Is This Really a Career Anymore?

April 6, 2017

..Looking around on Search Associates and TIE Online, I’ve noticed something: salaries and benefits in this industry are going WAY down, everywhere…and fast! Is this because the pool of applicants is rising? Or, is it because the number of schools is increasing?

I read recently that the number of international schools worldwide will double in the next 12 years. I’m not an Economist, but I had thought that supply-and-demand would benefit a teacher’s financial perspective since the pool of teachers would shrink relative to the overall demand of schools.

But now I’m wondering:  Because there are more schools, could this mean just the opposite — the larger supply of schools means an increase in competition among them, and as a result, they have to lower tuition fees and provide a more comprehensive service. This inevitably affects teachers who have to work harder for less money, as a lower profit-margin will certainly come out of salaries.

Schools can pay lower salaries as long as they have ‘X’ amount of well-qualified, ‘marketable’ staff who will ‘carry’ the lower-paid, less-qualified staff. For example, you see many more schools employing P. E. teachers from the Philippines, and Math teachers from India. These teachers may work for half of what Western teachers would earn. Many of these lower-paid teachers are great teachers, of course, yet they do not appear on the website of the American or British schools they work in. Who IS shown as staff on the web sites? The Western-certified teachers their PR marketers can flaunt, especially to Asian/new money markets.

In addition, salaries have gone down in the last 15 years. On Search, for example, there’s a school in Bahrain advertising for a ‘certified Native English speaker to teach math.’ The pay? $12,000 USD a year, not even minimum wage in some US states.

Is International Teaching turning the way of other mass-produced services and goods?  Are we becoming just a cog in the wheel? Are we a service that’s in demand, or simply like another disposable component in an ever cheaper cell phone? What will International Teaching be in twenty years when the market is squeezed further and technology takes a bigger market share? You may wonder: Is International Teaching still a wise career choice?

Any thoughts? Anybody else notice this trend?
(ISR Note: This post was adopted from the ISR Open Forum)

How Long is Too Long at One School?

October 15, 2015

 Dear ISR, I’ve been at the same school for five years. I love it here! The country, the language, the school, the kids and parents…just about everything agrees with me…except the tap water. Last week the Director, who I respect and admire, asked us to drop a note in his box saying if we were planning to sign on for another year. It’s not a binding commitment, just a heads-up. I said I would be staying.

A few days later the Director called me in for a “chat.” I soon learned teachers who opt for a sixth-year, and beyond, are not eligible for expat status. This means, that if I stay, I will lose my housing allowance, medical insurance, yearly flight home and a number of other small perks to total about $10,000 in benefits–Thank you for your years of service. I didn’t see this coming and only have myself to blame for not doing the research. Although he doesn’t make the rules, the Director offered to take my case to the Board. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I’ve been looking into the topic of International Schools removing expat status after a set amount of time. Apparently it’s not uncommon. I’m getting the idea that International Schools aren’t looking for continuity or longevity in staffing, but prefer a revolving door of educators. Growing up in Florida, my school was a place of stability for me. It was a given. A rock. The Teachers were well known and were respected, or feared if they were especially strict. I looked forward to having the same teachers as my older siblings. I feel our international students, many of whom are raised by nannies and drivers, are missing out on this experience and would benefit from long-term relationships with educators who know them well.

I searched the ISR Blog and Forum for comments on this topic and unless I missed something, it has not been discussed. If you would be so kind as to post this letter to your Blog and open it up for teachers’ comments, I would really appreciate it.

Have a wonderful day and thanks for the work you do at ISR,


Schools That Change Their Names

February 5, 2015

rebrandingOver the years, we’ve noticed that some International Schools have changed their names, some more drastically than others. Why would a school do this? Here are our thoughts on the topic.

#1. It makes good sense that a school would add a word or two to its name to reflect a major change. For example, with the addition of a second language as the medium of instruction, the International School of Jupiter might become the Bilingual School of Jupiter. Likewise, adopting a Montessori format would prompt the addition of the word “Montessori” to an institution’s name.

#2. If a school were to expand its enrollment policies to include International students and not just locals, it stands to reason that it may decide to change its name from The Jupiter School in Crater One to The Jupiter International School in Crater One. Or, even simply The International School of Jupiter.

#3. Some schools, however, change their names so thoroughly that any and all connections to their former identity is totally erased. Why would the International School of Jupiter become Pluto Neighborhood School of International Education? Of the 13 International Schools listed below, 12 changed their names to just such an extent.

