Could Age & Experience Be Disqualifying You?

This recruiting season, International Schools appear to be favoring young, less experienced teachers over not just aging educators (for whom it’s always been difficult to land a teaching position), but over experienced educators in general. WHY?

It’s now common knowledge COVID continues to take a financial toll on most all International Schools. Enrollment is down & remains uncertain. To survive, schools are cutting costs. This should explain why this recruiting season less experienced educators appear to have an advantage. It’s been said, “You can hire two newbies for the price of one seasoned educator.” Tough times & compromises go hand-in-hand.

Over the past 18 years ISR has visited the topic of discriminatory hiring practices in International Schools, from racism to ageism to sexual identity. This recruiting season, unlike any before, we’re learning seasoned educators, normally in demand, are sending out scores of resumes yet not receiving so much as a nibble. Where does this leave the rest of us?

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

35 thoughts on “Could Age & Experience Be Disqualifying You?

  1. Overall, this is a “Race to the Bottom”. By that I mean, schools, which should be encouraging greater development of students, of which teachers are always a student, are disincentivizing teachers from investing in their own education. Why spend thousands of dollars on Master’s and Doctoral degrees when the return on that investment is so minimal or less. Teachers would do better financially putting the money into an ETF and develop their retirement portfolios rather than their CVs. As a result, this gives little incentive to the very students we teach to want to improve their educational qualifications. As I said this is a “Race to The Bottom”. Are we looking a new and literal “Dark Ages” coming into the world?

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  2. This has been discussed before, and as one commentator said this is seen throughout the corporate world. I would extend this discussion out to the perceived effectiveness of the teacher, and to the perceived attractiveness of the teacher. Note the word perceived. Sorry for the Darwinian and ‘Lord of the Flies’ note of this post, but that is how I see teachers are perceived, recruited and retained in the international teaching world. Fellow teachers, admin and parents are all involved in this.
    To those who are aging, including myself, I can only say stick to your true self. I am in the position where I can continue teaching internationally in a somewhat peripheral position, and I don’t hide my positive and negative attributes as an older teacher.
    P.S. Big shout out to admin who hire non-discriminatively, kudos to you.

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  3. Age is a factor for most, but not all international schools. So older teachers will have more trouble getting the job they want in the place they want it. Older more experienced teachers are wiser, and can’t as easily be fooled by BS administrators, and are hence more threatening. Older teachers also have more health issues. So that’s the way it is.

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    1. I second the sentiment of not taking the BS. Watching young and inexperienced admin right now sabotage several teachers while promoting her cronies into admin position they too are under qualified for. So grateful I’m leaving this year!

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  4. Yes, I am older. I have 4 masters degrees and a doctorate in special education. I have been successful in each school where I taught and come highly recommended. Personally, I have not even used the insurance in any school where I taught because I am so healthy. However, when people look at 79 they immediately envision an old woman who can’t get around and will be difficult health wise. This is sad and regretfully I do want to teach in another country. I do teach 4 days a week at a local community college but I love the living in other countries and immersing myself in the culture. it is an issue.

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  5. the costs of experience in teaching are not great. A job will advertise the pay often and a few years or decades experience may not be relevant.
    However, age discrimination has always gone on and is very common outside of Europe especially.
    Outside of the established, European run/based international schools where age is not always a factor, but I have seen adverts for teachers capping age as low as 35!. This is especially common in private schools where a white face and blue eyes are the main requirement. Mine are green and I have had difficulty finding work since I was about 55.
    I now am 62 and I gave up looking for teaching work. In fact, if it were not possible to work for one of the larger international school chains, (even then I wouldn’t trust them completely), I would never have stayed in teaching knowing then what I know now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Europe’s not so great, either. When I was job hunting last year (at 63), several schools in Europe wouldn’t even look at me.

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  6. I am 75 and have recently signed another 2 year contract. When I turned 60, a school whose mission staement proudly boasted that one of its ekey values was life long education, informed me that I was too old to recive another contract. Luckily I was able to secure a job at another school which didn’t seem to have an age restriction. However, when I turned 67 I was told to look elsewhwre for employment. At a small job fair in Bangkok, my first interview began with:
    “The first thing I need to tell you is that I am 67.”
    “So what? I’m also 67”
    After a further 10 minute conversation I was offered a job, and have continued to receive contract extensions on the basis of teaching skils and not my age. I count myself extremely lucky that I have found such a supportive group of administrators and parents.

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    1. Hi Alan,

      At 64, I’m a qualified educator with over 30 years of teaching, management and leadership experience. I recently spent 4 years in China teaching Cambridge A Level history.

      I have the energy, passion and drive that will put many a young teacher to shame. But my age has held me back from securing a teaching post in Asia.

      Please let me know if you come across a vacant post. I hold a postgraduate degree in History, coupled with a TESOL qualification and a Post-graduate Higher Diploma in Education.

      I wish you a Merry Christmas and a great New Year.

