12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #12 – Is the school parent-friendly?

October 13, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how parent-friendly the international school is?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #12 – Is the school parent-friendly?

parent-teacher-conferenceIt is very important that the international school (that you are considering working at/sending your child to attend) communicates well with parents in order to keep them abreast of school policies, events and other developments. With the parents kept the most informed as possible, they are happier and more at ease about surprise changes that happen at the school.

Some people might say that international school parents are a little bit more (or A LOT more) invested in what is going on at their children’s school.  Normally international schools have two parent teacher conferences during the school year, but those meetings can be as short as 20 minutes (not really much time to share everything that you’d really like to share).

But at an international school, you might find that you are meeting with parents more often than just two parents teacher conferences!  Many international school parents like to set up more conferences with their teacher, meeting before or after school.  They just want to “catch up” with what is going on at school and how their child is doing.  They also want to give the teacher an update on how things are going at their home.  These extra meetings can be really beneficial to have for all parties involved, but it is smart-thinking to make sure that these meetings also stay to a minimum (you don’t want the parents to constantly wanting to set up extra meetings with you…that’s for sure!).  Some international school parents will have one person that stays at home all day (a n0n-working spouse).  Those parents will have all the time in the day to meet with you!  I worked with one international school teacher that wouldn’t even give out his email address to the parents of his students. Even knowing that communicating with parents via email is a great way to “get the job done”, there are definitely international school parents that will take advantage of having your email address.

In terms of communication with parents, you school might use a common online (password protected) resource for the parents to keep informed and stay up to day with all school happenings.  It is great to have a “get-all-information” place for parents to go to whenever they want to know what is going on at school.  Teachers can upload pictures and videos to this online portal, as well as putting up newsletters each month or so to let parents know more about curriculum-related things.

Even when an international school has the best communication possible all set up and running smoothly, there are always going to be some international school parents that just don’t make the effort to participate in this excellent communication.  It is true that even if a school has a really clear plan for communication with parents, communication is a two-way street.  Some international school parents have better things to do or bigger worries/concerns on their plate to make time for effectively utilizing (or even fully knowing about) the school’s current way of communicated with parents.  We had a parent come in recently stating that they didn’t know anything what their child was learning at school (and other things), but when asked if they will looking at the online parent portal, they of coursed answered…no.

So how is parent-friendly is your international school?

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Have a specific international school in mind that you thinking of applying at? Check out our “Where our Members have worked” page and start contacting some of our members that know about the international school you are interested in knowing more about. Our 3000+ members currently work at (or have worked at in the past) 516 different international schools.  Feel free to send them a private message related to finding out more about how parent-friendly at their international school.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 8.55.12 PMFurthermore, we have a comment topic section that is for parents to fill out or for teachers to share more information about how parent-friendly their international school is.  It is called: PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school.  Here are a few comments that have been submitted in that sections:

“At the old school in Tay Ho, VAIS, many parents withdrew their kids due to complaints that the Korean CEO who decided he was qualified to teach TOEFL prep classes so he could save on a qualified teacher, would openly cuss the students out in Korean during class and many students complained the class was more a Korean discussion class than an English one. He does not manage those classes any longer and thankfully so.” – Vietnam American International School (47 Total Comments)

“As a teacher/parent, I felt my kids had a solid group of other teachers’ kids to hang out with. There is a solid community feel in general and it is a welcoming atmosphere.” – Anglo American School of Sofia (21 Total Comments)

“Decisions made at the school are mostly knee-jerk reactions, and seem not to have a lot of fore-thought. This results in confusion and frustration, with parents, students and staff unclear where the boundaries are.” – Oeiras International School (28 Total Comments)

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #11 – Does the school provide or have access to qualified teachers who cater to students with special needs?

July 20, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school provides or has access to qualified teachers who cater to students with special needs?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #11 – Does the school provide or have access to qualified teachers who cater to students with special needs? Fortunately, the options for adequate support and positive learning environments are increasing.

parent-teacher-meeting-sp-needsAs parents and educators consider international living, school websites can answer many general questions.  However, some parents have specific questions for the needs of their children.  Likewise, teachers and administrators who seek international employment also want to know what services are available at schools and how their skills align with the school’s programs and services.