Are drastic name changes done for tax and/or licensing reasons? Or, is it an indication of new ownership or a complete overhaul of the facilities, programs & procedures? Are the name-changing reasons authentic and transparent, or are they to thwart unwanted attention from the glare of previous poor publicity and misdeeds? We do wonder why, if at all possible, a school wouldn’t want to retain at least some connection to its previous name, especially if  it were proud of its accomplishments & reputation under that name?

We speculate that a complete name change, especially in the absence of a regulatory advantage, new ownership or a major overhaul, may be motivated by promotional goals or motives similar to those of a person who changes their name from Bob Smith to Awesome McWonderful.

Of course, all these ideas are just speculation on our part. If YOU have taught at a school that changed its name, we invite you to share your experience. What prompted your school to change its name? What was accomplished by changing the name? In your opinion, was this a good change or a bad one?

Schools Reviewed on ISR That Changed Their Names
Current Name
Former Name
Beijing International Bilingual Academy China Kinstar International Bilingual School
Busan International Foreign School Korea International School Busan
Yongsan International School Seoul
International Christian School
American Baccalaureate School Kuwait American Bilingual School
Canadian Bilingual School Kuwait Gulf International School
International School Myanmar Yangon International Education Center
Muscat International School Oman Muscat Private School
Doha British School Qatar Doha Montessori British School
Awsaj Academy Qatar Learning Center School
Excelsior International School Singapore Emaar Raffles
Heathfield International School Thailand Lord Shaftesbury International School
Al Mizhar American Academy UAE American Academy for Girls
St. Paul American School Hanoi Vietnam American International School

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Best Schools for Professional Development

September 19, 2013

pd48724094In terms of Professional Development, ISR’s School Reviews reveal there are two extremes to what international schools offer their faculty.

Schools with a focus on Professional Development often offer fully paid trips to 3-day conferences that include keynote speakers, classes, workshops and social/networking activities that round out the event and unite international teachers.  Some PD-oriented schools pay for flights to the venue, reimburse for accommodations, and offer an additional per diem for meals.  We’ve heard of schools that also offer grants to attend courses around the world during the summer months and allow teachers to pick and choose which program would benefit them most. Other schools pay for teachers to pursue a Masters or Doctoral degree. Regardless, it appears that most schools offering excellent PD include the details in the signed contract or handbook of benefits.

Of course, the opposite extreme and utter lack of PD opportunities is found at some international schools. These schools won’t even grant you time off from teaching to attend a workshop or conference on your own dime.  Such schools actually discourage teachers from advancing their knowledge and skills.  Worse yet are schools that dangle the promise of opportunities for PD at interview time but refuse to include them in the contractual agreement. You can guess what happens next.

Keeping with our mantra of Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed, we’d like to invite you to share your experiences regarding Professional Development at your school. We encourage you to include the name of your school in an effort to help as all find the best PD opportunities available.

Consider these questions:

– Does your school provide opportunities for Professional Development? If so, what “strings” are attached, if any?

– Does your school keep its word and follow through on what was originally offered and contracted regarding Professional Development? Were PD promises that were made at interview time fulfilled?

– Apart from Professional Development, what does your school do to keep teachers current and up-to-date with advances in educational thought  (IB and AP classes, for example)?

– In your opinion, does the inclusion of contractually-offered Professional Development appear to be increasing or decreasing?

We hope you’ll join in the discussion and Share your experiences with schools that do, and do not, offer international teachers Professional Development.

A Parent/Board Member Speaks Out on For-Profit Schools!

May 16, 2013

legal_matters44019925Dear ISR,
I read with interest your recent article about legal threats made by schools and their attorneys against ISR. Apparently, reviews considered critical of schools, or the people who run them, have the potential to hurt some feelings. From my perspective as an executive in a multinational corporation (currently living in Asia), I recognize this knee-jerk reaction. A loud threat from attorneys is the way of business everywhere in the world.

  I had a brief experience working as a substitute board member for the international school in which our daughters are enrolled. A sitting member became ill, had to leave the country for treatment, and I was invited to step in for the remainder of the school year. In my time there I saw that this school was in all ways focused on the financial advantages of “providing an education.” In many ways, they ran a much tighter ship than my boss at my corporate job. This experience opened my eyes as to the disparity between the sense of caring found in public schools back home and the hard line profit motive found in private schools. This was a startling realization for me. Schools and teachers carry an aura of hope to save/help the world; but the reality is, this private school, and I would imagine others, was purely a money-making endeavor.

