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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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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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The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam #2

February 7, 2021


My previous blog post (The Native English Teaching Scam #1) described the deceptive and possibly racist distinction between Native English Speakers (NES) and Non-Native English Speakers (NNES) in international teaching job ads. Even if this distinction could be rectified, what advantage does an NES have over an NNES teacher in an international school? Four common and interconnected excuses are used by stakeholders:

  1. Parents, the customer, want NES teachers
  2. Schools require NES to market “internationalness” to parents
  3. Recruiters can’t or worse, won’t, recommend NNES to schools
  4. Some countries have regulations restricting visas to NNES teachers

The first excuse is either a genuine concern about the quality of the language of instruction (English) or racist attitudes held by parents. Qualifications like IELTS are internationally recognised and allow teachers to prove their English language capability. Racism from parents requires schools to lead their community and educate parents about the benefits of diverse staffing. The parent is the customer but racist attitudes cannot define the makeup of the faculty or, most distressingly, imbed negative worldviews in their children.

The second excuse deals with the historical image of White, Western teachers being fundamental to an international school. The irony of international schools defining themselves in this narrow, anti-global way defies the meaning of ‘international’. The missions of accreditation agencies IB and WASC state international-mindedness is a core value, demonstrated by diversity and inclusion, in the classroom as well as the staffroom. While accreditation agencies could and should do more to enforce this mission, schools can take the lead now, rather than perpetuate an outdated image of international schools.

It has been well established that recruiters are facilitating discriminatory practices, mostly, they say, to meet client demand. An influential recruiting agency, Search Associates, admitted after the George Floyd protests in 2020 that they needed to review their own practices. They have removed the NES requirement from all their job advertising and are working to increase diversity within their business model. If it is simply easier (and therefore more profitable) to place White teachers from the 10 “approved” NES countries, recruiters must examine how they can overcome this unfair and profit-driven motivation.

The final excuse is the most difficult to address, particularly during a pandemic. Despite the 10 NES countries having laws outlawing discrimination on the basis of country of birth, hiring practices in the global context follow the countries in which they operate. Countries, like China, can have hard to change regulations, particularly when they wish to protect and promote their local citizens in the education industry. However, enough pressure from all stakeholders can change regulations, as some Chinese provinces have already done.

I believe international schools and their leadership must guide this change. They can strongly influence parents and recruiters, as well as eventually the countries they are located in through best practice and promoting equity. Does your school have tolerance, respect, equality or global mindedness in its mission or values? These don’t just apply to the students. International schools can start through a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement on their website. Great schools and recruiters like here, here and here already do.

Oliver Escott is the Director and Co-founder of Staffroom, whose core purpose is to help teachers create a job and life they dream about. We provide international teacher career coaching and support services. Our products include the $1 Job Club, a curated list of progressive international schools and recruiters. We are active advocates of NNES teachers and are passionate about creating the same job opportunities for all international teachers. 

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The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam (Part 1)

January 22, 2021


There is a clear form of racism – based on your country of origin – apparent in international teaching today. Recruiting educators can be based on their passport, rather than their skills, qualifications and experience. This is discrimination that everyone involved in international teaching must protest and actively renounce. The issue is as blatant as it is pervasive.

Job advertisements for international schools regularly specify applications by Native English Speakers (NES). The definition is itself is dishonest, as the commonly used NES job requirement only applies to 10 countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the 4 countries of the United Kingdom and the United States).

54 countries have English as their official language and 43 are ignored as NES. The United States does not even have English as its official language. Yet job advertisements from recruiters and international schools can be written like this without sanction:

Why are advertisements phrased this way? One explanation is the historic, systemic bias in the NES definition to stop Black and other People of Colour from applying for teaching roles. Using data from the CIA World Factbook, the 10 NES countries listed in this job ad have a population identifying as white (on average) of 75.5%.

The 43 other countries with English as their official language, not mentioned in the job ad and deliberately ignored by the NES definition, have a population identifying as white of 6.8%.

