Are YOU Tier-1 IB-School Ready?

There’s no shortage of outstanding schools that are neither IB, nor tier-1. The question, however, for those of us aspiring to a tier-1 IB school is: What does it take to land a position in such a school?

Here’s how ISR Members see it:

Generally, the rule is you can move up a tier or over from one region to a more desirable region with each successful 2-year Contract. So, if you start with a third-tier (Contract 1), you’re looking at a floater third-tier in a better region. Your second time (Contract 2) would be a second-tier IS. Next, Contract 3 is a floater, and a first-tier IS in Contract 4. So that’s about 6 years in IE.

“I think the fundamental premise is to have deeper pedagogical content knowledge which means you can guide all students successfully, both in terms of every day learning as well as steering them through complex assessments, projects and extended essays. 3-5 years is a good time span to experiment and refine teaching/learning strategies.

“Three to five years seems about right. The rest of your CV needs to tick other boxes as well, and of course there are always exceptions where someone got into a top-tier school with less IB experience. So, don’t hesitate to apply already. And of course there are top-tier school that don’t do IB.”

It depends on how you define top-tier. I got a teaching position at a top-tier IB school with 2 years of IBDP experience. However, I would not describe that school as a top-tier school even though I have seen it appear regularly on numerous ISR top-tier school lists [in the ISR Member Forum.] I did go on to teach in what I would classify a solid top-tier school after 5 years of teaching IBDP.”

What can also help is having international experience in the same region or a similar type of country in terms of level of development. A tier-1 school in Senegal might prefer experience in a similar(‘ish) African country rather than in Western Europe, since some countries are not for everyone.

Good News for Less Experienced Educators

Under certain circumstances, COVID-related Visa restrictions are working in favor of lesser experienced educators. Take China, for example: If you’re currently in China at a tier-2 or tier-3 school, now could be the right time to make a move to a tier-1 IB school. The mere fact you are in-country with a Visa in hand can put you ahead of a more qualified candidate not yet in-country and for whom Visa acquisition restrictions may be a detriment to their candidacy.

YOU may be more IB tier-1 School Ready than previously thought.

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12 thoughts on “Are YOU Tier-1 IB-School Ready?

  1. A more interesting question, for me, is what IS a tier 1 school. I feel that to be truly tier a school must have ALL of the following.
    1- genuinly board run, non-profit
    2- multiple accreditations
    3- top notch campus and facilities
    4- high achieving students
    5- compensation that attracts and retains the best teachers.

    Many schools have some of these traits and pretend to be a top school, but unless they have them all they are tier 2 or 4.

    Also, how many tiers are there in your ranking system? In my system there are five tiers of international schools.


  2. I personally seek out tier 2 schools. They’re usually smaller than tier 1 schools so you get the chance to really know more people. Many tier 1 schools are also such because the workload/demand is high. I appreciate living your job but I also love a good mixture of work-life balance and in my experience, tier 2 schools do a much better job of providing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am currently at a Tier 1 because I was in the right place at the right time.

    I have never been so stressed out and overworked for what I consider a very overrated institution. Programs and facilities are not the ‘cutting edge’ they want to think they are.

    On paper I have a decent pay raise compared to my previous school, but somehow it is not translating into much more in my bank account.

    I have 7 years of IB experience at tier 2 schools. Tier 1 was never my goal (I save my ambition for other personal endeavours) but I was optimistic about the opportunity.

    Sadly it isn’t working for me. I’m looking for the exit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This isn’t directly related to the topic, but why do I see so many IB schools that bloviate in their mission statements that they are creating “lifelong learners” but refuse to hire anyone without IB experience? It’s a curriculum. A good teacher would have no problem making the jump but yet IB experience seems to trump teaching/content knowledge

    I don’t actually care at this point in my career, but I am curious what the rational is behind that. I tried applying to IB schools a few years ago after 4 years of experience as an AP physics/math/CS teacher and while I had a few interviews, I was always told I lacked the necessary IB experience.


    1. I think it is by design. IB sees itself as an exclusive culture and uses this in their branding and requirements. They use it to sell more “PD” courses and convince schools of the IB exclusivity and pedigree. If you remember that the program was created by and for wealthy European diplomats it makes sense.


  5. I’ve said this before: “Tier One” is about the size of a school, not the quality of a school. A school needs to have close to a thousand students in order to afford to pay the teachers the packages needed to attract candidates that will be able to survive the pressure from parents. I have three preps at my current small school. Some years I had one semester courses as well. I like the breadth of classes. Once I move to a larger school, I am going to teach several sections of one or two classes. I have done that as well, but it isn’t as enjoyable to me.

    If you bring a calculator to job fairs, the question “Am I ready for an IB Tier-1 School?” is different than someone who wants to be able to teach the courses she or he wants to teach, or not be in a large snake-pit where teachers are fighting to stay in favor, or clawing their way into an admin position. I think a better question to ask is, “What kind of teacher am I, and what kind of school do I want to teach at?”


  6. Current school has a good reputation in the country. However, they don’t identify nor parade themselves with being a “top teir”, which I believe is a good thing. I got this job without any IB experience but did come from teaching IPC. I’ve been in this IB school for 5+ years and when I finally decide to move I most certainly will not be bothered about a school’s “top teir” status. I have my own personal check-list and a school’s ranking doesn’t feature in it.


  7. My last school decided to introduce the IB. I teach music. The curriculum was the most useless, ridiculous waste of time I’d ever seen. There was an entire long section on Pigmies music. I convinced the principal of that and we did not implement it. From what I saw the curriculum was created by a few people trying to be as out in left field as they could get.


  8. As someone who has worked at IS Manila (horrible work environment) & IS Moscow (even worse), tier one schools are often some of the worst places to work, however they are great for tier one egos, which I don’t have. What you want is tier one balance. When you find it, stick around for a while. I’ve downgraded in schools but upgraded my life by moving on to a smaller, lesser known school in Oman. Wish I had gotten here sooner.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting article. I personally prefer to avoid the stress associated with the so called Tier-1 school that teach an IB curriculum. I tried it once and never again will I put myself in that situation. I’m at a wonderful school now. What tier it is, is not important. Find a school you love to work at and pays you reasonable well and be happy.

    Liked by 1 person

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