Discussion Topics

How Have International Schools Been Doing During the COVID 19 Pandemic?

December 5, 2021


Nobody was fully prepared to deal with the lockdowns international schools have been experiencing.

Some international schools experienced teaching from home, doing remote learning. And though many international schools are back to in-person learning at the moment (with or without masks), others are still in the throws of remote teaching!

It has been hard on all stakeholders, and it continues to be hard on the international school community. Most of us are subjected to the rules and regulations of our host country, which can be comforting and also stressful. And international schools must make plans to follow these (sometimes ever-changing) rules.

We all want to do our part to get this pandemic over and done with. But the reality is that it has been very stressful constantly making changes to how we teach. And even if an international school teacher is getting into the groove with their current setup, there is always a sense that a new change is coming soon.

Adding to the stress and anxiety, the truth is that some international school teachers haven’t been back to their home in over two years because they have not been allowed to leave their host country!

How then have international schools made these decisions to teach during the COVID 19 pandemic? How have they made their decisions to teach in a safe way, and how were those decisions perceived and experienced by the staff?

Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. We have a comment topic called, “How did this school handle the COVID-19 situation?” and here are 11 comments that have been submitted in this section:

China (Beijing)

“The school went above and beyond on the covid-19 situation in helping families, setting up robust online learning. Some teachers took advantage of this, so things have tightened up a bit. Online learning has greatly been minimised due to extreme government caution but everyone is still masked and subjected to frequent test requests / inspections etc. Travel is severely hampered and is totally unpredictable…” – Western Academy of Beijing (76 total comments)

Vietnam

“The school did a great job following the government’s guidelines…” – International School Saigon Pearl (103 total comments)

Thailand (Nonthaburi)

“Terribly. They furloughed most of the teacher assistants and cafeteria workers. They fired someone very last minute, claiming low enrollment when she had already signed a contract for the following year…” – Ruamrudee International School (Ratchapruek) (45 total comments)

China (Shanghai)

“Not well. When 40%+ of the faculty was trapped outside china (along with much of the families) the school furloughed/fired a huge chunk of them even though all of us who weren’t furloughed/fired eventually got back in. The school then hired replacements for the classrooms. It was clear that the people that were fired were people the administrators wanted to get rid of (i.e. tougher personalities). It felt like the school used COVID, instead of normal improvement plan processes, to part ways with people. This left many individuals stuck in countries that weren’t their home with no job and no income – it was devastating to many. Most of us wish they would have kept everyone on at reduced pay for 1 year (supposedly we had the money to do so) with knowing that they would need to make reductions the following year. It would have been compassionate to give everyone time to figure out what they needed to do…” – Shanghai American School (Pudong) (197 total comments)

Thailand (Chiang Mai)

“COVID has had a huge impact on the school, its managers, teachers, parents and students. Parents and teachers have been critical of some of the things the school has done but generally, everyone accepts these are intolerably difficult and unique times and that management does not have a crystal ball and is generally reacting well to the latest whims of government policy…” – Lanna International School (LIST) (55 total comments)

Poland

“In March of 2020, the school followed government guidelines and transitioned to remote learning mostly synchronously. This was initially meant to last for a few weeks, but in the end, we never returned to school. Our spring break was shortened so that we could end the year early, and this was generally appreciated. With a rigorous testing/masking/distancing regimen in place (and a general ban on parents entering the building), we were able to return to in-person classes for the entirety of the 2020/21 school year. There were always a handful of students who attended in a hybrid mode, and small categories of students were occasionally excluded and moved to virtual mode for short periods of time depending on testing results. Graduation was held in drive-in mode on campus for the classes of 2020 and 2021, which was an excellent concession. The protocols continue to be followed this year (though hybrid students are generally not accommodated for except in extraordinary circumstances) and things feel as close to “normal” as one could hope for…” – American School of Warsaw (167 total comments)

China (Shekou)

“Brilliantly. Paid for flights and quarantine costs for all employees stuck outside of China. Will do the same for the next summer break as well…” – Shekou International School (109 total comments)

Japan

“We were very lucky to have only 1 month of online/remote learning in which the Head of Tech Integration was able to set up the online program for teachers, students, and parents…” – Hope International Academy Okinawav (76 total comments)

Thailand (Phuket)

“Really really badly although the CEO is convinced otherwise. During the last lockdown, staff was close to breaking point (and still are). Laurent and his minions decided the stick approach was best so forced staff to work from campus and remove lunches, remove the ability for staff to buy their own, and remove coffee. Then they decided that it was a good time to do appraisals, observations and hand out personal criticisms. You honestly couldn’t make this shXX up. Every single one of his remaining decent staff members is now looking elsewhere. He has fundamentally damaged the core of the school-his staff and does not appear to see this as a problem. In 18 months this school has gone from ‘has potential ‘ to ‘RUN’…” – Berda Claude International School (39 total comments)