  I believe international teachers need to keep this financial focus in mind when applying to teach at private schools. Owners most certainly see you as a commodity and your value for XYZ School may be simply to provide one small cog in the wheel that drives the school. Yes, you may be a superb teacher with a heart full of life-enriching talent and knowledge to share with your students and administrators. But, more importantly to the school, you are a Western face in front of the classroom, a promotional tool to get more wealthy local and expat parents to enroll their children. It may be hard to accept that you’re just not that special to these school owners and your opinions and suggestions, however well intended and enriching, may not be welcomed. That is simply the truth of operating a business focused on profits.

  During my time as board member, conflicts arose when a teacher (and his division) pushed for sweeping changes to align the school more with the American education system. Although the school follows American accreditation requirements and the school is considered an “American International” school, these costly changes were never approved and ultimately, the teacher was drummed out of the school in an ugly manner for his efforts. I, too, found that I was seen as a nuisance in calling for fairness when dealing with this teacher and his frustration over the situation. I could see that he was trying to implement his leadership skills to guide the school in becoming the best “American” school possible.

  I have a new-found appreciation for my children’s teachers and coaches. When faced with a strictly for-profit motive, these teachers consistently carry out their duties, act like enthusiastic professionals and deliver a top-notch education. I salute their dedication and commitment in the face of what must be, at times, a miserable experience. The reviews I have read of this school on ISR mirror what I saw happening as a temporary board member.

  That being said, I applaud the communication and advice shared on ISR. Teachers take care of each other by writing reviews to laud good schools and administrators, and warn about others. Parents like myself search the reviews to find where good people are directing quality schools, where teachers are treated fairly and with respect. That’s where I want MY children to go!

Just remember, it’s business as usual no matter what country you work in.

(name withheld by request)

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Has the Boat Already Sailed?

April 4, 2013

downgrade_29328839From the ISR Forum: “I’m only too aware of the economics of my own country and that the quality of life for us as a family of four is being sapped. This is probably the underlying reason for looking at overseas schools.

“However, after recently reading several ISR Blogs, I am concerned that the lifestyle and package of international teachers is on the decline. Many posts comment on the great packages they used to receive compared to the packages on offer now. Many posts are commenting on the increasingly high cost of living without an equitable increase in wages.

“Whilst I know we’ll never be millionaires, the opportunity to offer our kids a quality education coupled with a life overseas is definitely forefront in our minds. I am concerned, however, that once we leave the benefits of the ‘teachers pension’ and remove ourselves from UK teaching circles, we probably won’t be able to return.

“Will the future of International teachers be at least as viable as it is now? Do you think the boat has sailed? Should we weather the storm at home and forget the possibility of a better life? We’d love to hear some thoughts on this topic.”

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The 1st Few Weeks @ a New School OR With a Change of Director/Admin

August 23, 2012

The new academic year is under way. Some of our colleagues are new to their schools and others are returning to the same school, but with a new director/admin at the helm. How you’re treated the first few weeks at your new school or by a new director/admin will set the tone for the academic year to come. Here are two scenarios for new teachers to consider. Which category describes your experience?

Outstanding Experience: You were no doubt greeted at the airport, then wined, dined and shown the local sights and school campus over the following days. With support, you quickly began to know the “ropes” and started to feel at-home with your new living arrangement and classroom. Most importantly, you’re well on your way to forming relationships with colleagues, students and parents—those little, school-sponsored socials are real ice-breakers. Relocating has been exciting, exhilarating!

Poor Experience: When your new school tells you to go find a house and “We’ll see you the first day of school,” you know you’ve made a mistake. Some of our colleagues are sadly discovering that what they were promised at interviews has yet to materialize and probably never will. Starting the year with the feeling you’ve been taken advantage of by a smooth talker is an awful feeling, especially when your career is at stake, your family is miserable, and you’ve signed on for two lo-o-ong years…

Returning teachers who find a new director and/or administrator in place will find the occasion one for celebration or mourning. We all know a school’s character and overall atmosphere is strongly affected by the people running the show. Schools with great reviews can suddenly go “south” when new leaders take charge; while the opposite can also certainly be true when a focused leader takes the helm of a poor school.

ISR hopes the first weeks as a new teacher OR your first experiences with a new administration at your current school are rewarding and the prelude to an excellent year of international teaching. While those first days of reception to a new school or admin are fresh and foremost in your minds, we encourage you to share your experiences  and first impressions with colleagues who can benefit from your candid comments.

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