A growing concern in schools is the question of addressing the special needs of students.  Today that question can have a broad spectrum—- physical, academic, emotional, medical, and psychological.  Schools today have had to expand their programs and providers in order to adequately serve all children.  Internationally, does this protocol of serving all students present similar challenges and are different parts of the world answering the challenge the same or differently?

For the purpose of sharing an international snapshot of this question, I invited various international educators to respond to this topic.  The results of my limited inquiry provided some common results: 1) the need for schools to provide for special needs students is prevalent; 2) many countries have a legal mandate of how this will be done; 3) what is written is difficult to attain; 4) there is a scarcity of special needs teachers; 5) some areas can better address the issues than others due to monetary resources and location.

So, where does that leave a family who is searching for an appropriate place for their special needs child?  The answer I believe is that the parent will have to be the advocate for their child and do in-depth questioning, examining websites, visiting schools, and connecting with the right people.

In England, it is required that all schools (public and state) have a SENCO (Special Needs Coordinator) who is a teacher responsible for pupils with SEN needs and for ensuring that their needs are being met.  Also all inspection reports must comment on the effectiveness of SEND and provision for English as Additional Language students and how the school is meeting those needs. overview_osx

Responses I received from India varied depending on location.  While Boards talk about serving these students, the reality is colored by 1) the scarcity of special education teachers especially in small cities and 2) main stream teachers not being trained in serving special needs.  Part-time tutors are hired and shared when available.

From a different location in India, an international school educator indicated that there is generally a Head of Special Needs appointed in all schools as every child has a Right to Education as per the Government RTE Act.  Under this head, there can be a few junior teachers who are trained to handle children with Special Needs up to a certain level.  If the case is very severe and requires one-on-one care, there are special schools that have specially trained staff and facilities including lifts, special bathrooms to accommodate wheelchairs, etc.  In cases of autism, dyslexia, and attention deficit, those children are identified and served on a one-on-one basis with the Special Needs Department in concert with the Classroom Teacher, Subject Teachers, School Counselor, Parents, and student peers.  These students are closely monitored for improvement, and many times when they attend regular classrooms, a special needs assistant is alongside the student to clarify the lesson and assure there is no interruption in the classroom.  This responder concluded by saying that in his area of India, the Special Needs Department works hard to ensure these children grow up as normal kids who can have a happy schooling experience.

A third international school educator from India added that there are some special schools in urban and rural areas, noting that training centers have recently appeared to train teachers for special needs schools.  Also he sees in-service training starting to be offered.  His summary statement on current conditions—-“There is a ray of hope: politicians, social activists, and educators are becoming more aware of the issues of special needs children and it is widely discussed and debated almost everywhere.”  From these discussions, “we can hope that all these moves will give a better platform for students with special needs in the coming days.”

Moving on to Shanghai where two international school educators shared their insight…..  One summarized that in his small school there is no special needs program and that he did not know of any mainstream international school in Shanghai that has a robust program.  However, that could be changing.  He then connected me to an amazing couple who shared their personal experience.  They are both educators in Shanghai and they were seeking an appropriate program for their son with profound autism.  When they struggled to find what they felt their son needed, Lori and Mike Boll last year started a small, inclusive school for all children called Shine Academy.  It serves 20+ students that range in age from 3-18.  Some have disabilities, some do not.  By forming this inclusive program, they saw it as a way to bring services to their son and the greater community.  See their story at www.shineacademy.asia.  For families seeking support and teachers who are building understanding of how to serve autistic children, the Bolls have additional resources at www.autismpodcast.org.  The Bolls are just one example of what one responder called the “general nature of international teachers—they just find a way.”

In conclusion, the special needs education picture is the same and different across the world.  With a spirit of justice, parents, educators, and communities can make a difference by working collaboratively to improve the accessibility of a quality education for all children.  In unity, the possibilities can become realities.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)

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Have a specific international school in mind that you thinking of applying at? Check out our “Where our Members have worked” page and start contacting some of our members that know about the international school you are interested in knowing more about. Our 2700+ members currently work at (or have worked at in the past) 487 different international schools.  Feel free to send them a private message related to finding out more about their Special Needs programming at their international school.

Furthermore, 26 members have specifically stated on their member profile that they currently hold the position of Special Education Teacher.  Check out which positions our members hold here.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #10 – Does the school facilitate learning about the host country?