China (Macao)

“The school has an online learning plan when it is necessary to implement. Macau has been a very safe place to live and work during COVID but with that safety comes very limited movement. Getting into Macau is very difficult and when you are here it is basically impossible to leave. This has made life very hard for expats…” – The School of the Nations (Macao) (28 total comments)

China (Suzhou)

“China, and especially Suzhou, is lucky to have been open most of the time during COVD-19! SSIS was forced to have a delayed start to the school year this year by the local government due to COVID-19 which has affected the calendar a bit by shortening staff vacations…” – Suzhou Singapore International School (147 total comments)

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Discussion Topics

9 International Educators Share How Close the Beaches are to Their International Schools

June 6, 2021


Who wouldn’t want to live next to or very close to the beach? Better yet, a beautiful beach with amazing sand and turquoise water!

International school educators could only be so lucky!

But this actually does exist in the world of international schools. There are a number of international schools around the world that are very close to the beach.

Some are on islands and that life has its pluses and minuses, but other international schools are simply just located on the coast of their continent.

Either way, you could be listening to the crashing of the waves as you walk home from a day’s work at your future international school next to the beach!

After searching the keyword ‘beach‘ using our Comments Search function on our website (premium access required), we found 331 comments. Here are 9 of them that give some insight into the hospital experience in different countries around the world.

Al Sahwa Schools (40 total comments)

“The school has not changed their site since the comment. They are close to the beach and the school has a new building on each side plus a new astroturf pitch. The older buildings are in need of some upgrading…”

Qingdao Amerasia International School (56 total comments)

“The ample outdoor activities available within the comfortable confines of a modern city: 40km boardwalk, beaches, mountains – tons of opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts…”

American School of Recife (27 total comments)

“American School of Recife 10 minutes to the nearest mall. Uber taxi is the most popular transportation in Recife. You can hire Uber to get you to the nearest beach area i.e Paiva or Porto Galinha. Single teachers are housed in a fully-furnished flat (considered a hotel in the city). The flats are only a one-bedroom apartment with a nice view of the beach and 7-10 minute walk to the school. The flat is also nearby small groceries where you can get most the things you may need in terms of food…”

UWC Thailand (107 total comments)

“There are many awesome beaches for different tastes. Bang Tao and Layan are popular with the school community. They are within 30 min of driving from campus. Ao Yon and Karon in the south are also popular…”

Lucaya International School (30 total comments

“The relaxed vibe on the island, friendly people, and absolutely stunning beaches, on which you may not see another person. It’s like having your own private beach. If you love deserted, pristine beaches, you will enjoy living here…”

United Lisbon International School (12 total comments)

“Lisbon is near to the Algarve area which is a popular beach destination for Europeans. Once can get there by car in 2.5 hours and by train in 3 hours. Porto, the other large city in Lisbon is 3.5 hours away with train service as well. Then there are smaller cities all accessible by good roads and trains…”

International School of Western Australia (28 total comments)

“The school is in the lovely suburb of Doubleview. Not to far from the city and quite close to the beach. There are a few nice cafes nearby that are great and quick to get lunch for school. It is quite expensive to rent or buy near the school – most teachers live 15-20 minutes away and drive to work.”

The Codrington School (Int’l School of Barbados) (83 total comments)

“West and South Coast are great places to live and go out. Lots of restaurants, bars and beautiful beaches to enjoy after work and on weekends.”

Cayman International School (6 total comments)

“There is no housing allowance. Rent is extremely high if you intend to live on or near a beach. Traffic can really be a problem, especially if you live on the south end of the island. A two bedroom apartment will run about $2,000 away from Seven Mile beach, $3,000 on the beach.”

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Discussion Topics

Traveling to get Vaccinated in your Home Country

April 18, 2021


Let’s be honest. Not all countries are equally successful with their COVID19 vaccination roll-out.

Many of us are in countries in which there seems to be no hope to get vaccinated before the summer (or even the foreseeable future). The international school community hasn’t been able to see their families in almost two years, so they are eagerly hoping to do so this summer.

Although vaccination is not a mandatory prerequisite for travel, being vaccinated would definitely give them some peace of mind while visiting their loved ones.

Different regions of the world are having different dynamics in rolling out their vaccination programs. Europe is currently lagging behind the countries such as UK, Israel, Chile, Serbia, the USA, etc. But most developing countries are lagging behind Europe.

