Countries w/ Expected Teacher Exodus, 2022

An ISR Member Writes:

We have all heard about the potential Chinese teacher exodus due to closed borders, changing laws and many other changes. However, I’m expecting other countries will also have something similar. From my best understanding, the following may happen:

(1) Large teacher exodus from Singapore due to being stuck on a small island for 18 months. Of course – they will have no trouble getting people applying but I’m expecting a large turnover this year.

(2) Large turnovers in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. I’m actually expecting many of these schools to have no trouble getting teachers, but high quality staff with international experience will be in shorter supply.

What do your tea leaf readings tell you to expect next year?


ISR Members Respond:

You might see an exodus of experienced older teachers from the UAE. International schools have been squeezing staff dry in terms of pay, contact time, extra-curriculars, inspections, etc. Even the younger, cheaper teachers are beginning to see it’s not worth the hassle here.

“I know some people are cutting their losses (or at least willing to) and plan on leaving China + SE Asia, entirely. People coming from better schools that I’m in touch with are even talking about taking a ‘year off.’ If you have enough savings and need to get back to family after 2+ full years stuck in a dystopia, why not?

“Expect an exodus from the 3 American schools in India. All have huge drops in enrollment as multinational corporations pull families out of the country, embassies and consulates doing the same.”

In Taiwan staff can return to my school after 2 weeks quarantine plus one week self management, effectively 3 weeks. This puts people off knowing that they will be stuck here for all but summer holidays.

You can already see the exodus from Vietnam in job postings. The government cancels your visa if you leave the country. Ho Chi Minh City is just now coming out of a total, military-enforced lockdown. Most schools are telling staff if they take holiday they won’t get back in. Some have not seen family in two years. The lockdown was brutal.

Note: The preceding is transplanted from the Member Forum where ISR Members will find 36 informative entries on this interesting topic. See Countries with Expected Teacher Exodus 2020. Go to Member Forum

Comments: Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion Topic

49 thoughts on “Countries w/ Expected Teacher Exodus, 2022

  1. I work at a top International School in a smaller country in SE Asia who have managed the pandemic relatively well. Whilst not being able to get home has been jarring for many, things are now starting to open up. It doesn’t look like we will have a large amount more turnover than normal years. I guess we are lucky.

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  2. The British independent schools franchising their names to what increasingly seems like every and any third tier city in China are going to live to regret it. In fact the entire western educational sector is going to live to regret so closely tying itself up to the country.

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  3. I was in China when Covid broke out and was stuck in country. I saw many expats that were separated from their spouses and children from the beginning of the pandemic and it was incredibly difficult for them. I watched many of these teachers struggle for nearly two years with no end in sight (some given false illusions of reuniting with family from their admin). Pair this with the new tax laws that will be in place in January and the message is clear. Expat families are NOT welcome in China. If you go there without your family be prepared to be separated indefinitely and to make less money. During the pandemic I had experienced increasing xenophobia and restrictions to what I could do as a foreigner. I left China and found work elsewhere and it was very much worth it. I enjoyed my time living and working in China but with the boarder closures, watching families being separated, new tax laws and increasing xenophobia I knew my time there was at a close. I do not anticipate the situation becoming better there in the near future. In fact, it will likely becoming increasingly restrictive in the future.

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  4. This post is for young teachers who are wondering whether their international career is worth it anymore. As a former international school teacher who has retrained and entered another profession, I was waiting for this thread to emerge. Without the ability to freely travel and engage with local communities and learn local cultures, are the benefits of international teaching really worth all the costs?

    I can say that it took me three years to be employable in my country again. Employers simply do not take international teaching seriously, although some do acknowledge the intercultural skills that could have been developed. However, most just see overseas experience as a flight risk and experience that is less relevant and verifiable. It has been a difficult journey and one I will never recover from financially. All those years of working for meagre pay and not paying into my national pension plan will leave me working until 70 at least. Now, I’m working under people much younger than me. Most of my friends are now earning six figures and well invested in local real estate, while I am entry level and renting a shabby apartment.