May 9, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school deals with disciplinary problems?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 12.43.09 PMTip #10 – Does the school facilitate learning about the host country?  (This may seem obvious, but some international schools make inadequate efforts in this area.)

One of the exciting reasons to work at international schools is to live, work and learn about a different culture and region. Many international schools strive to embed the local culture into the academic curriculum, extra-curricular activities and overall vision/mission of the school. The benefits of doing so are enormous. It helps to create open-mindedness, a sense of belonging to a community, create local partnerships, inspire community action and outreach projects, and promote understanding of language and local customs. However, this does not happen by accident and a school must make a conscious decision to design this all areas of the school; starting with the vision, mission and core values of the school.

Assessing how much value an international school puts into its local culture can start with looking at the school’s mission, vision and core values. For example, the International School of the Hague’s mission statement states part of its mission is “to make an active contribution to global, international and local communities” while “interacting with global, international and local communities through the exchange of resources and knowledge.” Another international school in Indonesia, Sinarmas World Academy, has their mission to “engage, act, thrive” by engaging in service to solve local, Asian and global issues. So why does this matter? All school-wide goals, projects and action items must be aligned with an overall school’s mission, vision and values. Therefore, if you have an interest in engaging in the local culture, this is a good place to start your research.

The second place to start is within the formal curriculum. Does the school offer authentic ways to engage and connect with the local community within a unit of study? Some international accreditation bodies have it as part of their framework. For example, the IBO (international baccalaureate organization) has a strong action and community service component of the PYP, MYP and DP programs. The DP program has a creativity action service (CAS) program where students use local issues to take up action projects. Both the MYP and PYP have strong action components as well that are integrates into units of inquiry and cross-curricular units. This often leads to relevant and meaningful action projects where students get to learn about and help solve local issues. Often schools have CAS coordinators that help to coordinate these projects across the school. These projects do not just happen outside of school walls, but can happen inside school. For instance, local schools are often invited into the school for a mutual learning experiences tied to a unit of study.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 12.12.14 PMPhoto: An example of authentic learning in action. A Grade 3 student working with students from a local school using iPads to take photos for an art activity.

Another area to integrate with the local community is through extra-curricular activities, conferences, special events and sporting programs. An important question to ask your prospective school is what types of extra-curricular activities do they offer with the local community? Do they offer local conferences for teachers or parents? Do they offer sports tournaments with local teams? Do they offer cultural events celebrating local traditions or customs? These are often questions that are way down the list but contribute to the overall school culture and climate. They provide unique opportunities for students and staff to learn and develop friendships with local members of the community. For example, in some international schools in Asia, they celebrate Chinese New Year and often invite local performers, artisans and experts to offer musical, arts, culinary activities for students to engage with. This can really enrich the informal areas of the curriculum that can have long lasting effects.

The opportunity to learn another language is another popular reason for choosing to work at an international school. The ability to converse in another language opens doors for our future learners as well as professionals. Thus, a critical question to ask is what languages are offered at the school and what language levels? Do they offer language instruction in the local language, either in the formal curriculum or as an after-school activity? Do they offer language lessons for staff? Often being able to speak even a few words of the local language goes a long way and is often appreciated by locals.

Interacting and learning from local cultures provides a tremendous opportunity for rich learning experiences for students, teachers and parents. I believe this is one reason why we travel and live overseas. Often, this is an area that is forgotten in job interviews but remains an important consideration when choosing an international school in the future.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mark Marshall
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Have a specific international school in mind that you thinking of applying at? Check out our “Where our Members have worked” page and start contacting some of our members that know about the international school you are interested in knowing more about. Our 2400+ members currently work at (or have worked at in the past) 430 different international schools.  Feel free to send them a private message about how much their international school facilitates learning about the host country.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #9 – Does the international school properly deal with disciplinary problems?

April 1, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school deals with disciplinary problems?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #9 – Does the school properly deal with disciplinary problems? Some international schools, unfortunately, are lax on discipline, and problem children and their disruptive behavior can adversely affect other children’s learning.

4 -- Parent's Orientation at Ashmah Int.School Parents and teachers have so many considerations to ponder when selecting an international school!  Naturally, questions abound regarding the academics, the co-curricular and extra-curricular offerings, class size, accreditation, teacher quality, and the list goes on.  So what about discipline?

