Nobody wants to be worked to the bone. And then not have any time to enjoy life outside of work.
Many of us left our home countries to escape being worked too much at our home country schools.
Teachers want to do their best and have time, inspiration and encouragement to do just that.
Just like the schools located in your home country, there is also a wide range of work-life balance situations at international schools.
Sometimes the work-life balance is affected by the norms of the host country’s laws and culture. Other times it is more influenced by the school itself and its admin.
But luckily, there are some international schools out there striving to have the best possible work-life balance for their teachers. As they say, teachers are more able to keep their focus and do their best if they are not so stressed at work.
So which international schools then have some good work-life balance conditions? Can you guess which countries/schools around the world would make for the best conditions for a good work-life balance?
Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. Using the Comment Search feature (premium membership needed), we found 30 comments that had the keyword “Life balance” in them. Here are 11 of them:
“There is a good work-life balance at the school. Teachers are required to lead an after school activity (1 hour/8 weeks) each semester…” – Khartoum American School (44 total comments)
“Expectations are high and teachers work hard. There is very reasonable non-contact time and staff gets paid if they do extracurricular activities. The workload is not excessive and there is a good work/life balance…” – Lanna International School (LIST) (18 total comments)
“The expectation of quality is very high, but this is reflected in giving ample prep-time. One can also request a “retreat” morning/afternoon/day if you would like to spend some extra time planning with a team. I find this to be one of the best places for work/life balance, without sacrificing quality…” – International School Hannover Region (38 total comments)
“Reasons to stay:
– Amman is pretty easy to live in – most things are available in stores
– The staff is a lot of fun and friendly and enjoyable to work and play with
– Jordan has a lot of amazing things to see and do, especially if you enjoy an outdoor life
– The school program is strong but the expectations on staff are realistic
– The school values a healthy work-life balance, there is not a workaholic mentality here…” – American Community School (Amman) (55 total comments)
“It is a great place to work at and the work-life balance is good too…” – Norlights International School Oslo (122 total comments)
“In general people stay because they feel supported, welcome and have a good quality of work/life balance…” – The English Modern School (Doha) (99 total comments)
“There are pros and cons but I think it depends on what you value. If you want a good work-life balance you can find that here. You don’t need to bring work home with you once you are established. The school also has great kids and the lack of structure means you have a lot of creative freedom…” – The Canadian International School Vietnam (147 total comments)
“KAS is the best international school in Kaohsiung as far as school resources, work/life balance, collegiality among staff, pay, vacation time, and students who work hard. As of yet, it is not the best in Taiwan (those would probably be TAS or TES in Taipei), but it’s working towards it…” – Kaohsiung American School (43 total comments)
“There is a good work-life balance at the school. Teachers are required to lead an after school activity 2 out of 3 trimesters…” – International Community School of Abidjan (68 total comments)
“There are many couples at our school, mainly young couples that are actively having children. There are so many staff having children each year! It is a great place to have children because of the long maternity and paternity leave, etc. What I’m trying to say is that if you are a couple and want to work at our school, it is a great match because couples really enjoy their work/life balance here…” – Copenhagen International School (391 total comments)
“There is a lot of work, but everyone can maintain their work-life balance. The school is supportive of on-campus wellness activities before and after school…” – International School Manila (110 total comments)continue reading
Are you inspired to start-up a blog about your adventures living abroad and working at an international school?
Our 49th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Education Rickshaw“ Check out the blog entries of these two international school educators that work in China:
A few entries that we would like to highlight:
Taking the Plunge: Should America’s Teachers Consider Moving to Teach Overseas?
“Followers of this website will know that Education Rickshaw is a blog on teaching and living overseas. My wife Stephanie and myself, both raised attending public schools Tacoma, Washington, were teachers at a Native American school before “taking the plunge” and moving to teach at an international school in Vietnam. Since then, we’ve taught in Khartoum, Sudan, and are now teaching in an international school in China.
There are a lot of benefits to moving to teach in international schools overseas. While not all international schools are created equal, for the most part international school jobs come with decent salaries and savings potential (See our previous post, 5 Luxuries Bestowed Upon Thee As An International Teacher). Teachers can expect to receive flight allowances to and from their home countries and have their housing paid for. In my experience, students at international schools are often quite clever and well-behaved, and parents are generally quite respectful and involved in their kids’ learning. Many international schools, due to how they are funded, are at the cutting edge in education compared to their stateside counterparts, providing students with opportunities to learn in tech- and information-rich environments and express themselves through the arts, makerED, and robust athletics and extracurricular programs. Because international schools invest in their teachers by paying for professional development, both in-house and by sending their teachers to conferences abroad, international school teachers have the chance to really grow as professionals and improve their craft…”
There is a comment topic related to Professional Development on our website called “Professional development allowance details.” There are 540 total comments that have been submitted in this comment topic on 100s of schools.