This may just be a coincidence, but notice this ad puts the discriminatory country of birth requirement ahead of both qualifications and experience.

Dismissively called Non-Native English Speakers (NNES), international teachers from outside the 10 preferred countries do not even have the chance to prove whether their skills, qualifications and experience are sufficiently matched by their English language ability.

The onus on reforming the system falls to those who benefit, particularly those educators, school leadership and recruiters, including me, who have the ‘right’ passport. NES must be banished from all job ads and hiring practices in international schools. My next post (The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam ‘Part 2’) will address how to overcome the four main barriers used to defend the systemic bias in international teaching recruitment.

Oliver Escott is the Director and Co-founder of Staffroom, whose core purpose is to help teachers create a job and life they dream about. We provide international teacher career coaching and support services. Our products include the $1 Job Club, a curated list of progressive international schools and recruiters. We are active advocates of NNES teachers and are passionate about creating the same job opportunities for all international teachers. 

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Why is there not enough diversity of educators in international schools today?

July 3, 2020


As an international teacher of color and proud TCK (Third Culture Kid), I often find myself being the only one or part of a minority group of teachers who are not the ‘standard’ international teacher, who fits the profile as ‘native speaker, western, and light-skinned’. The question that often arose in my mind and like-minded people is, “What does native speaker mean?” Does this question often relate to language skill, ethnicity, skin color or background? However, the more I pondered, observed and discovered in my experiences, this means more to the latter; which brings us back to the question of which became the result of skill vs ethnicity. Let’s begin to really unpack and dig deeper into this.

Many researches have shown that diversity in schools are beneficial to our society. With the growing migration and international job opportunities around the world, the demand for international education follows suit which created different schools of thoughts, philosophies, curriculums and practices; all driven to provide a holistic, enriching and global-minded education to children. However, the reality is that educators who are hired to be the ‘instructors’ and ‘role-models’ of these great elements of education are often lacking in diversity. Considering the fact that most international schools have a diverse population of students from all over the world, shouldn’t educators be represented by the same amount of diversity too? Where is the standard of being ‘internationally-minded’ and ‘multicultural’ represented in any given school? How do we rectify this and should we?

From my experiences teaching internationally, I have been blessed and also cursed at the same time. Some experiences really made me feel like I am a contributor and part of something great in education; trying to make a difference in this world by doing small acts and making changes as an educator who believes that education is a right for all children, regardless of wealth, background and geographical location. However, there were some experiences which made me feel small, insignificant, rejected and unwanted because of how I look like, speaking with an accent and my multi-cultural background. It became a chore trying to explain my background, identity and who I am as a person which affected my job as an educator as I felt victimized and paralyzed. I kept questioning myself, “Is this for real? Do all good educators have to be western, white and of certain look or speak a certain accent?” It made me insecure and unsure about my decision to continue pursuing a career as an international educator.

Fortunately, travelling and a passion for education helped me to continue my career as an educator which also sparked a fighting spirit and determination to change the way education should look, sound and feel like. It made me realize that there are many factors contributing to the lack in diversity of educators in international schools. These factors range from cultural expectations, norms, economic prosperity, societal needs, income levels, status and background, and even unfamiliarity with change or others outside the group. All these add to the definition on what makes a good international teacher which often relates back to the specification of ‘native speaker, western and light-skinned’ profile.

A few questions to extend and ask ourselves are, “How can we empower all educators to become the best teachers today?” and “Are we being fair to our children in giving them equal opportunities and knowing their identities through education?” Hence, diversity is KEY to develop global-minded citizens who will lead and run the world as our future. Start embracing, accepting and promoting diversity and equality today if we want a better tomorrow!

Adika Cremet is living in Shanghai, China and teaching at an international school. She has been teaching for the past 16 years in New Zealand, Scandinavia, Europe and Asia and travelled around the world. Adika is a passionate advocate for TCKs (Third Culture Kid), inquiry-based learning, early childhood education, diversity and inclusion in schools. She hopes for a better understanding on being a global citizen and international education for the community of learners around her as she makes these her goals wherever she goes.
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