Because of the time crunch, a number of international school teachers are choosing to go to their home countries anyway and looking at maybe also getting vaccinated there.

As plane tickets are being bought (hopefully with a flexible rescheduling policy), we are currently seeing new waves of infections in many countries around the world (and maybe even your home country). This puts all of us in a moral doubt of whether we should take a risk and travel to see our friends and family or should be more patient and wait until more certain times.

After looking at some flights from Europe to the USA, the prices look very attractive compared to previous years. So buying one of these flights is hard to resist.

However, it is hard to know what the world will look like come June. We don’t know yet which requirements you’ll have to meet to even fly to your home country. As of today, most countries just require proof of a negative PCR test for citizens of that country (and their spouse/family).

What are your plans for this coming summer? Will you take the chance and fly home?

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Discussion Topics

LGBT Friendly? Insight into 12 International Schools and Their Countries

March 28, 2021


Let’s face it: LGBT teachers need to consider some specific things when they decide they would like to teach abroad at an international school.

It could be that the school you are going to is LGBT-friendly, but your host country is not. Sometimes both the school and the host country are not LGBT-Friendly. Many LGBT international school teachers would not choose to work in either of these situations for moral or safety reasons, while other might. Even when the laws of the host countries include the death penalty, there are some LGBT international school teachers who have lived and worked there for many years with very little to no problems.

It is still a difficult choice to make though, as there can be some potentially harmful, confusing, and even dangerous discrimination situations for LGBT international school teachers in some countries around the world.

Therefore, it is very important to do your research and check out your prospective international school and see what they think (ask them these questions during your interview!). Take some time to examine the current laws related to LGBT people in the host country and the latest news articles about any possible recent events.

We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as some of the most interesting and insightful, about whether or not each of these schools and/or countries are LGBT-friendly.

1.

“There is a wide variety of teachers from different backgrounds. Age also varies widely. It is a school that is LGBT-friendly and accepts same-sex relationships. The turnover is normal for the size of the school. Many people stay longer than first intended…” – International School Manila (110 total comments)

2.

“Parents are not LGBT friendly – as a result, while the school does not have a particular bias, they cater to the parents…” – Peking University Experimental School (Jiaxing) (79 total comments)

3.

“Expats, with local Romanians as assistants and a few specialist positions.
Turnover is low but should be lower for a great package in a great city.
LGBT friendly school, there are some ‘rules’ to follow for Romania in general.” – American International School Bucharest (63 total comments)

4.

“A mix of local and expat teachers work here. Some teachers don’t speak any English but everyone is friendly. I don’t think it is LGBT friendly as an induction meeting for new teachers gives a friendly warning about keeping your sexuality to yourself…” – Colegio Interamericano de Guatemala (138 total comments)

5.

“Most of the staff if expat, including the non-teaching employees (bus drivers, kitchen staff etc.). On average I would say staff stay here for 3-5 years. The school is LGBT friendly as is Switzerland…” – Leysin American School (113 total comments)

6.

“Teachers are from various countries but mainly from UK, Ireland, US, Canada and Spain but we do have teachers hired from Hungary and Greece. Some teachers are local hires but the majority aren’t. Teaching Assistants are all local hires. There is no native English speaker requirement as far as I know. The country is definitely not LGBT friendly as it is a strict Islamic country…” – SEK International School Qatar (37 total comments)

7.

“LGBT friendly school. A mixture of couples and singles. Local and expat teachers. There has been a turnover of teachers in the last few years with Burkina not being as stable as it was and unrest here and in neighbouring countries.” – International School of Ouagadougou (57 total comments)

8.

“With the exception of ATs, Bahasa and Mandarin teachers – ALL teachers are expats. Almost all are from the UK. There are also Canadian, American, Australian – but in small minority. There are a few non-native speakers also – from France, Spain for example… The staffroom is not that diverse though. The country itself is not that LGBT friendly. Many LGBT teachers have fared well, others have left describing the dating scene as poor…” – The British International School of Kuala Lumpur (29 total comments)

9.

“The majority of the teachers here are from the US, Aus/NZ and the UK. There are also a fair amount of ‘local’ teachers who, by and large, did their teacher training in the US. Teaching assistants are locally hired and the school runs an internship for locally trained teachers. The school and country is LGBT friendly. The staff turnover rate is fairly typical for an international school. The vast majority of staff hold Masters degrees (for which there is additional pay on the payscale) and the clear preference is for an education degree…” – American School Antananarivo (24 total comments)

10.