    Would I have done it all over again knowing how difficult it would be to reintegrate and knowing what I was giving up? Maybe. Would I do it now with all the other added nonsense? Not a chance in hell. When I read about all these teachers working abroad right now and sharing how their employers breached contracts and added extra work because of covid, it just reminds me how much one can, over time, slowly accept terrible working standards in these schools.

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    1. Very relevant thoughts abut what is important to you in the long run. Re-entry is often difficult, I’ve done it myself (and after a while I decided to come back to the international circuit). But, how long does the ride last? It gets wearying for many people after a long time, and home often calls. Can you make a home overseas? I have, which involved my overseas partner and residency. But what if you run out of options, or are forced back to your home country, as I have seen? The realistic question is: where are you going to go when you get old/sick/can’t teach anymore?
      It is possible save a lot international teaching, depending on where you are, but it constantly amazes me how so many international teachers have little meaningful savings. I also find many teachers are quite casual about having real estate back in their home countries, which is important in these days where most real estate is increasing in value, sometimes quite significantly at a rate higher than teachers can save.
      I would definitely choose this life again, it’s been a fantastic ride. But I’m also aware of what I needed to do financially.

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  5. Teaching in International Schools will take a major hit because of the problems with movement due to Covid restrictions. Add to that has been the issue with regards to UK Brexit which has hit European Schools badly. The need for UK teachers to apply for and be granted Visas to work has created its own problems as few countries have sorted out their own regulations and are often playing tit-for-tat with UK government regulations regarding their own nationals.
    Here in Spain it is taking well over 2 months to obtain visas for UK nationals and often even longer with other non-European nationals. Therefore Spanish based UK cirriculum schools are looking for teachers that are already resident in their countries so as to avoud the need for visas. Unfortunately this has not prompted a rise in salaries or the introduction of a benefits package to enhance the appeal of one school over another, as can be found in many schools outside of the EU.
    I feel relatively safe in an developing American school with a growing enrollment, but with constaints over salaries due to national acceptance of lower salaries. Spain does not pay high salaries as it is supposed to be a nicer climate within which to work.
    Movement in and out of the country has eased and the government has coped quite well with Covid restrictions.
    Turnover of staff at my school is very low in comparison to many others.

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  6. For a while I thought I had made a terrible mistake leaving my teaching job in Malaysia and returning to cold, dreary London. But I managed to get a fairly decent job and I am actually enjoying traveling on the tube for the first time ever. Lock down in Malaysia nearly drove me insane. Now I think taking this year off was the best thing I did.

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  7. In China, the government has enacted crippling anti-foreigner immigration policies and because it’s been nearly impossible to import staff, many schools have recruited solely from within China for 2021-22 school year. As a result, even “good” schools have seen a decline in the quality staff (it seems like if you have a heartbeat and a PGCE, and you’re in China, you can get a job). My school took a risk this year and also hired a handful of external recruits, however the difficulty with visas meant that most of them missed the start of the school year. And due to the change in tax laws that will reduce net salaries from January, devastating for teachers with families, my school only hired singles and candidates with no dependents last year. We haven’t been able to travel out of China and come back for nearly two years, and our management are still non-committal about whether they will allow staff to travel in summer 2022. If expats can’t get out until summer 2023, for many that will be four years before they see their families again. It looks like this year there will be a bonanza of opportunities in international schools, especially in China. But if you apply to schools in China, you can’t predict what you’ll be getting into. Any rational teacher working in China would be looking for work somewhere more flexible, that’s for sure.

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    1. I don’t understand why it’s taken teachers in China so long to realise that the sector is about to be nationalised and that working in China compromises your morals. There’s a genocide happening there, as well as a comprehensive anti western media campaign. It’s been time to leave for a while.

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  8. India, particularly those with children. Primary schools and preschools have been closed for 2 years (almost). Anyone who could leave last year has left, and I think anyone who can leave this year will leave. All the teachers I know are planning stay either have family ties to India that prevent them from leaving, or are single and colonialist-minded (giving themselves a life they could not afford somewhere else like having not just a maid or a driver but a cool as well and having brunch at 5 star hotels every weekend while they complain about how hard it is to live here)…

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  9. Personally this will be my last year working in a school. I have decided to leave teaching. The pandemic has exposed the uncomfortable fact that I only found my job bearable because it allowed me to travel the world for 3-4 months every year.

