12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an International School: Tip #3: Is the School Vision Consistent?

November 27, 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 #3 – Vision: What is the vision of the school? Is it consistent with the actual operation of the school?

What is the vision that is expressed by the school head or officials? Can anyone attest to whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school?

Whether you are a potential parent or teacher at an international school, it is important for you to inquire about the Vision of the school.  You might ask yourself “what is this notion called Vision” all about and why would it be a concern?  As long as the school is safe and orderly, isn’t that enough?

Vision is the core of the functionality of the school.  Many international schools are privately owned and operated as a business with a mission and vision, often that of the owners.  Other schools might be government entities or faith-based, both of which will likely have specific purposes for existence.  Nonetheless, the vision for a school should be clearly articulated and a driving force for all decisions within the school.  Furthermore, the vision should be one that is shared with a wide array of stakeholders from teachers and students to parents and community members.  It also should be revisited each year or two for refining.

Strong, effective vision statements are often succinct and able to be implanted throughout the decision-making process.  A common current vision theme might include the concept of “preparing global learners for the 21st century” which can sound appealing to teachers and parents assessing international schools.   Don’t we want our students/children to be prepared for the workforce and the competitive market?

Let’s take a look inside the school’s operation as we examine the concept of 21st-century global readiness.  Some easy-to-identify indicators of the use of the Vision for the school might include:

1.     Clearly stated on the school website
2.     Visible at the school
3.     Included in school marketing materials
4.     Articulated by school leaders in interviews and meetings

However, the true power of the Vision is embedded in decision-making and is generally harder for a parent or new hire to identify.  The following questions (and many more) can reveal if the Vision indeed drives the inner workings of the school:

1.     Do enrollment and hiring practices support diversity?
2.     How has the curriculum expanded to prepare students for a global future?
3.     How is technology financed and integrated into the curriculum and daily operations of the school?
4.     Do the instructional strategies reflect on teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving for students and faculty?
5.     Are multiple languages spoken at the school?
6.     Are teachers trained to use best practices in their instruction?
7.     Are there global partnerships for teachers and students to engage in international discussions, projects, and exchanges?
8.     Is there a sense of shared leadership that enables teachers and students to have leadership roles and develop leadership skills?
9.     How does the school’s budget reflect a commitment to preparing 21st-century global learners?
10.  What achievement expectations do the leaders have for learners?

From that limited list of thoughts, one can recognize that future parents and teachers need to be creative in their inquiry process.  Otherwise, the Vision might be more of “the blind leading the blind.”

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

Using the unique ISC Comment Search feature on International School Community we found 469 comments that have the keyword Vision in them. Here are just a few of them:

If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, log in to ISC today and submit your comment regarding your school’s realization of its vision!

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 950 members.  Many of our current members have listed they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s vision statement and whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an International School Tip #2: Is the School Conveniently Located?

October 30, 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 #2: Is the School Conveniently Located?

The American School of London (see above picture) and the United Nations International School in New York City are conveniently located, but not all international schools are in the same situation.  Some international schools are built way outside of the city center, far away, especially if you plan on living in the city center.  Sometimes your journey to work might be around one hour, one-way; an important thing to know before you decide on signing a contract to work at an international school.

If you don’t mind living in a 3rd ring suburb, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big of an issue that your school is so far away from the city center.  However, if you like to enjoy city life and prefer to live there as well, then it might not be the best fit to work at an international school that is not centrally located.

If you are a teacher with children that attend the school, living closer to school also might be a positive thing.  Maybe if you have children, you wouldn’t mind working at a school that is way out in the suburbs because that is always where you would prefer to live anyway.

Before signing a contract, an international school teacher definitely needs to evaluate their current situation and what their living-situation needs are.  Make sure to ask the right questions at the interview about how your current situation and needs match with the location of the school and where you would most likely be living in relation to that school.

If you had a choice, what would be the preferred way for you to and from work every day?  Would you rather ride your bike, take a bus, take the school bus, ride on a train, walk, drive your car, take a taxi, or a combination of 2-3 types of transportation?  What amount of time is an acceptable journey length: 10-15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 45 minutes, or over one hour? The ISC blog has a series called The Journey to School which highlights a number of journeys to schools from around the world. Check it out to get a first-hand account of what the journeys are like.

One colleague friend of mine worked at a school that was more than a one-hour journey from their apartment.  Most of the teachers there were taken to and from the school on one of the school’s buses “for teachers.”  One positive thing this teacher took away from that experience was that many teachers were forced to not work so long at the school.  Because of the fact that the school bus for teachers left at a specific time, you had to get on that bus…otherwise you would be stuck at school with limited options to get home!  Sometimes teachers do need to stay long at school to get work completed, but often teachers don’t really need to stay for hours and hours.  If you are forced to end your workday at a certain time, you would be surprised how much of your work gets done during that time constraint.

Another colleague friend of mine lives in the city center and their school is very conveniently located in relation to the city center.  Many teachers at this school also live where this teacher lives, and the journey from home to school is around 12-15 minutes by train and 20-25 minutes by bike.  Many of the teachers at this school are quite pleased that they at least have the option of living in the city center and also have a relatively easy commute to work.  There are also many options to get to work based on the needs and situation of each teacher.  It is nice when there are many transportation options available to meet the needs of a diverse staff.

We have had 1710 comments and information (30 October 2022) submitted about this very topic on a number of international schools on International School Community’s website.  For example on the Kaohsiung American School‘s profile page there have been four comments submitted so far:

On the Misr American College school profile page, we have two rather informative comments about the school’s location:

On the American Embassy School New Delhi school profile page, we have useful details about the school’s location:

If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, please share your comments about if your school is conveniently or NOT conveniently located.

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 24000 members.  Many of our current members have listed they work at over 2000 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about where most teachers are living in relation to the school and the city center.

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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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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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