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International Schools With Money Problems

May 11, 2018


Working at an international school that is currently having money problems is not fun for all stake holders. Let’s face it, international schools of all types can encounter a financial crunch: Tier one schools, big and small schools, Profit or non-profit ones, etc. During these difficult times, a lot can change or just stop completely for things that are on the school’s budget.

Money Problems

Teachers get nervous. The parents get nervous. The school board and admin are nervous. Even the students might get nervous.

There are both reasons that are outside of the school’s power and inside the school’s power that might get the school into money problems.

One obvious cause that is somewhat out of the school’s power is because of declining students numbers. We all know that international school families are the ones bringing in the money to the school.  Some international schools in certain countries get money from the state for various reasons, but those monies do not cover all that a school needs to run smoothly. The majority of the school’s income comes from fee-paying parents or actually fee-paying companies that the parents work at.

But what then causes parents to take their child out of your international school? Maybe there are now a few other international schools in the community (cheaper ones) that are convincing families to change schools. Another reason that causes families to not re-enroll is also related to how the big-named companies are doing in the area. If they are not doing so well, then they need to cut employees. It’s pretty certain that some of their employees have families with children that go to your school. If a lot of people get fired at these big companies, then families tend to be forced to leave the country, and the obvious result is that they also stop sending their children to your school.

Companies are also starting to limit or stop completely the tuition benefit that they offer to their expat employees. Even expat parents with nice jobs will reconsider how they spend their personal money when the tuition at the international school they are sending their children to is getting on the expensive side.

Another cause of international schools with money problems stems from the mismanagement of the school’s income.  There are a fair amount of international schools that have business departments that are a mystery to staff as a whole. Typically the business is staffed with all locals. If you don’t know the local language and the local system of doing things, it is hard for a general staff member to know how they are doing and if they are doing things in the correct manner. For international schools, this mismanagement can result in drastic outcomes, from embezzlement to money flow problems.

Most for-profit international schools, even in times of having money problems, pay their staff on time and for the correct amounts. However, some teachers at these for-profit schools have experienced not getting their monthly salaries paid on time; sometimes 2-3 weeks late! How can staff focus on their job when they are not getting paid on time so that they can pay their rent? An international school that isn’t paying their staff on time surely has major money problems and cash flow. The worst outcome, of course, is that the school just has no other choice but to completely close down due to lack of money to run itself. It would be interesting to see how many international schools close their doors in this manner.

The most important thing to think about when your international school is experiencing money problem is your job security. International schools with money problems is the perfect condition for some teachers to be let go. Paying the teachers’ salaries and benefits are for sure the biggest expense that a school has. Combined with declining students numbers, there are clear reasons that a school simply just needs to downsize its staff.

Money Problems

When you know you might be let go because of a reason that has nothing to do with you or your job performance, it does not feel good.  Even more complicated, some teachers get let go, but they decide to keep you. The staff really needs to be supportive of each other when this kind of situation occurs.

There are many other factors that come into play when an international schools has money problems, and it is certain that the situation is not a welcomed one for any stakeholder. Luckily, many of the international schools around the world are thriving out there. It has been well documented that new international schools are popping up around the world all the time, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Let’s hope that these new international schools will learn from the unfortunate circumstances of the past ones, so that they can thrive and make it less likely they will experience money problems.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member guest author.

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5 Reasons You Should Live and Travel in China 🇨🇳

February 26, 2018


China is a country full of culture and history. It is a place that everyone should travel to at least once in their lives, even live there if you are interested. Not convinced? In this article, we are going to take a look at just 5 of the reasons that you should consider living and traveling in China.

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1. Rich History

China has a rich history that you can only really comprehend by seeing it for yourself. Throughout the centuries, China was ruled by dynasties, each coming with their own unique era of Chinese history. Now known as the People’s Republic of China, this switch wasn’t made until 1949 with the Chinese Revolution, a piece of history that can be felt in the country even today.

The point is, there’s a lot about China that you don’t know until you’re there. If you are just traveling, take some time to visit one of the many museums the country has to offer or even historical landmarks. If you are going to live there, take some time to study your new home country. What you find won’t cease to amaze and surprise you.