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  10. From a school in Western Europe I expect there to be a ‘normal’ level of movement this year, particularly within the region and people returning to their home countries. But I think most people are happy to sit tight and wait for things to settle down before making any bigger, more adventurous moves to other regions. My school has plenty of its own problems that aren’t related to COVID but most people need the income and stability and it’s too risky to move at the moment.

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  11. I don’t think there will be an exodus from South American schools. Despite the covid madness, and the upsetting number of deaths, the quality of life is very good. No strict rules, sun, beaches, generally happy work environment, no stress. I am in Rio de Janeiro and have no intention to leave any time soon.

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  12. Brunei has become almost unlivable. Strict lockdown, overwhelming paperwork and costs to leave and return and very little hope for change in the future. People are leaving already and honestly I would not want to be a recruiter in this environment.

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  13. Singapore appears to be trying to open up again to the world with new rules of vaccinated travel lanes opening but for many the two years of no travel have weighed heavily; it’s a small island!!!! And the likelihood of Bali weekends or interesting travel in the region seems a long way off. Rules rules rules… always changing… it’s been a rough two years here for teachers. But not as bad as some of our friends in the region we know. Package is still good… but is it worth it to be on a small island so far from home? Expect an exodus from Singapore… a lot of good teachers are fed up and homesick. But know what you’re getting into when applying…

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  14. I expect that we’ll see quite a shift in the types of staff employed in many international schools now that the quality of expat life has taken such a decline in most parts of the world. What’s the incentive to stay in a country which you effectively can’t leave more than once a year, where you can’t go out without a mask or which has generally used the pandemic as a means to accelerate anti expatriate regulations (I’m thinking China but there are others too)? Unless, of course, you’re in dire need of a job or the financial package is life changing.

    The top international schools will either have to up their game to attract the best teachers and retain quality or hire teachers with lower standards and accept a drop-off. Meanwhile the newer rent-a-name schools will undoubtedly attract younger less experienced staff who are desperate for anything other than the UK/US; they probably won’t be much good but will have all the glitzy facilities and apple suites to bring in their nouveau riche customers, meanwhile the doors of recruitment will quickly start revolving when these staff realise it’s all a fur coat.

    The pandemic has accelerated the shake up with international education and many of its teachers needed.

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  15. I’m one of those that’s taken a year off because of covid. I couldn’t get home for 2 years (the quarantine system) and we all took a 20% pay reduction, with 15% less on our housing benefit. Some staff were made redundant including our principals and we were all feeling burntout with the extra workload and online teaching. Best decision I made- I’m loving not working and feel privileged to be in a position to do this. If you can I’d highly recommend it. I’m currently looking for international school employment for next year. There’s quite a few positions posted at this early stage in the year. China has a huge number but I have little interest – too many issues with visas. I’m hoping by the next academic year there will be some normalcy in schools again.

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  16. In Thailand, it’s is mixed depending on the school. My school got us vaccinated and we’ve received our raises and bonuses, but if we had to do quarantine upon return from summer holiday abroad, we had to pay. My partner’s school hasn’t had step raises in two years. Their vaccination scheme was way behind my school, same situation for quarantine, but 3 weeks into the school year they needed to make redundancies due to low enrollment. THREE WEEKS INTO THE SCHOOL YEAR!!! After they’d welcomed their group of new teachers. That’s NA for you.

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    1. Wow, you are lucky that you can support your partner still. Your partner needs to write a review and expose Nord Anglia St Andrews about how immoral and unethical they were in this situation considering they hired new teachers even with low enrollment.

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  17. Yes, China will see a massive amount of teachers leave. Many schools write their contracts in $USD and with the exchange rate, these teachers have seen their salary get drastically cut over the last year. So why stay here where it is super difficult to go home, your salary is on the decline, not to mention the new tax laws that go into effect in January which will further reduce salaries significantly (very few schools are even talking about that).

