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Teaching in an International School: Is it the Right Move for You?

April 2020 by Michael Smith

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Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty in the world at present, one thing is certain – children will always need teaching, so teachers will always be in demand. Nowhere have I found this to be more evident than in my work in Education recruitment for international schools.

The need for experienced teachers from English speaking countries in international schools has skyrocketed over the past two decades. According to ISC Research, just 20 years ago there were approximately 2,600 English-medium international schools worldwide, mainly serving the expat community. Now there are more than 11,000 schools, a significant portion of which are across Asia. This includes heavily populated markets like the UAE, China and SE Asia that Tradewind is now helping teachers to access from around the world.

I have no qualms this trend will continue, so now is a great time to think about the opportunities that teaching overseas presents you. Here are some key things to consider if you’re looking at making the move.

How the International and Overseas Private School Systems Work

Typically, international schools are the preferred choice of expatriates, however, around 80% of students are local children schooled in English to a Western curriculum. International schools typically sit under one big umbrella, encompassing kindergarten right through to secondary years.

When it comes to your overseas teaching job, positions are offered on a permanent contract basis, with most being a two-year tenure with a three to six month probation and a one-year or more extension at the end of if agreed with to with the school. You will receive a monthly salary and in some cases tax-free if you’re working in the Gulf and certain areas of SE Asia. Your package usually includes flights, accommodation, visa costs, medical cover, and an end of contract bonus if you complete your contract (most cases around 10% of salary).

Working in international schools also comes with the expectation that you will be committed to extra-curricular involvement, mainly after school. But this is often easily managed as you will likely be living either on the school grounds or very close by.

Why Should I Consider an Overseas Teaching Post?

There are a range of reasons teachers opt for a teaching job overseas. Career progression is a big one, as is the ability to experience living in a new culture and travel to nearby countries during holiday periods.

Increasingly, many teachers (particularly families where both spouses teach) are using it as an opportunity to secure a top-class education for their own children, which they may not be able to access at home. This is due to the fact overseas teaching packages often include free tuition for up to two children.

What Qualifications and Experience Do I Need?

International schools, have high teaching standards and it’s encouraging to note that teaching qualifications from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, North America and the UK are highly regarded globally.

To teach overseas with Tradewind, you need to have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and be fully licensed, having at least two years of teaching under your belt.

It’s a huge plus if you have international experience, but time spent working in independent schools is looked upon favourably, as you will likely be familiar with a school being run as a business (as most international and private schools are).

A key area of skills shortage globally are the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science specialisms. Early Years and Primary teachers are in high demand as more local children are looking for a western based education. The area of Special needs has also grown as many look for an inclusive approach to education, and of course, now more than ever, it also pays to be IT savvy.

Relocation Considerations

There are a few important things to consider when relocating overseas as a teacher. The first is you need to take at minimum a 12-month view (but preferably at least two years) as international schools tend to recruit relatively far in advance. However, the flip side is that they are very willing to invest in your professional development to retain you.

If you’re moving with a partner, consider whether they will be able to find work. Many will only allow them to join you as a married spouse as well. Will you be able to navigate living on one income if it takes them time to secure a job?

Another vital consideration is job security. You need to be sure the school has a stable administration and can see out your contract, and that it treats employees equitably. This is where a recruitment agency can be of most benefit. At Tradewind, we thoroughly vet all schools we work with, which includes regular onsite visits, and have established relationships with schools we know and trust.

The Support on Offer

Making the move to teach overseas is a big undertaking. That’s why it’s good to align yourself with an agency that offers support on the ground, as well as at home.

Apart from the support I offer here in Australia, there are also local HR personnel attached to each international school. Working together, we help you with:

  • Tailoring your application to the specific job
  • Advice for writing your CV and interviewing successfully
  • Documentation (contractual and relocation-related)
  • Accommodation
  • Local lifestyle tips
  • Ongoing agency support when in position if required

I also make sure all teachers I place are connected with a local mentor to provide them with any professional assistance they need and help them to settle in.

Is Now the Right Time?

Whilst I acknowledge we’re currently living in a very different world, securing an overseas teaching position does not happen overnight. The process is lengthy, with most international schools recruiting 6 to 12 months in advance, so it’s important to position yourself for the long term and be ready to make a move when the situation stabilises.

I encourage you to spend this time weighing up the options about whether relocating overseas as a teacher is the right move for you. In the interim, Tradewind has a variety of CRT roles available, and we are here to support you through every stage of your career journey. To discuss the next step in your teaching career, please reach out to me or the rest of the Tradewind team today.