Tier-Ranking International Schools

There is no master list, or even a universally agreed upon criteria, for Tier-ranking International Schools. Even if there were such a list under development, it’s doubtful teachers could reach a definitive consensus. Depending on personal priorities, the attributes of a Tier-1 school vary considerably from teacher to teacher, making it virtually impossible to set a standard by which all International Schools are measured.

Some educators focus on the size of the paycheck & benefits package as the main factors for assigning a Tier ranking. Other educators weigh in on curriculum, facilities & academic integrity. Still others, in pursuit of a Tier-1 experience, look for an admin that values teachers’ input. With so many individual priorities, a Tier-3 school for me may be a Tier-2, or even a Tier-1 school, for you.

Can a for-profit school ever be considered a Tier-1 school? What about a school made up of mostly host nationals? Are there Tier-1 schools in developing nations, or is the Tier-1 experience found only in fully developed locations?

With no agreed upon criteria to define Tier rankings, how do you interpret a Review in which the author says, “This is a Tier-3 school”? If you’ve been on the International circuit for any length of time, you probably have your own personal system of interpreting Tier ratings. But if you’re new to International education, these ratings hold little, if any, relationship to the realities of living & teaching abroad.

To help educators gain an understanding of the realities seasoned International educators are referring to when assigning a Tier-ranking to an school, ISR invites you to share your definition of a Tier 1, Tier 2 & Tier 3 International School.

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Please use our Member Area to discuss & rank Schools.

Master List of Tier-1 Schools?

masterlist35995405Does a master list of Tier-1 International Schools actually exist? We tried to find one with no success. This may be because what one teacher finds desirable about a specific school may be of little interest to someone else, thus rendering such a list subjective at best. Take, for example, a school in South America considered to be Tier-1. If I transplanted this school to Switzerland, it would no doubt fall to a Tier-2 or lower in comparison to other schools in the region. For Tier ratings to be valid, an awful lot of variables need to be accounted for.

Here’s another example of the subjectivity of Tier ratings: A school in El Salvador paying $30K offers far better savings potential than a school in Germany paying $60K. This fact is based on the the cost of living in Germany being 3-4 times that of El Salvador. If saving money is a top concern of a teacher assigning a Tier rating to a Salvadorian school, Germany would be far down on their list no mater how cool it is to live in Berlin.

Housing, medical insurance, transport/shipping allowance, number of preps, class size, quality of facilities, safety & interesting things to do outside school are also important when rating a school. But as we’ve seen, because these points are not of equal importance to everyone considering the same school, one person’s Tier-1 assignment can easily become another’s Tier-2 or -3.

When accompanied by an explanation of why a specific Tier was assigned, the Tier-# suddenly becomes a useful piece in our recruiting decision-making puzzle. What Makes an International School a Tier-1 School? is an informative ISR Blog created for sharing school Tier ratings. An outstanding part of the Blog is that many teachers include an explanation for how they arrived at their rating.  This Blog first appeared in 2011 and it will be interesting to see new schools added and also how previous ratings may differ today in 2014. The ISR Forum also has an interesting Tier discussion in progress that you’ll want to check in on.

What Makes an International School a Tier-1 School?

ISR FORUM Tier discussion