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    1. Absolutely agree with the previous post. I work at BASIS in China, and am worried about the same things. We get a $4000 travel allowance for our family and I to go home and yet it wouldn’t even cover the cost of one ticket. Other friends at the British school are facing the same thing. Just doesnt make financial sense to stay.

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    2. I’ve been stuck in China since the beginning of Covid. Had to spend over a year in the same city because every school holiday there would be an outbreak somewhere and we would be told not to travel. It takes a toll when you never get a break from the usual China headaches (internet restrictions, very difficult to transfer money out of the country, etc.). The media has blamed foreigners for importing the virus from abroad, so we encounter suspicion and arbitrary rules (‘no foreigners allowed here’). Leisure, entertainment and travel are surprisingly expensive, so there isn’t much to do if you are trying to save money. I haven’t seen any financial reward for staying here during the pandemic nor incentives to continue remaining here. In fact, schools just seem to be asking more and more from us to try to placate parents.

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  18. I can verify Vietnam but the fact is that this country has already seen a mass exodus of teachers across the board, not just in international schools. The government began changing their policies on who could get work visas without warning, which forced a lot of people to abruptly leave because suddenly their school could not renew their visa. Some of them had been teaching for years on the same visa but suddenly were considered unqualified due to new requirements. Now on top of that, the government completely botched the quarantine; as one comment said it’s been incredibly long and brutal, not to mention utterly mismanaged. They’ve only just begun to vaccinate large enough numbers of people for things to somewhat return to normal, but many people are just sick of it at this point and want out.

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    1. Let’s remember that Vietnam kept us all relatively safe and free to travel in country during much of this pandemic while most other countries were in disarray and many their people were dying. The lockdown has been hard, but the country is slowly opening, and we haven’t had to put up with the nonsense from anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers.

      Thank you Vietnam!
      American in Vung Tau

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  19. Our school in Shanghai advised its teachers to stay in China since early 2020 threatening staff with job losses if we left. Amidst the pressure of being stuck here in order to keep my job I was told that to look for another job mid contract, despite having been here three years was, you guessed it, ‘unprofessional’ and that getting a reference would be ‘impossible due to Covid.’ So despite there being such an unprecedented situation it would seem that teacher retention was my school’s only concern despite their bleating on about teacher wellbeing. The fact that the contract states that a 3 month notice was needed before you could leave did not seem to concern the headteacher at all, whose one sided approach to the whole situation and refusal to acknowledge staff’s sacrifices has been a damning indication of this man’s character and lack of empathy.

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  20. Hong Kong. Leadership in schools here anticipating a difficult recruitment season. Many people are leaving due to strict Covid quarantine rules (3 weeks quarantine in a hotel at your expense). We’ve been stuck in a gilded cage for 2 years. Another reason is the fast changing political climate. The speed at which things are changing is very unnerving. Hong Kong will still be popular but the Covid and politics might put people off.

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    1. Exactly this. They aren’t even giving us hope for the future – for summer 2022, the priority is the Chinese border, not international. I’m giving up hope. It feels like they want the foreigners to leave and are content to keep chipping away at the One Country, Two Systems early.

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  21. Just like everyone has different motivations for wanting to teach internationally, everyone will have different motivations for wanting to find their way out of it. We work at the pleasure of the customer, like it or not. If there are a lot of them, then there are plenty of jobs. If their numbers decrease, then so will the jobs. Based on what I read at ISR, there is a huge variance in the way that schools have dealt with the realities of decreased enrolments due to COVID. We all know that teaching itself in the past year has not been much fun, and add to that health stresses (physical and mental), financial worries, job security, country instability, inability to go home for a rest, and you have a perfect storm of reasons why people, myself included, might want to get out of this. I know I speak from a position of privilege that not everyone has when I say this, but none of us have to work for crappy administrators at schools that may have once been good, but now squeeze and squeeze and squeeze, without any concern for the people providing the very services they are charging exorbitant amounts for. Life is just far too short to feel trapped in a bad place and not be able to go home for extended periods of time. Covid has changed this game and it’s not ever going back to the way it was. Your sanity can only be guarded by you, everyone else is too busy guarding theirs. There will always be other jobs.