Here is an example comment that was submitted about The English Modern School (Doha): “Professional development subsidaries are connected to the type of PD you are applying for. If you are taking the Suny Masters PD subsidary then other PD will not be subsidised. If you use your subsidy for a Cambrsdge PDQ you will also not get small PD courses for free. Smaller PD courses from Seraj the sister company at EMS usually amount to 3 free a year per teacher. You can also aply for other PD outside school and a judgement will be made on how much the school will support you in the cost.”
5 Luxuries Bestowed Upon Thee As An International Teacher
“The typical American teacher is afforded few luxuries. A coffee at Starbucks is seen as a rare treat. A PB&J for lunch is the norm. When I was teaching in a U.S. public school I remember clearly the time when the conversation at the faculty lounge centered around counting how many in the room had a tarp covering some part of their car (to protect from the rain in Washington State) to raise their hands. I’m not even playing, in a room full of 30 educators there were five hands that raised that day admitting to having a tarp on their cars.
While, in my opinion, most international educators are still underpaid for what we do, the cost of living in many of our host countries allows for some pretty sweet perks. That coupled with the built-in savings potential that comes with many international teaching contracts (free housing, free flights, etc) makes it so that many international teachers find the benefits of international teaching to be too lucrative to ever want to return to teaching public school back home.
Compared to teachers back home, we have it good. We have teaching assistants. Our classrooms are well resourced. The class sizes are smaller. There is money for PD. These are all things that we experience in the international school classroom. But on this educationrickshaw.com post, we will be looking at 5 luxuries that most international teachers enjoy* that teachers back home just can’t afford…”
There is a comment topic related to comparing international schools to schools back in our home countries on our website called “How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country?” There are 167 total comments that have been submitted in this comment topic on 100s of schools.
Here is an example comment that was submitted about American School Foundation of Monterrey: “The school is much better equipped than schools in my home country and the students have the financial means to supply their own high-quality MacBooks and smartphones, so the school doesn’t have to worry about providing computers (except some emergency checkout Chromebooks for students who forgot their Mac or it breaks down).”d
Want to work for an international school in China like this blogger? Currently, we have 523 international school teachers that have listed that they currently live in this country. Check them out here. We also have 44 members that are from this country.
* If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.continue reading
Random year for international schools around the world: 1990
There is much history in the international teaching community. We have international schools with founding dates of 1838 and 1854 and we also have many, many international schools with founding dates in the 21st century. The numbers are increasing for sure.
Utilizing the database of the 1264 (18 August, 2012) international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found 22 international schools that were founded in 1990. Here are a few of those schools that also have had comments and information submitted on them on our website (excepts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites)
International Christian School (Caracas) (5 Comments) (Caracas, Venezuela)
“It was founded in 1990 as Academia Cristiana Internacional de Caracas. The school provides preschool (3 year old) through 12th Grade and is accredited by both Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Association of Christian Schools International. ICS Caracas is a part of the Network of International Christian Schools.”
North Jakarta International School (20 Comments) (Jakarta, Indonesia)
“NJIS, previously known as North Jakarta International School, is an independent, co-educational international school. It was founded in 1990 and is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). NJIS is also a member of the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS).”
Berlin Brandenburg International School (10 Comments) (Berlin, Germany)
“The International School Berlin-Potsdam (ISBP) was founded on 2 October 1990 and located in an eastern area of Potsdam in a large, rented villa on the Heiligensee waterfront. In September 1994, the school opened a second facility in a recently renovated villa down the street for its growing upper school. On 1 June 2002 the school announced that it was changing its name to Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS) as of 1 September 2002. This change recognizes the fact that the school is no longer in Potsdam, that it is grateful for the strong support of the State of Brandenburg, and that it serves students and families in a large geographical area very well known both inside and outside Germany.”
American International School in Egypt (13 Comments) (Cairo, Egypt)
“The American International School in Egypt has been one of Egypt’s leading schools since it opened its doors to its first 240 students in 1990. Today, AIS Egypt has two campuses, with a combined student population of over 2000 students.”
American International School of Mozambique (11 Comments) (Maputo, Mozambique)
“The American International School of Mozambique, founded in 1990, is an independent, coeducational day school offering an American-style educational program in English from PK through grade 12. The school year begins in mid-August and ends in mid-June. The School is governed by a 7-member Board of Directors, 6 of whom are elected by the AISM Association and one appointed by the U.S. Ambassador.”