Discipline is an essential element for children to experience school success.  Without it, there is a compromised climate for learning that can eventually resemble chaos.  No one wants their child to learn in that type of environment.  Usually questions regarding school discipline policies and procedures can be answered by a school administrator or by reviewing the international school’s handbook and/or website.  In most cases, parents and teachers will find the procedures school personnel follow and the resulting consequences for a litany of offenses.  How well that is implemented will partially determine the effectiveness of discipline in that international school.

As schools create Mission statements that often include phrases like “preparing students for the 21st century” or “meaningful roles in society”…suggesting the inter-personal development of the student in addition to the academic excellence every parent and teacher expects, but they also need to ask for explanations of how that is accomplished in that international school setting.

This level of questioning brings us to a more complete cycle for discipline.  The procedures discussed earlier are “partially effective” because they represent control from the outside in.  Rules are written, procedures are outlined, and consequences are administered with varying levels of fidelity and consistency.  That is the tricky part of traditional discipline programs—they can include judgment and some cases just are not as clear as others.

Given those facts, schools can expand their focus on discipline to include inner disciplinary development.  This might be brought about through special Character Education programs that can be implemented or in the case of a religiousinternational-schools-good-choice-1 school, certainly through a spiritual lens.  This is what I call value-added discipline.  It is transformational compared to traditional rules and consequences that are based on outside controls.  International schools can function at a highly effective level when both approaches are in place.  From this combined approach, children are doing several things that are life-changing:

• They are examining their own actions and taking responsibility.
• They discuss situations with a teacher, mentor, or adviser.
• They learn how to change/manage their own behavior.
• They develop a deeper appreciation and respect for others and their surroundings.
• They develop problem-solving strategies that transfer well for a lifetime.
• They come to know their own personalities and can work effectively with people they encounter.

Effective value-added discipline programs depend greatly on an investment in each child by a responsible adult, consistent mentoring, and positive connections between family and school.  The rewards are beyond measure, however.  When parents happen to discover this holistic approach to discipline, seize the opportunity!  It is a jewel that shines for a lifetime.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)
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On our website we have a related topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of the students’ demeanor at each school.  It is called “In general, describe the demeanor of the students.”  Our members have submitted over 70 comments and information in this topic on a number of different international schools listed on our website.  Here are just a few of the comments and information submitted in this topic:

“ISD is a primary school, with children ages 3-12. The school’s buddy program pairs the older children with the younger ones, so that the pre-k and kindergarten classes become very comfortable with the big kids. Since most of the children are expats, they are very friendly to newcomers and take changes (such as new students arriving and students leaving) in stride…”
– International School of Dublin (8 Comments)

“Whereas it cannot be described as a school for the gifted, DAS does have an exceptionally large number of gifted students. Whereas students with negative attitudes are definitely there – as everywhere – expat teachers regularly remark about their enjoyment of the teaching-learning process at DAS because of the eagerness of most of the students to learning…”
– Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (60 Comments)

“The students are students. Just like anywhere else you have some who are there to learn and some who are not. You have some that you have a rapport with and some you do not. In general these are funny kids who like to tease and like to get to know you as a person and as a teacher. And just like any kids, in the beginning they will test you to see what you are made of. Stay strong, don’t let them see you sweat and you will be fine…”
– Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 Comments)

“Pretty good for the most part, although overall respect and tradition of bowing was going out the window. Some cheating on homework and other areas. Very humorous and fun to teach, save for a few small groups who needed to be expelled for cheating, threatening teachers to try to change a grade, setting fires in the bathrooms, smoking, swearing, skipping school, hiding in the wedding hall to sleep, going over to the dark gym to snog and make out, sneaking in beer during school events, stealing school property…etc. Most of these violations were done by a small group of boys and girls who must have had special status with the school or principal…”
– Indianhead International School (14 Comments)

“They are pretty rich and spoiled, mostly. Their priorities include shopping, partying and traveling. Studying might be next, but most students don’t stay for more than one or two years. The students I enjoyed the most were either in the dorm I was responsible for or on yearbook staff (which was also my responsibility)…”
– TASIS The American School in Switzerland (29 Comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the students’ demeanor at the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get 7 free days of premium access. You will become a part of our over 2200+ members.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

February 23, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about if the international school’s teachers are fully qualified or not?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

This is not typically a concern with mainstream international schools, but it can be a concern with some newer schools and in certain regions of the world.

pic1104Some might say having qualified teachers from early years all the way to secondary school are essential for an international school to thrive.  Why then do some international schools hire non-certified teachers?  Of course there are many reasons why schools make such choices for their staff.

