Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Kuala Lumpur

October 11, 2015


Around the world, there are cities that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.

Some cities, though, have MANY international schools!  When that is the case, how do the comments about each school compare to each other?

This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same city.

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Kuala Lumpur

Currently, we have 17 schools listed in Kuala Lumpur on International School Community.

Schools with the most submitted comments:
Newlands International School (51 comments)
Garden International School (21 comments)
International School of Kuala Lumpur (99 comments)
Mont’Kiara International School (27 comments)
Sunway International School (15 comments)
Taylor’s College (16 comments)
Alice Smith School (8 comments)

High Expectations for Teachers?

“The school’s workload is average. We certainly hear of neighboring (similar caliber) schools who expect a lot more out of their teaching staff. In addition to a normal teaching day, teachers also are expected to lead 2 after school activities (running 10 weeks long each) per year. Coaching satisfies this requirement. This is standard for international schools in Malaysia, as the government requires schools to offer ASAs. Some teachers work until 3:30 (official end of day), and others are consistently there until 5 or later. However, this is a matter of choice and personal work ethic, most often not because of additional duties required by the school.” – Mont’Kiara International School

“I dont think the workload is particularly heavy although the school has high expectations. A 100% teaching load comes with two non contact hours per day, slightly less in lower grades. In ES some of these blocks are taken up by co-planning and team meetings. After school meetings are twice monthly, relatively low compared to other schools” – International School of Kuala Lumpur

“Teachers usually take on one extra-curricular.” – Taylor’s College

“Teachers are trusted but a great commitment is expected. One after school club/week/term.” – Newlands International School

Language Background of the Students

“The students are mainly from the expatriate community of Kuala Lumpur and come from over 50 different countries. Malaysian students are only allowed to attend international schools if they have obtained approval from the Malaysia’s Ministry of Education. The GIS roll currently comprises approximately 40% Malaysian students, the second largest nationality group is British.” – Garden International School

“The Principal reminds the pupils every day to speak in English but some lapse back into Chinese.” – Newlands International School

“Chinese dialects, Bahasa Malaysian, some international sts.” – Taylor’s College

“The school requires students entering after kinder have been previously educated in English. I would say about 75% of the students are fluent in English, and the rest are in the ELL program. Students almost all speak English, even if they have friends who speak their native languages. I am not sure of the exact number, but I would guess about half of the students are native English speakers.” – Mont’Kiara International School

Housing Allowance

“The school provides an accommodation allowance of RM2,500 per month for single teachers, RM2,700 per month for married teacher with no children whose spouse is not working, RM2,500 per month each for married teachers, both of whom are employed by the school and RM3,000 per month for married teachers with children whose spouse is not working in the school.” – Garden International School

“For married housing you get around 987 USD a month; For single housing you get around 846 USD a month; For each dependent child you get 109 USD extra a month. No utilities allowance is given.” – Mont’Kiara International School

“The housing allowance is paid with the salary and is taxable. After tax for a single it amounts to appx 750 USD, for a couple, or with dependents it is more, up to about 1300 USD. Depending on area and size, it is possible to find accommodation in this bracket, though many people treat it as salary and just rent the place they really want for a bit more.” – International School of Kuala Lumpur

Salary Information

“As of next year, teachers will be paid in Malaysian RM. This is actually a positive change and will raise salaries that have gone down with the weak dollar. Taxes are between 12 and 20%, and teachers also contribute about 10% to EPF (retirement plan).” – Mont’Kiara International School

“Pay is good, with a great retirement (EPF) program that can go up to 42% of salary (including both employer and employee amounts). Teachers are paid 10 times (August through June) but in June they also get their July salary.” – International School of Kuala Lumpur

“Salaries are automatically paid into each teacher’s bank account at the end of every month, (usually on the 28th day of the month).” – Garden International School

“Beaconhouse have a real problem getting work-permits so much so that none of the eight foreigners at Newlands have made year two of their contracts. Some have been told to get out on returning from a Visa run. None have been able to stay to year two which means they have to pay a large fine to BH for breaking contract.” – Newlands International School

(These are just 4 of the 65 different comments topics that on each school profile page on our website.)

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If you work at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, share what you know. Consider becoming a Mayor for unlimited premium membership!

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Information for Members

What Makes Your International School Unique?

June 9, 2015


Each international school is unique, that’s for sure.

Of course, many top international schools of the world have unique qualities that make them special. However, let’s not forget about all the other international schools (big and small).  Even for-profit international schools have cool things to offer that maybe non-profit schools are not able to have.

