12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an International School Tip #1: Local vs. International School Systems

September 25, 2022


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  Many international school teachers are in teaching couples that have children.  There are also international school teachers that are married to a local and have children too.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend?  This blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #1: Have you fully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of placing your child in an international school in (insert country name here)? It is difficult to go back and forth to the (insert local country) system and it will affect high- er education choices.

As it is a real option for most international school teachers, it is important to think about whether you are going to send your children to a local school versus the international school at which you work.

We all know international school teachers typically get free tuition for their children, but not all international schools offer this benefit.  Furthermore, some international schools might make the teacher actually pay for a certain percentage of the tuition cost, sometimes up to 50% or more.  With 2-3 children, that could all add up to make your benefits package not that attractive!  Other international schools offer free tuition, but don’t actually guarantee a spot for your child which might result in waiting 1-2 years.  The schools that do this are seeing more of the monetary benefit of getting more ‘paying’ students in the school versus ‘non-paying’ students.

In my opinion, it is to the international school’s benefit to have their teachers’ children attend the school.  Many international schools only have a small percentage of students in the class that are native-level speakers of English.  When the number of native speakers is low, then the level of English and proficiency of the students can be low as well.  In general, non-native speakers of English need native speaker role models in the class to help them achieve high proficiency in English. At least that was the case at one of my previous international schools in the Mediterranean where the student population was 45% from the host country.

Some international school teachers are married to a local from the host country.  When that is the case, many times the family will send their children to the local schools, so that the children can learn fully in the local language.  Knowing the local language like a native speaker will definitely be an important factor in that child’s future if the family’s plan is to stay in the host country forever (or a really long time). Sending your children to a local school is typically the cheaper option if you are in a situation where the international school you work at wants to have you pay a certain percentage.

Sometimes the choice to have their children attend a local school is a choice the family is making for themselves, or it is a choice that is made because of the difficulty with getting a spot for enrollment in the international school.  It is important to note that most international schools though do make sure to have a spot for teachers’ children if they are foreign hires. Otherwise, it would be most difficult to get any teaching couples (with dependents) to sign a contract! But for international school teachers with a local spouse, like in some areas of the world (e.g. Western Europe), getting a spot might prove to be more challenging as the international school will state that the children have a viable option to attend a local school.

If you are an international school teacher with children, please share your comments about ‘Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of local and international school systems.’ on your school’s profile page.

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our almost 25000 members.  Many of our current members have listed they are ‘married with dependents’ on their profile pages.  Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about what life is like as an international school teacher with children.

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Comment Topic Highlight

Back to School Initiatives and New Demands: Welcoming or Stressful?

September 18, 2022


Every school year, a school always goes through some new changes or simply experiences new things that the staff is now required to do or complete. The changes could be related to the school’s curriculum, some new professional development based on new initiatives, new building procedures (like fire drills), new mandatory training (like child protection), etc.

For many things (like ones actually dictated by the host country), they are mandatory and the admin simply just needs to fit those required things into their yearly meeting schedule.  Combine those required things with the other things and initiatives that a school wants to do, it can make for a sometimes stressful school year for the staff (and admin!). Furthermore, balancing these new things with your normal planning work and actually teaching students can prove to be very challenging.

So what are some of these new initiatives that international schools are focusing on in recent years?

A number of international schools are having their staff work with the Managebac program. There are 97+ comments related to Managebac on our website.

It’s also fairly certain that your school is now or will very soon be going through an accreditation. ISC has 525+ total comments related to school accreditation on 351 international schools at the moment.

With regards to curriculum, it appears that a number of schools are doing training with the Common Core curriculum. There are 45 comments that are about the different schools taking on this in recent years.

There are also 49 comments on IB training.  200 comments on different workshops going on in 149+ international schools.

And the list goes on…

What is a possible plan then for balancing all of these newly added things so that staff and admin don’t get too overwhelmed?  As one ISC member wrote about working at United Nations International School (Vietnam), “the [needs to be a] conscious adoption of a “less is more” ethos.”

