school, teaching an American curriculum, and offering an IB diploma. The school board is also diverse. The thought of mandated equity kind of scares me. It could result in someone who is less qualified making a critical mistake in a decision that could have dire consequences. This doesn’t mean someone more qualified isn’t going to make a mistake, but it is less likely in my experience.


    1. What about mandated equality? A favorite far-right conspiracy term by the way. (Perhaps you mean something else?) Pushing equality is what the best corporations in the world do. Its also what the world’s leading democracies do. Its what groups of people tend to do naturally when they collaborate. If you are referring to affimative action, then that works in recruitment by choosing the under-represented demographic over the dominant one, only if the applications are considered to be of equal merit.
      BTW, your school sounds like you like it, but in the grander scheme of things, it doesn’t sound very diverse given what most international schools say of themselves. High school equal gender wise? I presume you are referring to the leadership team.


  14. Thank you all for your contributions as they clearly demonstrate the lived reality of these schools. This is exactly what I had hoped for in this forum. I work in line with the values of The University of Manchester and those are ‘knowledge, wisdom, humanity, academic freedom courage and pioneering spirit’. Unlike many researchers in international schools, I worked in one for five and a half years as a teacher and middle manager. The research reported on in this article was located in different schools from my own, but the observations were borne out by my experience.
    If you would like to know more about how the knowledge for this study was generated, I invite you to read the original article (and the methodology section) in the peer reviewed:

    Journal of Educational Administration and History

    If you cannot access it, you will find a pre-print on my University:

    PURE profile

    I will now respond to some of your comments.

    First of all, it is a stimulus piece, intended to get the ball rolling on this topic, and all comment is welcome. The study openly states that it sought to explore the ‘top of the field’, the most prestigious schools, etc. The analysis was based upon the sociological concept of ‘field’. You may disagree with Bourdieu and what the application of field implies, but as we all know, the top end of international schools is as reported, and if you apply this kind of theory, you will find whiteness, and plenty of it. This is a fact, not an opinion. The question now is, ‘So what?’

    Secondly, research in the social sciences often deploys methods and approaches that are more likely to be trustworthy and accurate in the light of the ‘human’ element. Positivist approaches have changed the world and we owe much to them, but are criticised for lacking insight and detail in people research. Interpretivist ones offer depth, but suffer from the ‘double hermeneutic’ where the researcher’s interpretation can be unreliable. Critical approaches apply theory, and thereby offer intellectual rigour. Misunderstanding this is not uncommon in how non-professional researchers may understand knowledge generation. Critical theory is mainstream research in the social sciences (and elsewhere), and understandably disliked by conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists because it uncovers and displays how power works, who profits from it, and who loses and who manipulates it. In this way, the comments say a lot, and show clearly where these schools and their people sit.

    Finally, not all schools are like this – how could they be, they are enormously varied and spread all over the world? To boot, there is a growing school trend in China which is quite different from what was traditionally understood as an international school. However, I would venture that just saying “not all schools are like this” is dangerous because then the worst offenders are likely to say “that’s not us then!” If I may move away from the analysis and provide an opinion, it would be to say that all schools, regardless of what they think they might be, can, and must be better in demonstrating internationalism, diversity and inclusion – through their people.

    This piece is a challenge to dialogue and thinking for schools that market themselves as ‘international’ or those representing hugely diverse countries such as Britain, the USA, Canada, etc.

    For me as a specialist in (educational) leadership, this is probably the best time for a school’s leader to exercise true, meaningful, ethical and paradigm-changing leadership. Change is obviously coming (that’s just an observation, not an opinion), and international schools’ directors and owners just have to decide whether they will be constitutive of it or not.

    That is all.


    1. ” critical theory ” is mainstream ? only among its proponents, and laughed at by anyone of erudition beyond the post modernist philosophy. Playing the race card is the gold standard indicator of a shallow thinker, hiding behind talking points such as “conspiracy theory, white supremacy, and systemic racism”. You charge international schools as being racist, I ask you “compared to what?” Dialog requires examination of all sides, the social justice side of the argument withers at even the mildest challenge and resorts to calling the challengers “racist”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @anon jan 15 9:45am. Thanks for your contribution, It seems our experiences are quite different of higher education, but thanks for sharing. Good luck, stay safe. Please post more if you feel its relevant.