What then are these unique qualities?

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Some international schools have a unique make-up of students. They are from over 80 or more different countries, all coming together in a perfect, diverse blend. The students are also super kind and considerate which make classroom management a non-issue.

An international school can also be unique for the extra-curricular programme it offers.  Maybe it has a newly constructed olympic-sized pool with an effective and inspiring staff of swimming teachers.  The school might also be the only one that offers unique sports like fencing with a fully functioning fencing facility.

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Many international schools dream of having their own garden. Especially one that the students can tend to during break or class-lesson times.  This garden can also be unique because the school kitchen can incorporate the newly picked food into their menu.

Another unique quality about international schools could be related to the teachers themselves. Maybe they have the perfect set up for effective collaboration to happen (we all know that many international schools don’t have this luxury). Additionally, the teachers have ample planning time to create inspired lessons.  The director maybe even has carefully selected new teachers to join the teaching community that fit very well into the school’s mission and vision.

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A unique quality that many teachers seek out is a school that is well-resourced.  Having all the materials and equipment is definitely a dream come true, especially when working at an international school.  A school that has well-established connections with getting materials ordered and delivered in a timely manner is not an international school to overlook when recruiting.

And the list goes on and on of the unique qualities that international schools can have.

It is important to celebrate the good things about our schools. These good things can inspire the students and staff to do their best and bring the community closer together in the school’s vision and mission.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to the unique qualities of international schools, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “Name some special things about this school that makes it unique.

There are a total of 313 comments in this comment topic (June 2015).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“KICS is bringing a concept of 21st century inquiry-based education to a country very much in need of such access. It isn’t a school for every teacher though. Teachers who do well are motivated by this vision. They also need to be into educational technology for learning. If they arent then they can struggle.” – Khartoum International Community School (Khartoum, Sudan) – 65 Comments

“The physical facilities of the school are excellent. The technology infrastructure is really good. It is a one-to-one programme with new Macbook airs from grade 5 to 12. The size of the school enables a lot of varies extra curricular activities which would be hard to support in a smaller school.” – American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland) – 29 Comments

“There is a very welcoming environment at all levels. Anyone can walk around and sense the positive “vibe”. Often we get remarks that, though the school is not small, much of the social ‘feel’ is indicative of traditionally small schools (e.g. friendly, open, welcoming, etc.)” – International School of Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 84 Comments

“Well because of the dream of Eugenia, the director of the school for 20 years, there is a strong sense of multi-lingualism in the school. This school is leading the way in terms of language policy.” – The Bilingual School of Monza (Milan, Italy) – 27 Comments

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Surveys

Survey results are in: What is the air quality like where you are currently living?

November 20, 2013


The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community who voted are working in a location that has Normal/Very Clean air.

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Thank goodness that most of the voters do actually live in a place where the air in clear and clean.  Having a clean air environment where you are living can really play a huge factor in your well-being and for your health.  It can also put you at ease knowing that you can spend time outside (for example go and enjoy the city’s parks with your family) without or having  little care or concern about if you are breathing in polluted air.

Not all of us are so lucky as we know.  If you are living in the more ‘hardship’ placements (let’s say in Beijing), we all know that clean air is NOT something to take for granted. It has been in the news a lot lately about how the amount of toxins in the air in Beijing are reaching super high levels, making it a serious health concern for people.   I wonder if the three people that voted Extremely Bad are living there.

But back to clean air places.  We need more of them I am sure, and they are NOT to be taken for granted.  When job hunting, it would definitely be a no-brainer to sign a contract to work at a place in a city with very clean air (if all the other benefits also make it a good fit for you as well of course).  But you might not be so quick to sign a contract for a school in a location known for it pollution air.  Question is…are you will to take the risk and potentially sacrifice your health for 2-6 years to take a really good teaching opportunity at a top international school in one of the polluted areas of the world?

Luckily on International School Community, we have a City Information section in the comments and information part of each school’s profile page that is related to air quality which discusses the weather for the location at each school.  It can be quite important to know more about the weather if you are planning on moving across the world to live and work there for the next two or more years.  Is your potential new international school in a location with nice weather and clean air or in a place with not the best weather and poor quality air?

The comment topic in the City Information section tab is called:

• Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.

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Taken from the International School of Kuala Lumpur‘s school profile page.

There have been many comments and information submitted in this topic on numerous school profiles on our website; 675 to be exact.  Here are just a few:

One International School Community member said about working at Britannica I.S. (Belgrade): “Belgrade has all 4 seasons, with extremely hot summers (air condition in an apartment and on the work is a must!) and cold winters with a lot of snow.”