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new things added at a school. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this topic. There are a total of 1007 comments (Sept. 2022) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 68 comment topics called – “Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“The use of Kagan cooperative structures is the focus for this year. The entire faculty had 2 days of training before the commencement of the school year with another session upcoming later in the year. The goal being student engagement. Most of the faculty have been receptive and are already using the structures in their classrooms…” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 231 Total Comments

“The school just finished a multi-year curriculum initiative designed to put the entire Pre-K through 12th-grade curriculum documents onto Rubicon Atlas. The school seems to focus most on literacy in the Lower School, innovation and design in the Middle School, and IB/AP in the Upper School. School-wide, there is a focus on Differentiated Instruction, but this takes different forms in different divisions. There is a new Head of School coming in for the 2018-2019 school year…” – American School of Paris (Paris, France) – 68 Comments

“The administration said they care more about kids learning English and Maths rather than any other subjects. What makes the school unique, seems independent of what they are pursuing; bring more local students no matter what their academic level is…” – Changchun American International School (Changchun, China) – 168 Total Comments

“Professional development this year has included IBDP two-day Category 3 in-school workshops on the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. All staff also completed a Stewards of Children online course and a one-day first aid and CPR course…” – Tsukuba International School (Tsukuba, Japan) – 58 Comments

“The school has offered, over the past two years, very little in terms of professional development. There has been talk of a curriculum change to the Cambridge Primary Curriculum for September 2018…” – Cambridge School Doha (Doha, Qatar) – 85 Comments

“The school is just setting up a Professional Learning Centre to improve instruction and practice at the school first. The school has designated professional learning time on Friday afternoons and encourages professional development…” –  YK Pao School (Shanghai, China) – 61 Comments

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #2: Anticipate a challenging adjustment period of…

September 4, 2022


Anticipate a challenging adjustment period of at least SIX months. Do not decide if you like it until these six months have passed.

How important is this time frame when you first move to a new country, from the first month to the sixth?  It is VERY important.  Some international school teachers tend to experience different levels of culture shock and can pass through the stages quite quickly, but I still think for those people that you need to give yourself six full months to decide whether you like your new country or not.  Also, it is important to give your new school six months as well before you decide whether or not you think you are a good fit for the position and school.

I have international school teacher friends that seem to be able to just move anywhere and be in any culture and be just fine.  They don’t get stressed out too much about how things are different from their previous placement.  According to LaRay Barna – “There are no fixed symptoms ascribed to culture shock as each person is affected differently.”  And I would have to agree to that.  Unfortunately, there are other international school teachers that are very sensitive to basically all the stages of culture shock.  Let’s go through some of the stages of culture shock that are on Wikipedia.

1. Honeymoon phase:

Everyone’s favorite stage.  It is definitely the most fun one.  I love just getting to a new country.  Your new apartment, your new school, your new friends, the new culture, the new stores, your new favorite restaurants, etc…  You post on Facebook how cool things are going so far to all of your friends and family.  It is truly a great time to really enjoy why you got into the field of international school teaching in the first place; exploring the world and experiencing different cultures firsthand.

2. Negotiation phase:

The anxiety sets in about your new school and host country and how it is different from the one in which you were previously.  “How could they do things this way?” I hear some international school teachers say many times.  You must be careful during this phase to not offend your coworkers, bosses, and the people of the host country either directly or inadvertently.   The anxiety you are feeling can become stronger too if you don’t know the host country’s language (e.g. the language barriers start to become very apparent).  It is important to note that some schools employ many people from the host country to work in the administration offices, the cleaning staff, and even in teaching and teaching assistant positions.  Their level of English is most likely not 100% native-like, so there are bound to be times when they are just not getting what you are trying to communicate to them; and sometimes you might be trying to communicate some really important matters (e.g. getting your work visa all situated, etc.)

3. Adjustment phase:

Wikipedia says that this stage starts around after six months.  So, it is in agreement with Nexus’s 10 commandments of relocating overseas. Finally, things start getting back to “normal”.  You have now found how you fit in at your current school (hopefully).  By this time you will have made the necessary changes and adjustments so that now it does seem like you are indeed a better fit for your position at your new school.  Also, the host country most likely feels more like “home” and when you arrive back at the host country/city airport, you indeed feel like you are back home.  Sometimes that might surprise you, having these new positive feelings after having gone through the anxiety phase!

4. Mastery phase:

Well, I’m not for sure I have gotten to this phase ever.  I would guess that most teachers never fully master being considered an equal member to the locals of a community in another culture/country.  I have worked at schools where there have been expat teachers working at the school for over 25 years, and I got the impression that they still experience a sense of not fully belonging, even if they are fluent in the host country’s language and have a spouse who is a local.  I would love to hear what other international school teachers think about this mastery phase.  It is probably an achievable one, but many factors would come into play and the stars would have to be aligned for it to happen I would imagine.

Go ahead and check out our current members and send them a private message.  According to some member profiles, we have some very experienced international school educators on International School Community.  Also, check out the stages of culture shock here on wikipedia.

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Information for Members

How many comments are there in each of the 68 Comment Topics on ISC?

August 28, 2022


We have 66 comment topics on our website in 4 main categories: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information, and Travel Information.

ISC now has over 44800 comments that have been submitted on almost 1200 international schools from around the world. Basic and Premium Members can access all of these 44800 comments for free on our Browse All Comments page.