The English Modern School (Doha) (7 Comments) (Doha, Qatar)
“Founded in 1986 as an independent and private educational institute, Stafford is a coeducational, international school. It follows the British curriculum which prepares the students for the London University IGCSE and Advanced (A/S, A/L) Level examinations. High performance in these British exams qualifies students for entry into British and other foreign universities. The curriculum is stringent and comprises a broad and balanced range of subjects.”
Check out the rest of the international schools listed on International School Community and check out their histories as well! We have over 1264 international schools that have profile pages on our website.continue reading
As all International School Community members know, each of the 2180+ school profile pages on our website has four comments and information sections: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information and Travel Information. Our members are encouraged to submit comments and information on one or all of these sections if they currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the past. It is important that we all share what we know so that we can in turn help other new teachers make a more informed decision before they sign any contract! *Additionally, for every 10 comments you submit (which are anonymous by the way), you will automatically get one free month of premium membership added to your account! The more comments you leave, the more free membership you get!
So, what are the recent statistics about the Benefits Information sections on all the school profile pages? The current total number of submitted comments in the Benefits Information section is 12207 (out of a total of 39249+ comments); that is up 1503 comments from around 13 months ago (Nov. 2019).
There are 20 subtopics in the Benefits Information section on each school profile page. Check out each one of these subtopics below and find out the total number of comments in that specific sub-topic and also an example comment that has been submitted there.
• Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year? (1415 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Salary is paid regularly each month directly into your bank account which the school will help you set up. It is paid in $US…” – Northbridge International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) – 59 Comments
• Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance. If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities? (1414 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Rent prices went up all over Shanghai in the past 1-2 years and even places near the school cost more now, as landlords start seeing that there’s many expats in the area willing to pay more…” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 481 Comments
• Average amount of money that is left to be saved. (761 Total Comments)
Example comment: “A teaching couple could easily live and travel on one salary and save 100% of the other. Savings opportunity is obviously significantly less on one salary, but still possible…” – Singapore American School (Singapore) – 309 Comments
• Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)? (1236 Total Comments)
Example comment: “$4000 per teaching couple moving allowance (once you arrive in cash), optional $10,000 loan from school interest free (to buy car), annual flights home…” – American International School of Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria) – 21 Comments
• Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals. (1085 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Teachers must pay for their own health insurance here as Switzerland doesn’t have a social health care program model. Some of the staff’s partners are actually the local doctors in Leysin, so expect to get seen or have your children get seen by them..” – Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland) – 113 Comments
• Ways to make extra money (tutoring, after-school activities, etc.). (523 Total Comments)
Example comment: “As the April 6, 2016 comment below states, there are many opportunities for increasing your monthly pay. Other than that, it is illegal to work for anyone but your visa provider (the school) in China. Lots of teachers tutor or work otherwise on the side anyway, but it is illegal.” – Kang Chiao International School (Kunshan, China) – 82 Comments
• Information about benefits for teachers with dependents. (825 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Teachers with dependents need to pay some fees. These vary and are at the discretion of the school so they could conceivably become higher each year. They do not like to hire people with dependents.” – MEF International School Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey) – 162 Comments
• Professional development allowance details. (617 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The PD allowance allows you to travel and pay for one IB workshop (or any conference) per year. Or you can do two IB online workshops…” – The International School of Dakar (Dakar, Senegal) – 181 Comments
• Pension plan details. (676 Total Comments)
Example comment: “It is not a pension. Due to Brazilian law, each teacher pays 8% of their salary each month into a guarantee fund. This is more or less an unemployment insurance. At the end of your contract, the school agrees to “fire” you, so you can access that fund. Based on the exchange rate at that time, it can vary in USD. At the beginning of my contract is was estimated around $12,000. But, now it will be much closer to $7,000. There is no way to know how much it will actually be in the end.” – American School of Belo Horizonte (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) – 78 Comments
• Describe your experience bringing pets. (310 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Some teachers bring their pets from the USA (and other countries like UAE and Qatar). Some do it via the airlines or a pet relocation service. You need to make sure you pet has their up-to-date shots and whatnot to avoid certain delays and hassles along the way. The shorter your flight to Egypt the easier it might be to get your pet to Egypt.” – American International School in Egypt (Main Campus) (New Cairo City, Egypt) – 62 Comments
• Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for masters degree? Annual pay raises? Bonuses?). (617 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Each teacher is paid differently. No pay scale. Some teachers with lots of experience paid less than teachers with little experience. Men get paid more than women…” – American School of Durango (Durango, Mexico) – 54 Comments
• How do the school’s benefits compare to other international schools in the area/city? (393 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The pay is lower than other international schools in the area but the school fees are also lower. It is the mid range between the “posh” international schools and the ones that don’t hire internationally trained teachers.” – Ican British International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) – 74 Comments
• How is the school calendar? Is there ample vacation time? (592 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Point of contention. Clearly we are in a Muslim country so we have to abide by the holidays, but as Ramadan keeps pushing up 2 weeks every year, so does Eid (which usually falls in the first term. But we are in one of those awkward times where Eid is falling the first week of school so that means no break from the start of school until December. There is only one week at xmas this year, because we have to make sure to finish school around the start of Ramadan, it will be too hot to come to school while the kids (majority) will be fasting or they just won’t attend school. We will still have a week in Feb and a week in April. No long weekends here. 3 months off for summer.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra) (Doha, Qatar) – 97 Comments
• 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? (330 Total Comments)
Example comment: “If you have a pet you have to pay an extra deposit to the landlord, not covered by school…” – Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine) – 162 Comments
• Details about the maternity benefits of the host country and school. (169 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Women get 12 weeks at 80% pay. She can take more time off, but without pay and at the business’ discretion. I think men don’t get any time off to be with their newborn.” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 59 Comments
• What is the process of getting reimbursed for things? (226 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Fill out a simple form, submit the receipt, and the money is deposited into your account after the purchase has been approved. If you are concerned as to whether or not you will be reimbursed, seek out approval first. I have never been turned down.” – Daegu International School (Daegu, South Korea) – 25 Comments
• Details about new teacher orientation. (270 Total Comments)
Example comment: “We were picked up at the airport by a school driver who drove the Superintendent there to meet us. We were taken directly to our house, and someone had purchased some staple foods for the refrigerator. There were new towels, sheets and pillows. Other teachers/admin in the neighborhood came to greet us that evening and brought over hot food for dinner. It was an excellent welcome. We immediately felt very much at home…” –Lahore American School (Lahore, Pakistan) – 193 Comments
• In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school? (403 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Everyone leaves because the salary scrap and administration is crap. If you had any moral integrity you would also leave after a week.” – Colombo International School (Colombo, Sri Lanka) – 64 Comments
• Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about? (250 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Read carefully. 3 page contract is very vague and WILL be used in favor of the administration against you. Expect them to try and keep as much of your money as they can. Hence the 2 month salary withholding which you are assured you will get at back end of contract. This does not usually come to fruition.” – Pan Asia International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 70 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? (95 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Trailing spouses can only be sponsored if you are earning a certain amount. It is not very easy to get a job in some professionals; however, this might change soon with the sponsorship system changing often as we near the World Cup 2022.” – The English Modern School (Doha) (Doha, Qatar) – 91 Commentscontinue reading
Many people would love to be living next to the Mediterranean Sea. It truly has one of the most perfect climates. Not too cold in the winter, and nice, very warm in the summers (not to mention a lot of sun!). However, not all of us are so lucky to work at an international school there. Plus, typically the salary and benefits are lower there, so that is not ideal.
Do you think to rather take a job in Moscow, Russia? You can probably make a lot of money, but you will need to be prepared for a cold, dark and snowy winter for many months.
How about a stint on a tropical island like Curaçao or the Bahamas? Many teachers are curious about the island life, but some who take jobs there don’t last for more than 1-2 years; too isolating and hard/expensive to even get off the island.
As we’ve stated before, when you search for jobs at international schools, you will need to consider a number of factors like: money, career, location, love life, weather, etc. These are all pretty important when deciding to live abroad, but which ones are more important than the others for you?
We can only be so lucky to find a place that meets our wishes in all the factors, but that rarely happens.
So, if you had a few offers to work in different cities and countries around the world, would you prioritize the city that had the most ideal weather and climate for you? Maybe after working for 10-15 years in a cold climate, you will finally choose the school that is on the Mediterranean Sea!