2. Beautiful Language

Mandarin is the most widely spoken version of Chinese in the world, especially the People’s Republic of China. It is also a very old language, showing up as early as 4,000 years ago! The sound of the language is beautiful but the history and story of the language is gorgeous as well.

The language consists of an excess of 40,000 symbols, each one representing a syllable or concept rather than a phonetic sound, like in English. This is how it has been throughout its history and it is only recently that it has been attempted to simplify the language and give it a more phonetic approach. Still, to be considered literate in the language, you have to be able to read and use 3,000 of the language’s symbols.

china

Another interesting fact is that Chinese is a tonal language. This means that words may have different meanings depending on the tone used to say them. The language uses four tones and each one gives certain words new meaning. However, other dialects can feature up to nine tones, so in this case Chinese is slightly simpler.

3. Diverse People

China is full of diverse people as well. Home to more than 55 minorities, you will meet many different kinds of people as you travel about China. This allows you to make friends of different ethnicities with no problem and learn from the people around you as well as from museums and studying.

4. High Standard of Living

China has relatively low wages for work but don’t let that deter you from living there. This is because the cost of living is so low that you don’t need to earn high wages to live comfortably like in the United States or elsewhere.

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To give you an example, an average (and filling) Chinese meal out costs around $1.50 in US dollars. This makes living and eating out on a budget much easier in China than in other countries thanks to the higher standard of living.

5. Try Something New

Finally, you should move to or travel to China to change up your routine. Moving or traveling to a new country is a great way to learn new things and experience things you have never experienced before. Even if it is just to travel there for a few days, China will give you an experience you won’t forget anytime soon.

This is further expanded by all the new people you’ll meet. With the rise of social media, this is becoming easier and easier. You can join Facebook groups or find out about groups and meetings in your area to learn new things and experience things you might not have thought to do before or just couldn’t do in your home country.

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Conclusion

There are plenty of reasons why visiting or living in China is a fantastic option. From new things to learn to experiencing China’s high standard of living to learning Mandarin by total submersion, there is no end to the opportunities it offers you. So, travel to China and stay for a few days or a few years, you won’t regret your visit or the years you live there. There is plenty to see and plenty to do to teach you about the history of China or even just entertain you in your day-to-day life.

This article was submitted by guest author and ISC member: David Smith
“David Smith is a blogger and world traveler, with experience in China’s manufacturing industry, as well as social media marketing in his hometown of Los Angeles, California. When not staring at a computer screen, David is an avid badminton player and photographer of natural landscapes.”

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The International Educator Expat Experience: Where Are You From?

November 9, 2017


This seemingly simple question is profoundly deep. It is not simply about geography. It is who you are, as an individual—your values, your priorities and so much more. If you have been in international education for long, chances are that you struggle to answer this question, or preface your response with, “originally….”

As I began contemplating the question, I began considering, “How do I know who I am?” So being a slave to technology, I turned to Google. The very first result that popped up, was, “Find a therapist.” Really?! No! Perhaps a different approach is more useful.

International educator

Geert Hofstede, a well-known Dutch social psychologist, has spent much of his career investigating how culture is defined, how individuals fit into them and how the cultures we are exposed to affect us. His conclusion is that “Culture is not biological… [it] is learned.” (Hofstede)

International education epitomizes a unique culture of adventure, open-mindedness, adaptability and flexibility. This article focuses on how to capitalize on these traits to become even better educators and more well-rounded individuals.

“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.” Mahatma Gandhi. From the perspective of international educators, we understand that culture is not static, and that interaction, assimilation and accommodation keep the culture relevant and alive. Working in international education, we have opportunities to learn about and embrace the best of the cultures where we live and work. This gives rise to three questions: How can we harness these experiences to make us better teachers—better individuals? If we embrace new culture, does it fundamentally change who we are? Does assimilation of new cultural values, traditions, perspectives, etc., diminish the culture and geography of where we were born and raised?