      Thank you.

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  7. I feel that what a lot of these “I’m so expensive” posts are forgetting is that most schools cap your entry level for a new position. Despite my 30 years’ experience, I came into my new school at a level 8, so I’m not making that much more than someone with only a few years’ experience. So, not, it’s the age.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I am very successful getting interviews but not one job offer! All the interviews have taken place in the US. I cannot do it anymore. My breaking point was an automated rejection email, after a long interview. Completely unprofessional! And to make matters worse, the wrong generic rejection letter was sent to me, as there a mention of gratitude that I applied but moved to other candidates, blah, blah. The school found me first. Enough is enough— final straw

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  9. Long before COVID this was going on. I found it noticeably more difficult to move schools when I needed to above the age of 50. And that was some time before work permit age limits started to kick in.

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  10. Fact:

    “The incentive lies in hiring the teacher with 30 years experience for the price of 8 years experience. My new school is getting a bargain:-)”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This certainly seems the case in my school where the experienced are too expensive and being replaced by youngsters. This is great for youngsters getting a foothold in international education, but the pupils are the ones who suffer from the lack of breath and knowledge of their cheaper inexperienced teachers. Still who needs experts? In these Covid times,in both education and science, it seems money is more important than life .

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    1. You are spot on. A few months ago I met teacher who works at school charges parents 65k per year! And she appeared to careless about the students and more about her lovely apartment and lifestyle in NYC..

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    2. Ageism is alive and thriving in international teaching. Math teachers still tend to be in demand into their late 60s and if you have physics, even better. Anything else, forget. The humiliation of reporting to some jumped-up know-it-all ‘principal’ in their 30s is just too much.

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  12. Is this anything new? This happens all the time, everywhere in practically every business. If people find this surprising, then these same people need to pull their heads out of the sand and look around, especially corporate America.

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  13. I’ve recently left education after a 10 year teaching career. Fve of those years were spent at an international school teaching Algebra I and II in China. I’m currently 1/3 of my way through my MBA and working as a revenue auditor for a casino.

    Any organization will only pay you in line with the value that you bring to the company. As a classroom teacher, the value that you bring is limited since you can only teach one class at a time. Thus, a profit minded school will hire teachers who can teach classes without much support or guidance in delivering instruction, for as low a price as possible. That means hiring certified teachers with a B.Ed, State Teaching Certificate and 2 to 5 years experience.

    It’s not just international schools that see things this way. US based private and charter schools see it this way as well. The value-added concept is why teaching as a profession suffers from wage stagnation. It was also one of the reasons I sited for leaving the profession during my exit interview at my last school. No one disagreed with me. it is what it is.

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    1. Not sure I follow the logic here. Ask most teachers, and they’ll tell you it’s around the 3 or 4 year mark where you really feel you’ve started to ‘get’ it. So by hiring 2-5 year qualified teachers, you are more likely to find teachers who need support – both professional and emotional – and they are also more likely to move at the end of their initial contract, incurring usually a cost of the annual salary + 1/3.

      The other thing that schools forget is that, if I’m applying to your school, it’s because I want to work there. I’m having schools ask me upfront about my existing salary – I know I’m pretty well paid comparatively, but I’m prepared to take a cut in salary to move to certain locations. But the schools don’t know, because they don’t ask.

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  14. I think the level of degrees you have can also be a factor. Even though we want to make sure we are giving our students the best educators who are certified, teachers with masters and doctorates cost the school more than a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I didn’t think schools have pay scales. The one I worked at didn’t.
    I was told by HR at a school in Taichung, Taiwan that they let people go once they hit 65. They think once a person hits 65 they are no longer able to do as much. So there you go.

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    1. What a load of rubbish that is. In my last o/s school it was the older teachers who did the most from playing and coaching teams; taking students away on excursions; running tournaments; raising money for charities; attending educational trade fairs; etc. if it weren’t for the older teachers these things would not have happened.

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  16. I feel this is true, and I totally understand. I am a costly hire. But I keep thinking about why I continue to teach at my age, and the answer is always the same…I still have so much to give and with that comes my maturity, my experience, my wisdom, and years of fine-tuning the successful learning environment. I may be costly, but who would you rather have in your schools and classrooms? We need both. We need the new fresh energetic teacher, full of new ideas, but we also need the more experienced to help guide and encourage and be there to motivate the next generation of “difference-makers”. There is a child out there that still needs me as their teacher.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly. Unless there is a huge gap between 0 experience with a BA and 8 years experience (the typical cap) and a Masters, there is not that much incentive to hire the newbie. From the pay scales I’ve seen it’s only a few thousand dollars difference, 10 or 15 at most, usually less. If a school is hurting that much, I’d distrust their ability to stay afloat during my contact. The incentive lies in hiring the teacher with 30 years experience for the price of 8 years experience. My new school is getting a bargain:-)

      Liked by 1 person

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