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  22. My school in Thailand have been great. They paid for my quarantine arranged vaccine and we even got our annual bonus in August. Some staff went home for summer with school flights then funded their own quarantine on return. Although lockdown it’s not a bad place to be stuck!

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  23. Jakarta, Indonesia: Online solidly for more than a year (March 2020 until June 2021.) Now hybrid with complex rolling timetable changes and asynchronous kids all over the place taking advantage of being wealthy and able in swan about in the USA shopping and dining out and “working” asynchronously. Plus many, many very challenging kids accepted to make up the shortfall in company pay students. Faculty are exhausted and ripped off left right and centre for covid tests and a draconian quarantine when returning. “Acceptable” vaccines not available widely, only less effective Chinese versions, so Brits in particular cannot get home. The school asks a lot and used to give a lot. The giving part is looking a bit ragged. They say probably no more hybrid after January but no-one really believes that. School is doing its best to be good about it but it’s just exhausting: constant change and uncertainty, many folks not been home for two years, Jakarta is pretty horrible to inhabit without a break. If hybrid continues, expect a few waverers to leave, there’s many on the fence right now.

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  24. Indonesia will have one too. Many staff members leaving and have left JIS because of heartless leadership, cut in benefits blamed on covid, poor healthcare and quarantine to re-enter. Workload has increased to the point of burnout because they are afraid of enrollment falling further, so they do everything the parents want.

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    1. Yeah, there’s some sneaky benefit cuts for sure. Salary not so great these days. Mismanagement by the suddenly departed, unlamented director has left a mess. Is it worth it? The school is functioning on the intense efforts of the faculty. Healthcare here is a worry without the emergency back up in Singapore. It’s a shame really, it used to be a fun place.

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    1. After not being home for 18 months, I wish I had too. I urged a colleague not to break contract this summer, she did anyway, and and ended up getting a plush job in Canada immediately. Now I am thinking I might too. The lifestyle that we do this for seems to be years away from returning, if ever. Look at our world ‘leaders’. A deranged old man in Washington and the largest country in the world trying to cover up their responsibility for something that has killed 5 million people! It really makes your stomach turn.

      China and the USA might be on the brink of a major conflict over Taiwan. What I wouldn’t do to be cozy up in Whitehorse.

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  25. There certainly won’t be a mass exodus from my WE country. Nobody at my own school is planning to leave. There have been many staffroom conversations about this and even teachers who want to move on eventually are holding off a year due to uncertainty about this year’s recruitment season. Most of us are spooked by troubles some ex-colleagues had with visas to new schools in other countries over the summer. And due to membership in a consortium programme, I know many people in other international schools in the country, and nobody I know at these other schools in country is leaving either. It seems people already in place here are mainly planning to stay and sit out this year’s recruitment.

    Of course there will be some vacancies in our country, but I anticipate the competition will be intense.

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  26. With respect to Vietnam, although it looks as though we will be losing a few staff this year, this is to some degree a correction – this time last year when decisions were being made, Vietinam was in a very good place relative to lots of other countries in terms of covid, and staff who might otherwise have been ready to move on may have decided to sit tight and wait out the pandemic in a country which at that time had few cases and few restriction. Now, staying the extra year doesn’t look to have been a good move but if more staff move on this year, at least some of that movement is just last year’s movement delayed.

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    1. Vietnam had the most draconian lockdown of all. I expect a lot of people to leave. It was too brutal and people are about to break psychologically.

      There is no clear indication that anyone will be able to return home this summer either.

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  27. Expect a large exodus from GEMS schools across the board. No raises last school year OR this year and they gave NO notice, just kept the pay scale the same. MANY teachers are disgruntled and looking for jobs elsewhere.

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    1. To be fair, they’ve done their best to keep people employed and honour contracts. That’s more than can be said for many other schools or groups.

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