  15. Other professionals have already made here very rational and fact-based responses to the original post. I find the original poster just the sort that I would expect in teacher training or a social studies department: social ideology first, facts and wider considerations ignored. Even the rather pretentious name makes me wonder whether this actually is a wind-up. One simple point already made by others: of course expat teachers’ salaries are different. Expats normally do not have the right to retire in the host country. In my country of citizenship, UK, accommodation is very expensive. You need a salary, preferably with a pension (which more often than not you don’t get in an expat job), that will allow you eventually to retire without ending in penury. If host countries offered only local salaries, they would get hardly any western people applying. What is more, local parents will go elsewhere if an “international” school is staffed by “kampong” teachers.


  16. I question the veracity of the anecdotes upon which you base your opinion. It looks to me to be connected to “critical theory” and the current woke or identity politics narrative being pushed by Marxist groups. From a research perspective, basing your conclusions on such a small and obviously biased sample from 3 very homogeneous countries is disingenuous and not very academic when viewed through the lens of solid scientific protocols and not the subjective and inherently biased social science view. Equal opportunity not equal outcome is the guarantee . I ask “compared to where” when you imply a racial bias in hiring educators and admin. Post modern philosophy is not rational.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cultural Marxism is a far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory which claims Western Marxism as the basis of continuing academic and intellectual efforts to subvert Western culture.[1][2][3] The conspiracists claim that an elite of Marxist theorists and Frankfurt School intellectuals are subverting Western society with a culture war that undermines the Christian values of traditionalist conservatism and promotes the cultural liberal values of the 1960s counterculture and multiculturalism, progressive politics and political correctness, misrepresented as identity politics created by critical theory.[2][3][4]

      While the theory originated in the United States during the 1990s,[5](Abstract) it entered mainstream discourse in the 2010s and is promoted globally.[5] Today, the conspiracy theory of Marxist culture war is promoted by right-wing politicians, fundamentalist religious leaders, political commentators in mainstream print and television media and white supremacist terrorists.[6] Scholarly analysis of the conspiracy theory has concluded that it has no basis in fact and is not based on any actual intellectual tendency.[5][7]


  17. I agree with another commenter that you must consider the “why” factors.

    Now, this essay does bring up points think about. And obviously it doesn’t feel good to not feel as valued as someone else. I know this first hand.

    But what’s the solution? Forced equality and racial quotas (also known as “equity”)? That will not work as it goes against the simple economic concepts of supply and demand.

    I know this may hurt feelings, but the truth is that all languages, cultural norms, and curriculums aren’t equal in the marketplace. People are not going to pay the same amount of money for their kids to learn language X in the X curriculum versus language Y in the Y curriculum. You can’t force that.

    Yes, while there is much to be desired — qualified and capable teachers that aren’t white are hired everyday, especially if they have the “right” passport and “right” credentials behind them.

    I think we need to be careful with these nice sounding articles and think about the end game when we follow these ideologies. As with any other time when you try to force equality, everyone ends up worse off than they would have been otherwise.

    Certain western societies have been having an issue with the rise of “cultural marxism” as of late, and more people need to be aware about where these ideologies lead to.

    The truth is that life isn’t fair, and everyone is not equal. The solution is to get the skills that the market is willing to pay for.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Being a non-white westerner, I also experience the racist attitudes of white teachers in schools and often mistaken for a local hire at the beginning, attitudes change once they get to know that I’m not.

    I observe young, inexperienced and naive white teachers climbing the management ladder within their early years of teaching compared to non white.

    Students have this false impression that because a teacher is white they are more experienced than non white teachers.

    On an interview day, a white teacher would get a better smile and welcoming than a non white teacher and the employer seems to be taking more interest and sparking a conversation with them than the non white.

    I find that non-white teachers who work extremely hard don’t get appreciated or recognised.

    This is just my observation.


    1. This is a valuable comment. Unfortunately those who profit from white advantage often have little empathy with those who don’t. It pains me to hear stories like these, and then see comments that obviate the pain and injustice that the systematic racism in these schools causes.