After almost 11 years since our inception of ISC, which of the 66 comment topics are our members submitting into the most? Take a look below at all of our comment topics with the total comments submitted in them at the end of each one. Some of our most popular topics that have over 1000 comments are related to: School building, Accreditation, Hiring policies, School location, Language abilities of the students, Kinds of teachers/staff, Salary, Housing, and Allowances.

School Information Comment Topics (25):

• Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.
(1939 Comments)

• What types of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations?
(1444 Comments)

• Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).
(1003 Comments)
Back to School Initiatives and New Demands: Welcoming or Stressful?

• Describe their hiring policies and procedures. Share your interview experience. Any hiring restrictions? is there a particular curriculum experience required? How about single parents/number of dependents sponsored?
(1780 Comments)

• Describe the school’s location in relation to the city center and to the teacher’s housing. How do staff get to school before and after school?
(1707 Comments)

• Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Are there extracurricular responsibilities? Describe workload details.
(1019 Comments)

• Average class size for primary and secondary. Describe any aide support.
(1067 Comments)

• Describe the language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominant culture group?
(1421 Comments)

• Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate. Is there a native English speaker or nationality requirement? Is it LGBT friendly country/school?
(1482 Comments)

• What types of budgets do classroom teachers/departments get?
(649 Comments)
What type of classroom/department budget do you get at your international school?

• PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school. How was your child’s education and socialisation at the school?
(232 Comments)

• What types of sports programs and activities does the school offer?
(733 Comments)

• Name some special things about this school that makes it unique.
(841 Comments)

• In general, describe the demeanor of the students.
(738 Comments)
How is the students’ behavior at your international school?

• Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?
(461 Comments)
Has Your International School Met Your Expectations Once You Started Working There?

• What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff?
(546 Comments)
Teacher well-being and high staff morale at int’l schools: How to get there.

• Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them.
(628 Comments)
Which technologies are available at your international school and how are the staff using/not using them?

• Details about the current teacher appraisal process.
(391 Comments)
Has Your International School Appraised Their Teachers This School Year?

• Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why.
(616 Comments)
Student Populations at International Schools: Are they Increasing or Declining?

• How have certain things improved since you started working there?
(315 Comments)
How much are international schools actually improving themselves?

• How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country?
(239 Comments)

• What controversies have been happening lately? Please be objective.
(405 Comments)

• What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school?
(572 Comments)
What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at your school?

• How much curriculum development work are you expected to do? (Atlas Rubicon, etc.)
(369 Comments)
How Much Curriculum Development Work are You Expected to Do? (Atlas Rubicon, etc.)

• How did this school handle the COVID-19 situation?
(71 Comments)

Benefits Information Comment Topics (20):

• Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?
(1572 Comments)

• Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance. If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities?
(1570 Comments)

• Average amount of money that is left to be saved. Describe the survivability for a family of four on one salary.
(858 Comments)
How much can international teachers actually save?

• Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)?
(1343 Comments)

• Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.
(1214 Comments)
Using Health Insurance While Teaching Abroad: Delightful or Nightmare?

• Ways to make extra money (tutoring, after-school activities, etc.).
(615 Comments)

• Information about benefits for teachers with dependents. Describe the childcare in the area.
(914 Comments)

• Professional development allowance details.
(704 Comments)
What is the dream Professional Development model at an international school?

• Pension plan details.
(747 Comments)

• Describe your experience bringing pets.
(363 Comments)
Allowed or no way: Bringing pets to another country

• Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for masters degree? Annual pay raises? Bonuses?).
(701 Comments)

• How do the school’s benefits compare to other international schools in the area/city?
(462 Comments)

• How is the school calendar? Is there ample vacation time?
(686 Comments)
How is the school calendar at your international school? Is there ample vacation time?

• What are some things that you need to buy/pay for when you first arrive at the school that you didn’t know about beforehand?
(379 Comments)
Surprise Purchases You Need to Buy/Pay For When You First Arrive at Your New School

• Details about the maternity benefits of the host country and school.
(211 Comments)
Giving birth while teaching abroad: what are the maternity benefits like?

• What is the process of getting reimbursed for things?
(261 Comments)

• Details about new teacher orientation.
(320 Comments)
What are some events your international school is planning during New Teacher Orientation?
How Is The New Teacher Orientation at Your School?

• In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school?
(497 Comments)
Why Are People Staying at or Leaving Your International School?

• Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about?
(294 Comments)

• Information on trailing spouses. Can they work under spousal visa (also availability of work) or is it possible to live only on one salary?
(164 Comments)

City Information Comment Topics (17)

• Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.
(826 Comments)
Favorite Restaurants, Places to Go to and Things to Do in Your Host Country

• Locations in the city geared towards the expat lifestyle (grocery stores, bars, etc.).
(659 Comments)

• Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc.
(654 Comments)

• Detailed info about lifestyles: singles vs. couples, gay vs. straight, nightlife vs. quiet and big city vs nature.
(525 Comments)

• Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there.
(663 Comments)

• Sample activities that you can do around the city? Including ones that you can do with a family (children)?
(492 Comments)

• Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.
(697 Comments)
Which type of climate do you ideally look for when living abroad?

• Places, markets and stores where you can find really good deals.
(341 Comments)

• Describe a funny culture shock moment that you’ve had recently in this city.
(168 Comments)

• Where did the school take you in the city when you first arrived? What were some staff outings/party locations?
(243 Comments)

• What is the best part of living in this city for you?
(358 Comments)
What is the best part of living in your host city?

• What advice can you give on how to set things up like internet, phone, experience dealing with landlord, etc.?
(308 Comments)

• Tell your experience moving your items to this city. What company, insurance policy, etc. did you use?
(121 Comments)

• Tell about your experience with the local banks and dealing with multiple currencies.
(310 Comments)

• What are some locals customs (regarding eating, drinking and going out, family, socializing, etc.) that you find interesting for expats to know about?
(200 Comments)

• Tell about your experiences in the local grocery stores. What can you get or cannot get? Which ones are your favorites.
(266 Comments)

• What is the most challenging/difficult part of living in the city?
(332 Comments)

• How progressive is the city with regards to recycling?
(41 Comments)
How Progressive is your Host Country with Regards to Recycling?

• What is the process of getting a work permit for this country, to get permanent residence and also to get citizenship (is dual citizenship even allowed?)?
(10 Comments)

Travel Information Comment Topics (6):

• Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby.
(539 Comments)
How Much Do Flights Actually Cost from Various Cities Around the World?

• Describe proximity of major airport hubs to the city center and give sample taxi, train, subway and/or bus fares to get there.
(641 Comments)

• Popular travel websites to buy plane tickets or tours that are popular for expats living in the city and/or country.
(347 Comments)

• Places to travel to outside the city by bus or train.
(599 Comments)

• Are there many teachers that travel during the holidays? Where are they going?
(442 Comments)

• What are the airports like in this city? (arriving, departing, shopping, customs, etc.)
(459 Comments)
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Discussion Topics

Uh oh: Message from the Principal

August 21, 2022


That was the title of the email I received three weeks before the start of my new job in 2022. Here are the next five lines from it:

 Unfortunately, the school has been unable to recruit the number of students expected for the next academic year and the decision has been made to reduce the number of staff for the next academic year.

Unfortunately, I am having to write to you to confirm that your position has been one of those selected. I am therefore writing to withdraw our offer of employment for September 2022.

I read that as I was actually with my suitcases on the way there. Yes, actually in transit, on my journey! I replied within ten minutes explaining that this meant I was left without a fixed address. I hurriedly stated in my reply that there were so many other issues that it raised, but I was in no state to write much at that point.

I allowed about a week to pass and stayed in a hotel, believing that the principal would reply and offer some sort of assistance. It’s now been about ten days and he has not replied to my second email which stressed the point that a contract had been signed. This has all simply been ignored.  I am still staying in a hotel scanning the internet for alternative jobs. However, this is mid-August, and so many schools have already started the academic year.

How did it come to this? I had a good leadership position in a school which was authorised to teach both IB PYP and MYP and it was a school with CIS accredition too. The only issue I had was that chances of promotion were slim. I knew there was a bit of a gamble I had to take. The choice was either stay within the safety of an established school with good international accreditations or choose to accept a higher position in a school which was only five years old and didn’t yet have any great accreditations.

Prior to the interview when I looked closely at the website of the new school I saw that it was only a member of British Schools in the Middle East and a candidate member of Council of British Schools International. It was not in a strong position in terms of being well established and recognised by accrediting agencies. This was a matter I discussed at the interview and I accepted that in its fifth year of existence there were still some improvements to be made. I knew that at the time, but the salary was very good and tax free too.

That awful email was received on August 5th, and so chances of finding a similar appointment are now incredibly small. The email did wish me well in finding another position, but wishes aren’t enough. He could have chosen to actually do something for me. On the flip side, I don’t have much interest in dealing with a school that would do something as cold as this. 

What do I advise others now? Stick with top-tier schools. Look at the accreditations a school has, and understand what it means to have those seals of approval. Join online groups where it is possible to ask what others know about the school. Finally, at the interview stage, find a polite way to ask what the plans are when student numbers are very low.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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