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of the host city’s weather year round. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 604 comments (July 2020) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“In general the temperature is very temperate. The monsoon is long and will last from July- October. Winter is also cold with January being the coldest month. The school is generally closed for a good part of December and all of Jan so that you miss the worst of the cold…” – Woodstock School (Mussoorie, India) – 142 Total Comments
“Generally speaking, the weather is very pleasant in Shenzhen. August (when new teachers have just landed) tends to be sticky and hot so be mentally prepared for that but it gets better in Sept/Oct. January tends to be the coldest, and can go down to as low as 7 at night. In other words, you need a variety of clothes…” –
International School of Nanshan Shenzhen (Shenzhen, China) – 88 Comments
“Doha is hot and dry. The weather is intensely hot in May, June July and August. Sept tends to be humid and October and November tend to have a few wet or cloudy days. The temperature then eases for the winter period. December is often 20-25 daily and around 15-20 at night which can feel quite chilly. January and February stay quite cold but the heat begins to return in March and April…” – The English Modern School (Doha) (Doha, Qatar) – 75 Total Comments
“Spring is short, maybe 2 months, same for autumn. The weather in these seasons is lovely. Summer is from May to September and it is HOT. Humidity will be 90%+. You will want to leave in the summer and you have to use AC throughout these months. Winter is 3 months and can be cold. Air quality usually declines during the winter and the wind direction changes and blows the pollution down from Beijing. I have an electric blanket on my bed as most apartments only have AC for heating and it is expensive and ineffecient….” – Lycee Francais de Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 38 Comments
“The weather is pretty great year-round. Rainy season lasts from May-ish until November time, but largely this only affects the evening with large thunderstorms etc. Outside these months, you can rely on weeks of no rain, lots of sunshine etc. Even in rainy season, the days are usually sunny and hot…” – Edron Academy A.C (El Colegio Britanico) (Edron Academy A.C (El Colegio Britanico) – 14 Commentscontinue reading
Getting good health care is important, especially while living in a foreign country. You get used to the health insurance plan and coverage so much growing up in your home country that sometimes you can’t even think of another way to have it.
Living in the United States my whole life, I thought that it was normal to pay deductibles and co-payments. I even had heard that teachers working at US schools get one of the best health insurance plans (when compared to other professions), so I was quite content. And true to my experience and now looking back on it, I was pleased with many aspects of my coverage.
But living abroad had afforded me different experiences, from socialized medicine to full-coverage private insurance plans. And I would say that both of those experiences had their pros and cons and some aspects were better or a bit worse than my experience living in the United States.
Regardless of the plan that I have living abroad, it is definitely nice to not have to pay out of pocket expenses for my health insurance. So plans that pay everything for you up front are the best ones in my opinion. I also have appreciated having health insurance that has world coverage as we international school teachers do like the travel a lot and of course go back to our home country once or twice a year.
The issue of waiting time often comes up. All health insurance coverages include some time waiting to get seen and for getting an appointment, especially with a specialist doctor, etc. It is true that some insurance plans get you those appointments faster. I know that in some European countries the wait for a specialist doctor can take many weeks, but one way to get around this is to pay a little bit from your pay check for a private insurance. With this, you can get your appointments assigned to you much faster!
Paying for your prescriptions can be a pain on your wallet as well depending on which coverage you have. With one private insurance plan I had in Asia, I didn’t have pay any out of pocket money for all prescriptions. That was amazing! I can imagine though that in many insurance plans, you are expected to pay at least something for your prescriptions.
On ISC we have a comment topic related to this topic in the Benefits Information section on the school profile pages. It is called: “Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.” There have been 992 comments submitted in this comment topic on 100s of international schools from around the world. Here are just a few of them:
“Medical insurance is through a Chinese company. This is not ideal for several reasons: We live in Viet nam not China, and the package, compared to other countries, is basic. Very basic by international school standards, expect a lot of out of pocket, paying in advance, claiming back which takes a long time as language barrier (Mandarin speakers might do well), and submitting forms makes it a deterrent to claim back or even try.” – International School of Vietnam
“Everyone receives medical card on arrival. This gives you access to local hospital services. In our experiences this is fine for woman bit not for men.
Once you receive your company private insurance you pay QAR 50 for your initial consultation and then the rest s free form there. On larger more emergency cases you sometimes have to pay a deposit until the approval is given from the insurance which can take a few hours. This has never been an issue and always resolved in the teachers favour. Private care is very clean, as is local care. Health care for women in Qatar is very good.” – The English Modern School (Doha)
“The Health Insurance is not very good. It used to be through a reputable international provider and is now through a sub-standard Chinese company. The cover is global (non-US) but is not 100% and is only available at selected providers. If you are in an emergency situation and do not go to a pre-authorised hospital, it won’t be covered.” – The British International School of Kuala Lumpur
“The insurance is quite good in Maracaibo and in the USA. The doctors are trained, but hospitals are not equipped to serve patients right now. The price for medical care has increased by 10 fold in one year. It is a terrible situation for Venezuelans and foreigners who get sick.” – Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo
What has been your experience using the health insurance benefits at your international school? Please login to our website and share what you know!continue reading