One reason is that qualified teachers are sometimes hard to come by in some (if not all) countries. Additionally, the more experienced teachers may not be considering positions at less established international schools.  In some parts of the world, the pay is low.  Being that certified teachers seek out positions that value their teaching degrees (that they have worked hard for), they might not even consider working at some schools where the pay and benefits are less than desirable.

Another factor that comes into play is timing.  Some international schools get into “binds” every once and awhile, and sometimes the best choice is to hire a less qualified (or not qualified) teacher to fill the position. That non-qualified teacher is just waiting and waiting for the right moment, when the stars align for them, to finally get that job at the nearby international school versus staying at the “language” school down the road.  Also, when international schools are trying to fill vacancies for the coming school year during not ideal times of the year (e.g. the summer months or even May), they might not have the same pick of qualified teachers as they would have had back in January and February.

Even another reason that international school hire non-qualified teachers could be related to money.  International schools (especially for-profit ones) are always on the look-out on how to save money. Hiring non-qualified teachers can potentially save the school money as they can sometimes pay them less.  If there is a pay scale at the school, they would most likely be on the bottom of it.Mr-Boli-and-Primary-186

Many educators without university teaching certificates are the ones that are already living abroad.  They maybe moved abroad when they got a job at an English-language school or had an interest in “teaching English” in a foreign country.  We are sure that there are some great English-language schools around the world, but most of the teachers at those schools would prefer to work at an international school; mainly because of the better pay and benefits.  More established international schools though won’t consider them because they might not have the exact teaching qualifications that they require. The less established international schools might consider these less-qualified teachers though, especially if they are scrounging to find quality candidates to fill their positions.

It is true that you can be a good teacher, even an excellent one, without a teaching certificate from a university. Experience in the field can definitely equal quality teaching, and parents and other qualified teachers shouldn’t be so turned off to working with them.  If you agree to that statement, maybe we shouldn’t be so caught up in whether an international school has an all-qualified staff.  We all work hard to do the same job, it isn’t as if qualified teachers would work any harder at the school.  On the other hand, it is important to honor the time spent when teachers do go an get diplomas in education.  Many people with university teaching certificates have worked very hard to make teaching their career choice and not just a “job”.  It can be a bit of an “unfortunate circumstance” and a downer when a qualified teacher shows up at their new international school to find out that their colleagues are all “English teachers”!
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On our website we have a specific topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of which international schools have qualified teachers or not.  It is called “Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.”  Our members have submitted 100s of comments and information in this topic on a number of different international schools listed on our website.  Here are just a few of the comments and information submitted in this topic:

“About 65% North American, 20% European and 15% local and other. All teachers are certified and have at least 4 years’ experience…”
MEF International School Istanbul (27 total comments)

“The school has both Colombian and expat teachers. All of the expat teachers are North American and all are qualified teachers. The Colombian teachers are also well certified. There is not a high turnover rate at the school. Many expat teachers, though young, stay three or four years and some have been at the school much longer…”
Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 total comments)

“High Staff turnover. Probably 1/3 local hires vs. expats. The qualifications can be low. Many first year teachers with no teaching degree. Most expats are Americans and Canadians. People do not stay here because the taxes are high, the frustration level with the administration is high, and the level of academic rigor is low…”
American School Foundation of Mexico City (35 total comments)

“You will find a range of teachers from New Zealand to Canada, via UK, Egypt, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, France and more. Most teachers are expat hire. Local hire teachers are well qualified. The school is still only 7 years old so turnover rate is hard to reflect on. It ranges from 1-7 years at current time…”
Khartoum International Community School (37 total comments)

“Turn over rate last year was very low. This year is different with several teachers in the Secondary school being pushed out. The school pays on time and there are good benefits. Many teachers in the Secondary school do not have formal teaching qualifications but they have good subject knowledge…”
Western International School of Shanghai (57 total comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get one full month of premium access. You will become a part of our over 1950+ members!

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