    2. I totally agree with you. And I find it amazing the defensiveness almost racist overtones of many of the posters on this forum. They may want to go on Amazon and get a copy of “White Fragility.”


  19. The author seems to have only looked at a small portion of schools within one geographic region within the world. Are all regions the same?

    In my region there isn’t a lot of diversity when it comes to school heads, but there is some diversity when it comes to principals and middle leaders (curriculum leaders, tech leaders, APs, etc.) Also, at my school I’d say we are very diverse. The number of “white” teachers is actually in the minority.

    It would be great to be able to pay local staff the same as we do foreign staff, and some richer schools in my country (China) do that. We can’t afford that as are a tuition driven school and we strive to keep our tuition at a reasonable level. If we charged what Beijing or Shanghai schools do, we could afford to do it.

    I’ll point out something someone else had said too:
    1) There is no way I would come and live in a foreign country if the salary wasn’t more beneficial than staying in my home country and teaching.
    2) We don’t get pensions doing this, so we need to make enough to put money aside for that, which means schools do need to make it attractive for foreign teachers.

    Lastly, I will point out that many countries have VISA requirements of WHERE you got your degree. Calling out International Schools for only hiring “western” educated people without stipulating in your research or data the “why” factors of why those people are hired presents a bias. (The whole paper has a tone that is highly biased, and I am curious how it was published as such, but that’s a different question for a different time.) Perhaps look at the regulations of the country which International Schools have to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I work in Japan, right across the sea from you. I find that I agree with many things the author of the article said.

      I’m not ethnically white, but I’m from one of the few First World “white” countries. Being a non-white female, I am often treated with disrespect and sometimes outright racism by many of my white colleagues.

      At many schools I’ve worked in within Japan, white people generally held a lot more power and sway than all other teachers combined. Not only that, in many instances when they abuse their power, their actions are ignored by those in higher management. I should know, since I’ve spoken to numerous Japanese principals about certain bad (and sometimes illegal) behaviours – I even had one principal tell me that although one certain white male colleague abused their power and in doing so, created a toxic work environment, he was still “cute in his immaturity” and thus everything was forgivable. The onus, he said, was on ME to try to get along with that colleague, since he acknowledged that that colleague would never change.

      At another previous school, the only foreign native teachers given tenure were specifically white, male, and married to Japanese women (to show they were committed to Japan). This was the pattern in all six schools under the parent company. Although, to avoid any accusations of sexism, they granted tenure to one white woman, and to avoid accusations of racism, they granted tenure to one African-American male… versus some 30+ white male teachers within the six schools.

      I’ve also had white male colleagues tell me to my face things such as racism and sexism within education did not exist. However, just because they don’t experience the negative side of discrimination and harassment does not mean they don’t exist.

      I’m sure there are other narratives out there that are very different from mine. I can only talk about what I see from the perspective of a non-white female working in the “international education” sector.


  20. Before tearing down the status quo it’s important to understand why it exists. For that we must understand why parents send their children to these schools, specifically local parents. More often than not it is because their children otherwise would not have access to the discourses found in the American or European universities they hope to send their children.

    So we cannot completely devalue the “Western candidate who has the ‘right’ teaching qualification, the ‘right’ experience, and the ‘right’ degree.” I would strike any judgment based on skin color, and concede the point that discrimination is rampant in hiring. But why are parents and schools paying so much money for these teachers? It is precisely because they have been educated, taught, and lived in Western countries.

    Too often this conversation is bathed in high-minded platitudes from teachers who do not realize they themselves are abusing their privilege in order to pat themselves on the back for fighting for ‘justice’ or ‘equality.’ I have taught primarily in majority-local international schools, alongside local teachers that were paid much less than me. Why? Because those teachers and I are part of a different labor market. I am not going to leave my home country to work in China for Chinese wages, and if the school paid its Chinese teachers what I made, none of the parents could afford tuition.

    What is really happening here is not discrimination but a local international school operating within its limits to bring on a select few foreign staff to enrich the curriculum with a flavor of education not otherwise available in the local public schools. Who are we to deny parents or schools this option and force on them our notions of ‘equality?’