“Every class must have a native English speaker who works alongside with a local bilingual coeducator. The school is brand new so difficult to state staff turnover – those hired since the beginning still work there. A very inclusive and LGBT friendly school…” – GIS – The International School of Sao Paulo (22 total comments)

11.

“Almost all of the classroom teachers are foreigners from Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and England. The teaching assistants and most of the staff are Russian. Please note that there is almost zero diversity at this school. This is not a LGBT friendly country or school. Please do not disclose if you are LGBT for your own sake…” – International School of Kazan (86 total comments)

12.

“High turnover of local staff. Local pay is <10% of foreign teacher salary.
Foreign teachers stay for 3 years typically. It is a LGBT friendly school, but the country is still evolving, and most LGBT teachers are not open about being gay.” – Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo (65 total comments)

Check out the rest of the “LGBT friendly” submitted comments on our website here.

If you have worked at an international school and know first-hand knowledge about whether the international school or the host country is LGBT-friendly, log in to International School Community and submit your comment. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!

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Discussion Topics

Are international schools more likely to hire teaching couples?

February 14, 2021


Most of us have been in the situation while job hunting for a position at an international school when the topic of our relationship status comes up. Of course, it is none of their business and a very strange thing to ask at a job interview. But in the world of international schools, it is quite common to ask this and important information to know from the school’s perspective. 

International schools have this idea that teaching couples are the ideal hiring choice as they try to fill their vacancies. It is like a 2-for-1 deal. It is a dream for an international school to find a teaching couple that consists of two top-notch teachers with lots of experience. The general observation though is that the school often hires one top-notch partner first who is a really good fit for a certain position, and then finds a vacant position for the spouse who might not truly be their first choice for that role. 

Regardless of finding the perfect fit for those positions, teaching couples are supposed to be more stable. They can support each other better when adapting to a new country and culture. No international school likes it when a teacher arrives and within the first few months can’t handle their new situation which leads to their prompt resignation, or even a no-show. If a teacher is already living with someone familiar, this person will automatically have the feeling of home which will lessen the sometimes harsh effects of culture shock making it more manageable for them to settle in. Also, when partners go through some of the negative parts (and positive ones) of culture shock together, these experiences become nice bonding moments. With those shared experiences, teaching couples potentially could indeed be more stable.

Another reason international schools like to hire teaching couples is that it is cheaper when they are handing out the housing allowances. Usually, the housing allowance is a bit more for teaching couples, but it is definitely less than two single teacher housing allowances combined. But if teaching couples want, they can even get a smaller apartment that is cheaper and could save the difference (not available in every school). In turn, teaching couples can often save more money than single teachers. They can even save one partner’s whole salary in some situations in certain countries. If one can keep saving more money, teaching couples may stay longer at that school.

The truth is, though, that not all teaching couples have these same positive experiences and advantages. Moving abroad as a couple can be just as unpredictable as going as a single teacher. Imagine a teaching couple that has moved from a spacious apartment and now has to live together in close quarters. This situation can create not-seen-before tensions. Additionally, maybe you are a new couple and haven’t experienced living together for that long. Add on culture shock and adapting to a new work environment and that can be a recipe for disaster.

If a teaching couple hasn’t worked together in the same school before, then the couple could find it challenging to establish the balance of work and life as their life and community become part of the work. This gets even trickier when maybe their children are being taught at the same school! It could also really get on the teaching couples’ nerves being together all the time, every day. However, odds are that this is not so challenging because many teaching couples don’t really see each other that much especially if the teachers are teaching at different grades or departments.

And there can be also downsides for the international schools themselves when they hire teaching couples. For one, it is often a difficult task to fill two vacant positions using a teaching couple. Then when a teaching couple leaves, it can be quite the challenge to easily find their replacements (like another, similar teaching couple). Many teaching couples are often on the market longer because of this quest to find the perfect match. Of course, both parties can be flexible, but this flexibility can lead to a less than perfect fit. It is recommended for a teaching couple to address these expectations early in their job-seeking process.

If an international school is going through some tough financial times and needs to let some staff go, it can get complicated when they have to sift through the staff while also thinking about whether they are part of a “package” or not.

Certain international schools are now specifically stating that they prefer single teachers to hiring teaching couples. So a single teacher just needs to find the right school for themselves, and also have a bit of luck and good timing on their side. It’s a pity when an international school has interviewed a single teacher and has told them they are a really good fit and then just before handing out their contract, they respond that they have given the position to a teaching couple. This situation has happened so many times to single jobseekers and has created this sense of “I need to be in a teaching couple to get hired at an international school”. However, this idea is simply not the case for all international schools. The reality is that at one school teaching couples are favored and single teachers can actually be more desirable at a different one.

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