Teach Internationally – Opportunities the World Over for Qualified Teachers
April 4, 2012
Tamara Thorpe, a primary teacher from New Plymouth, New Zealand, is one of over 250,000 English-speaking teachers currently working in international schools around the world.
Tamara had always been interested in the idea of working internationally. “And the tax free option was extremely appealing!” she adds. So when a teaching job became available at the Sharm British School in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, Tamara grabbed the opportunity. She has since moved to the El Gouna International School which is near to Egypt’s Red Sea. “The first year here was very exciting and different,” says Tamara who is now into her third year of teaching in Egypt. “We teach a version of the UK curriculum. The children are well behaved and there is a great mix of nationalities here. Due to the revolution and changes occurring here, I have seen more Egyptian children enter our international section of the school. The staff are also from all over; the majority from the UK. I am the only Southern Hemisphere teacher on staff.”
Socialising and Exploring…I love it!
Tamara says that most of the friends she has made are work colleagues or are friends of work colleagues. “Socially there are lots of people from different countries which is always interesting,” she says. “I met my fiancé here; he is from Barcelona and lives and owns a company here, so that is a great aspect!” Another great part of living in Egypt for Tamara is the exploring. She describes a recent trip to the desert: “We spent three days on a White Desert Safari. Wow, I absolutely loved it! We had a Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4 and all that desert to explore! We camped in tents, had fires every night, no luxuries as in bathroom facilities but that’s part of the experience! Being a New Zealander, I’ve grown up camping so it was all good for me! I would recommend it to anyone visiting Egypt.
As for recommending teaching in Egypt, Tamara says “Look into the region and the school. Read as much as you can about the country; Lonely Planet is great. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting in to. I found TIC very helpful (Teachers International Consultancy) and will continue to use them for future job searching.”
International teaching jobs – many opportunities
TIC is an organisation that provides free support to teachers who are considering working in an international school. This includes recommending international schools that best suit a teacher’s experience, personality and location preferences. The options for skilled and experienced English-speaking teachers are wide.
With over 6,000 international schools throughout the world, it’s a market much bigger than most people – even those within the education sector – realise. International schools are those that use English as the language for teaching and learning, and they offer an international curriculum. Most typical curricula used are the English National Curriculum, an American curriculum or an international curriculum such as the International Primary Curriculum or the International Baccalaureate. Most international schools are independent, highly respected, well-equipped and skilfully managed employing fully qualified English-speaking teachers from around the world, mainly from the UK, New Zealand and Australia, South Africa, Canada or America. These schools not only attract English-speaking children from expatriate families but also children from the local population; typically the wealthiest of the local families who recognize that an international, English-speaking education opens a lot of career doors for their children. “In fact, international schools are now catering for the richest 5% of the non-English-speaking world,” says Nicholas Brummit, Managing Director of ISC Research, an organisation which supplies data on the world’s international schools and analyses developments in the international schools market.
It’s a market that is developing significantly as ISC figures attest. “There were 2,584 English-medium international schools in 2000,” says Nicholas Brummitt. “By April 2008 that number had grown to 4,827. Currently there are 6,000 international schools and by 2021 we predict that number to be 10, 000,” he says. That means a lot of jobs for English-speaking teachers and Headteachers and the reason why they’re looking, says Andrew Wigford of Teachers International Consultancy, isn’t just about salary. “In research that TIC carried out recently, the number one reason for teaching overseas was the adventure and the opportunity to travel,” he says. “Every single one of the respondents said that the experience of living and working internationally had enriched them as a person and the vast majority said that the experience had been good for their career too, with 89% saying that it had improved their skills and job opportunities.” Andrew adds: “For Tamara, she’s learnt to work with a new curriculum and she’s gained excellent experience of teaching children from many different countries which will help her significantly with any new job application, both internationally and back home.”
If and when she chooses to move on from El Gouna, Tamara will have plenty of options. There are another 130 international schools currently in Egypt; 69 alone in Cairo. And, according to ISC Research, there are many more further afield. Qatar has 362 international schools and Pakistan has 355, with 307 in India, 218 in Japan and 155 in Thailand.
So what is the best advice for other teachers considering a move to an international school? “Apply to accredited international schools or schools that are part of respectable organisations such as COBIS, BSME, FOBISSEA and others,” recommends Andrew Wigford. “You can find details of these organisations on the TIC website. If a recruitment organisation is helping you with your search, make sure that they only recommend you to accredited international schools, or that they personally vet non-accredited schools in advance of your interview. Also make sure your cv is up-to-date and well written. International schools will be looking for strong personal skills as well as teaching experience. More and more international school interviews are being conducted through Skype so be prepared for this. Make sure you have the correct equipment set up and have practiced communicating through Skype in advance of any interviews. Work through a reputable organization when searching for foreign teaching positions. There are a few unscrupulous owners in some international schools who do not take the appropriate procedures to ensure that foreign teachers have the correct health and safety coverage, visa back-up, or suitable accommodation. Teachers have been known to find themselves in difficult circumstances, sometimes a long way from home. So working with an established organisation to oversee your placement will give you the security you need. If you work with an organisation that is specifically experienced at recruiting for the international school market, they will be able to give you all the advice and expert support that you need and will know – and may well have visited – many of the schools that you are considering. This will help you significantly during your job search. Once you’ve been offered a job, make sure you cross-check all your terms and conditions and know exactly what you will be receiving and when, including any relocation support. If a recruitment agency is representing you, they will review your contract with you. If you are still considering a job move for this summer, it’s not too late to do something about it. There are still vacancies left. But take action now or you’ll miss the opportunity.”
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