    It’s a lot easier to tear things down than build them up and I would suggest we be careful about imposing our priorities on others, especially when most of us in this conversation had the privilege of the type of Western education many of these parents fight hard for their children to have access to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have so accurately expressed what I wanted to say. I am a grandparent paying for a the education of a child in one such school. Why? Because the state run schools are chronically underfunded and provide a rudimentary education. Barely. My hope, is that one day the child in question will attend school in the west. Preparation is key. Therefore, I am willing to pay substantial fees to ensure the best, possible educational outcome. I cannot save every child. But if I can help this one to have a better life then I will do so. I am not wealthy by western standards. The child is not white. Education is key to success in this world. We all do what we can.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you, these are interesting commnets.
      I suppose we are not talking about ‘devaluing’ (the right candidate) we are talking about ‘valuing’ (all candidates). Also, there is probably no real need to ‘tear things down’ because if things go on like this, they will tear themselves down. What would be helpful is more international representation in staff, you know, Africa, Asia, South America as well as Europe, North America and the Antipodes. many commentators have mistaken the rationale of the article as suggesting local staff should be preferred – far from the point, the whole idea is to increase international staffing that isn’t just white.
      These are not ‘our; views of equality. These are international human rights (as recognised all over the world), and the section on ‘the international gaze’ in the text addresses this point.
      Having the ‘privilege’ of a Western education appears to have made us arrogant, Western-centric and pretty selfish really doesn’t it? (Read on on the thread, you’ll see what I mean). Why not share this privilage with our teaching colleagues who don’t have it by investing in them? Just an idea – I can’t imagine that all non-white teachers are rubbish, and wouldn’t become brilliant with a good BA/MA PGCert funded by a progressive international school. That’s probably the way around this whole mess.
      All the best,


  21. There are two obvious factors at play in a school’s ethical and real-life operation. The first is the protection of the administration and leadership’s power. The second is the protection of 2nd rate management (from principals all the way up to board level) from scrutiny and accountability. The power that school DG or Heads enjoy, as noted in the above article, provides them with almost dictatorial authority and control over all elements of the public and private presence and reputation of their school. They are handsomely rewarded for their ability to recruit ¨international¨ (usually Anglo Europeans) educators, fill the school with willing, illusional payers’ (parents) kids, low cost support staff (usually locals) and avoid, at all cost, unionized or staff protections and agitation. These cash cows must, at all costs, make an enormous profit for their owners or if non-profits, meet or exceed budgetary expectations. The more the ¨leaders¨ can ensure these outcomes, the more they are valued.
    The 2nd rate management issue is a serious problem for far too many so-called international schools. It stems from numerous failings inherent in the selection and recrutement process used by these schools. They often rely on three paradigms to recruit: word-of-mouth (references from fellow administrators), recruiting agencies (whose bread and butter is getting their candidate hired, regardless of their actual suitability) and the vast network of job-seeking administrators, many of whom have left former schools in a predictably difficult and disorganized situation. Far too many of these people are fleeing issues and histories, either from their home country, or from former employers, who often will give them good references just to get rid of them (this is also true of teachers and support staff).

    Private International Schools, for the most part , are like the old west movie sets; all glitz and IB glamour on the outside but actually facades that don’t provide anything close to true internationalism, diversity, modern critical thinking or advanced, leading edge education but rather the same old ¨tried and true?¨ methodology that Dewey, almost 120 years ago outed for the failed approach it still is. ?
    I have worked in 5 so-called International schools and only one of them approached anything resembling a modern leading edge institution. If my experience (which might or might not be representative of most educators’ experiences) holds merit, then less than 20% of international schools actually deliver the goods. Why would they be any different than the local or public schools where education long ago took second place to babysitting services?