International educator

How can we harness these experiences to make us better teachers—better individuals? Novelist and teacher, John Barnes advises, “… to learn a culture, you have to learn how to like what it likes, [not] go looking for something that you like.” Many of us as well as our students, both international and local, bring particular biases and stereotypes. By sharing our own experiences and asking our students to do the same, we can begin to build a new culture in our classrooms where diversity is something to be treasured. By creating a climate of curiosity rather than judgement, we are giving ourselves and our students, a gift that will enrich our lives.

Does the culture in which we live, fundamentally change who we are? In a word, yes—if we allow it. Is that a good thing? I would argue that there is most certainly a change, with tremendous potential to be a good thing. One of the most significant mistakes we could make is to close ourselves off from the culture that surrounds us. Be proactive. Learn the language. Learn about the traditions, the holidays, the beliefs, the food. Perhaps the change will affect our values and priorities, or perhaps we will find that the values and priorities of your host culture closely match our own.

International educator

Does assimilation of new cultural values, traditions, perspectives, etc., diminish the culture and geography of where we were born and raised? Absolutely not. International schools, by design, seek to highlight the diversity of the community. There will always be a part of us that will retain those characteristics, but it is the synthesis of all of our experiences that make us who we are. This synthesis is precisely why, for international educators, the question, “Where are you from?” creates a flurry of images and ideas, and rarely has a simple answer.

Think about your own experience. If you were to make a list of customs, foods, traditions, etc., that you miss from your home country and other countries where you have lived, which list would be longest? Does it change? We do “an ordinary job in extraordinary places.” (Sweat) Embrace the possibilities.

This article was submitted by guest author: John Brown.

(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 25 years, with the last ten being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and language acquisition and is the CAS Coordinator at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

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Find out what languages your host country speaks and the level of English spoken there

March 17, 2015


Speaking the language of the host country is on every international school teachers’ mind.

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How great to speak the language of the host country well enough so that you are able to have some local friends who may or may not know English!  You might say that is every international school teachers’ goal when they move abroad.  Communication is the key, and knowing the language will also give you direct insight into the host country’s culture.

Many international school teachers do their best to fit in. Meeting new friends or going on dates in your new country is difficult, if you rely only on English language capabilities of the locals. That is why taking language classes and dedicating some of your weekday evenings to attending them is very advisable. Until you reach a comfortable level of proficiency when you can converse with the locals (at the market for example), it is important to find some of them that might speak English, especially during the first few months.

Everyone marks well in their head, their very first successful conversation in the new language. It is a tremendously liberating experience, which is inspiring one to pursue their way to a high-level speaking fluency and understanding without stuttering and asking people to speak slower.

Out of the 60 comments topics on each school’s profile page, there is one specifically about languages. It is called: “Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there.

Screenshot 2015-03-17 18.55.39
From the Hong Kong International School (62 comments) school profile page.

Currently we have 150+ submitted comments in that comment topics on a number of school profile pages.

Here is a sneak peek at a few of them:

“The level of English here is intermediate I would say. Some taxi drivers know a lot and some don’t know very much. The people working in stores know an intermediate level of proficiency. People speak Italian here, but that is not to say that there aren’t people speaking other languages. There are many dialects of Italian that people speak.” – American School of Milan (Milan, Italy) – 23 Comments

“Spanish is the main language but you can get by with very minimal language skills. Most restaurants have English menus. Many taxi drivers can understand some English. In the markets the venders are usually indigenous and speak Spanish as a second language so speak slower and use more limited vocabulary.” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (Guatemala City, Guatemala)– 40 Comments

“With basic level of Chinese it’s easy to manage. With zero Chinese it’s also possible but lots of things will be missed and at times it’s tougher to deal with everyday issues.” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 162 Comments

“English is spoken only in the school. Korean is the dominant language, and many, many fewer people speak English than in places like Seoul, but there are still plenty of people who can help you communicate. Many menus are in English too even if the staff does not speak English.” – Global Prodigy Academy (Jeonju, South Korea) – 48 Comments

“You will enjoy your stay here much more if you can learn at least some basic conversational Japanese. Although they study English in high school, very few Japanese on the street that you might approach for directions will be able to speak to you in English.” – Hiroshima International School (Hiroshima, Japan) – 64 Comments

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Culture Shock and Misplaced Normal (An int’l school teacher’s experience in Tanzania)

February 5, 2014


There’s an element of visiting home while living abroad that I call Misplaced Normal.  It gives you a taste of the culture shock that everyone else that is just visiting your country feels when the norms that they carry with them don’t apply to their new surroundings.

1240232_10152188433337589_1867444700_nWhen people first move to a new place, many things about our everyday life seem exotic and fascinating.  It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt to change, though, and the exotic can very quickly become normal.  So what does that do to us when we go home for a brief visit?  As we move from one version of normal to the next, our behaviors change in subtle ways that we don’t always notice, and that sometimes make us do really dumb stuff.

I moved from the southeastern United States to Barcelona, Spain in 2008, and I quickly got used to lengthy lunches, going grocery shopping on foot, not owning a car, and living in a small apartment, all pieces of the Spanish lifestyle.  When I visited my parents during the Christmas holiday, I couldn’t believe how quickly everyone ate, how much of a hassle it was to have to get in a car to go anywhere, and how pointlessly huge every department store, supermarket and home seemed.  I had never noticed any of those things before moving overseas, but now they were blaringly obvious.  I was carrying over the norms of my new home, and the place where I grew up had become strange.

I also found myself doing really stupid things, things that made sense in one setting, but not in another, and I did it all over again when I went back to work.

Misplaced normal while living in Spain had me talking a lot more loudly than anyone else when I visited the U.S., and not being hungry until restaurants were ready to close.

Misplaced normal while living in England had me driving in the wrong lane in parking lots and carrying an umbrella with me at all times.

Here is a recent example from my current home, Tanzania, on the eastern coast of Africa.  I visited home for Christmas after only five months in Tanzania, yet I still took subconscious Tanzanian norms home with me.

In Tanzania the tastes of Christmas are golden mangos and papayas, because they are at their best around Christmas time.  These are tropical 1240318_10152188436592589_1742188044_nfruits that grow in Tanzania’s tropical climate.  That means December is hot in Tanzania.  For my northern European friends, though, December means drinking hot mulled wine, simply because that was the taste of Christmas for them.  It was what they had always drunk at Christmas time since, because it’s really cold in northern Europe in December.  That’s what was normal.  Two friends from England invited friends over for mulled wine shortly before the December break.  We drank some very good mulled wine and did a lot of sweating.  Why would we do such a silly thing?  It was our misplaced normal.

In Tanzania there isn’t enough money on the local level for the police force to have their own cars, or even radar guns to keep people from speeding.  Instead, huge speed bumps are put in at seemingly random places, marked by paint on the road.  Within a few weeks, the paint wears off and isn’t replaced, so driving slowly to avoid flying over an unnoticed bump and losing pieces from the bottom of your car keeps your speed down.  Where there aren’t any speed bumps there are huge potholes and wildly driven buses that pull over at seemingly any intersection to squeeze in more passengers, often not really coming to a full stop before swerving back onto the road again.

Visiting my family in the U.S. my misplaced Tanzanian version of normal driving had me going down a local highway at 20 miles per hour above the speed limit.  I had grown used to driving at the fastest speed that was physically possible while avoiding reasonable danger in Tanzania, but that version of normal makes you go really, really fast on a smooth, well-maintained highway in the United States.

1186006_10152188434617589_262902529_nWater is not safe to drink out of the tap in Tanzania, because of bacteria, so clean water is carried around the city in huge tanker trucks and everyone I know has a water dispenser with the big five-gallon bottles on them.  Visiting my family in the U.S., I kept getting a glass out of the cabinet and looking around for a water dispenser.  My parents have had the same house for over 30 years, and have never had a water dispenser.  Why was I looking for one now?  It was misplaced normal yet again.

When I came back to Tanzania for work after a mere two weeks back home I nearly wrecked my car because I had forgotten where those large, unpainted speed bumps were.  I also nearly drank a glass full of water straight from the bathroom tap, a mistake that I never came close to making before my visit home.  Why would I do those stupid things?  The norms of home had so quickly taken root again that I had to go through yet another round of adjusting my normal, and even though I am fully aware of it, I know that every time I visit home I will still misplace my contradictory versions of normal all over again.

This article was submitted by a veteran international school teacher and International School Community member, Jonathan Park.

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