    1. Omgarsenal, your statements ring true for some, but not all, private schools. However, it also brings home to me that I have worked only in not-for-profit schools, where locals found it hard to believe that outside of the school staff (custodians to director) NOBODY ‘made money’ off of the school. In my last post, they literally could not wrap their heads around the fact that there was NO owner, that the school was ‘owned’ by the parent body at the time, and that the charter governing it legally spelled that out. Crazy huh? And yes, it was quite a multi-cultural school, with staff from every inhabited continent in a range of ethnicities.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. This is interesting omgarsenal. Why is management so poor? Or, why is the professional set up so antagonistic? My guess is that its because of the power imbalance. When people work together, share decisions and feel like adults in the room, they tend to be more collegial. This is what healthy schools do and fairness is deeply rooted in all of us, when we see it being abused, we (usually) fight back. For most people this means little more than talking behind people’s backs, for a few it means challenging authority (yes, good luck with that in an international school) and for some its ISR, and for others still, its a case of joining them, because you can’t beat them. When teachers get paid in ways that make sense, then that makes it all a lot better too, and this is perhaps the most effective way to foster respect and collegiality in a school. The reality in international schools is far from that. Affiliation to, and respect of, leadership is more about fear, exacerbated dependency, Stokholm syndrome, or worse. Directors are little barons, paid much too much with far too much power. Every international school teacher knows that to ‘make it’ means getting out of the classroom into a cushy office in a school with a fat salary. (Sorry, but this is insane as a motivator in a school setting). The heirarchies are disproportionate, and the sysematic divisions imposed by management mean that micropolitics are off the charts. Most international schools’ teachers spend half their life doing the job of the principal or director in their heads, and then spending the rest of their life deeply frustrated. You see a lot of that on this forum. The way around this is to try and get in with the admin., obsequiousness should be a formally recognised competency in this sector – I suspect it already is. Everybody has been there, and if you haven’t, its because you change schools every year or two and get references from friends, or its because you never noticed you were doing it.

      At the end of the day, its a deadly formula: too much power at the top, too much heirachy in between, and too much unfairness in hiring, firing and payment.

      Reading some of the comments here, it is good to see people defending schools where this doesn’t happen. I have certainly seen some schools where things are a lot fairer. However, these are the exception, not the rule.

      So why don’t teachers leave these antagonistic places? Well, they do, all the time and frequently. However, often they can’t because they are comitted with families and kids in the school. The teaching realities back in the West are now so dire due to cuts, cuts, cuts, that people just ‘push on through’, take the ignorance and stupidity and bank the salary. (Again, what a dire motivator for an educator).

      Agreed omgarsenal. All tinsle and no soul – how can you have a soul when you treat teachers like the worst countries on earth treat immigrant workers and claim to be Anglo-European and educated? They should know better.


  22. The schools I have been at have had teachers from many different countries, not just White Anglo-Saxon. They definitely fit my style and approach with their dedication to multiculturalism and hiring based on certification, skills, and experience; not just on WASP-ishness.

    I know of schools described in this post that also fit that bill in terms of their facilities, etc. Again, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t really cut it anymore, where many of the top international schools are much more responsive than those that feel a need to show the WASP face to put (local national) students in the seats.

    It is also disingenuous to put out a local/expat divide. Our local, national hires are indeed paid on a different pay scale. But they are also not going to retire back to a Western country where costs are much higher. I have had local staff mention the disparity to me – yet they are allowed unlimited children at the school (some had four) at a tuition benefit of $80,000. Yes, there are schools that don’t offer any tuition benefit for local staff; however, I haven’t worked at one and I can only relate my own personal experience. There is a difference in pay, but there is a difference in how much it costs to retire back home vs in the country which expats are currently working in.

    I would urge the writer to work his way to the directorship of a school and then staff it with local certified teachers, to put his model into play. Keep the pay and benefit equity. Provide them everything which is in an international contract – housing, flights, western medical, emergency medical flights, etc., keeping in mind that personnel costs are over 85% of most international school’s costs. Don’t worry about hiring certified teachers from Western countries, unless absolutely necessary. It will be interesting to see how well the school fares from all of the families in the school community.

    Alternately, the writer could scale back salaries to those which the local teachers make and remove benefits, which theoretically would foster a greater sense of multiculturalism and staff cohesion as everybody would be in the same boat together. But again, it would be interesting to see how such a school fares.

    I have worked with many (non-local) colleagues from Europe, Asia, and South America, as well as people of different races and ethnicities.. It is not an exclusive WASP community, at least at the schools I’ve been at. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’d like to think not. For me, the writer makes some points, but applies it widely to all schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there are ways to make pay more fair. My last school changed the pay scale so that the base salary was the same for both local and international staff. Then the international staff had the extras on top of that for being international – housing allowance, flights, etc. You don’t have to destroy the school to make pay more fair.

      Liked by 1 person

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