Another member said about working at Prem Tinsulanonda International School: “I love Chiang Mai because the weather is cooler than most other parts of Thailand. Not as humid either.”

Another member submitted a comment about working at Beijing International Bilingual Academy: “The air is was nearly always full of smog (even out in the burbs by the school). Cold in the winter and hot in the summer.”

If you are currently a premium member of International School Community, please take a moment to share what you know about the weather in the cities in which you have lived. You can start by logging on here.

Stay tuned for our next survey topic which is to come out in a few days time.

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #22: Laurence Myers (An int’l school teacher working at International School of Kuala Lumpur)

February 28, 2013


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Laurence Myers:

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.44.30 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am originally from Athens, Greece with a father from the US and a mother from Greece. I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and attended a small international school (TASIS Hellenic International School, now International School of Athens). I have been teaching for 19 years internationally and have loved every minute of it!  

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
For me teaching internationally was almost an extension of my life as a student. As I went to an international school as a child I found the cross-cultural connections at such schools to be right up my alley. Of course, as is often the case, my inspiration came from my teachers and professors, the most powerful of which was that of Kostas Gabriel who presently teaches in Chennai. He was an inspiration in believing in myself as a child and I found that, when deciding on a profession, this also provided me with an impetus to assist students in similar circumstances. I also had some good friends who showed me the way, most notably Ralph Barrett who presently teaches in Abu Dhabi. Following their footsteps, and my heart, I was able to fit right in when professional life came calling.  After a couple years of teaching internationally I was hooked. The job offers the perfect combination of discovery and self-reliance with the added dimension of dealing with simply wonderful kids!

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
I began my teaching at the same school I attended as a child, TASIS Hellenic International School. It was, and still is, a small school with much character and a small but very dynamic student population. It was here, as I took my professional baby steps, that I learned that students are often waiting for an opportunity to see the world in different ways. I taught both social studies and physical education at TASIS.

Following TASIS, and a short stint back in the US to receive my M.A., I taught for five years at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. For me this was an eye-opening experience. Like the Greek community, Colombians are open and really want to know about you as a teacher. I found this connection fascinating and discussions with my students in economics and government endlessly rewarding. The country of Colombia too, which had a shady reputation at the time, was a simply beautiful place to be!  Despite the media and the difficult political situation the travel opportunities there were tremendous and I still find that, in so many ways, Colombia is home for me as well. I am also happy to be connected to Colombia through my wife, who has been by my side since those days at CNG. 🙂

My next stop, where I presently work, was the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that my professional self was able to succeed in ways that I never imagined possible. ISKL’s professional development opportunities and the support that they offer their teaching staff allows for many teachers to become great leaders in their own right. Though the expectations are high, so too is the sense of professional community. Collaborative, supportive and engaging ISKL has given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of teaching and learning. It is in Malaysia that my two daughters were born and so our connection to Kuala Lumpur will be life-long.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
In Malaysia it is customary to point with the thumb and not the index finger. As our daughters are quite young trying to get them to remember to point this way is sometimes difficult. Traditionally we point, as most do in the west, with our index fingers. At one point when we went to a restaurant our daughter was pointing at something and we were overly concerned about what that might say about our cultural empathy. We tried very hard to get her to change her finger and were embarrassed to fail miserably. When we went over to the table and sat down to talk about it our daughter told us to look at the next customer, a Malaysian woman, who had just walked in. Sure enough, she was indicating things to the staff using her index finger. My daughter was vindicated and I quieted down recognizing that customs often change as cultures diffuse. Where we are often overcompensating in order to fit into the local culture, the members of that same local culture might be happy to use western gestures and norms.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
As I have matured in my teaching, and as my family situation has changed (ie. single to married to having children) so too has my outlook on what is important in a job. When I was younger, of course, my impression of travel opportunities and cultural experiences was primary, as well as the reputation of the school. Now that I am older with a family I suspect that my next teaching post will be a bit closer to home and one where our children can also have a positive learning experience. It should be a school that allows me personal and professional challenge but also provides children with a well-rounded educational experience.

Specific thoughts on a new position (when that happens):
Is it in a safe location?
Does the school promote whole-child philosophy?
Does the school’s administration support teaching initiatives?
What is the “personality” of the school and does it fit in with our own?
Does the school support an environment of caring for people and for the environment?

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.

Thanks Laurence!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Malaysia like Laurence?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Malaysia on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

Garden International School (19 Comments)
International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)
Nexus International School (18 Comments)
International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)
Dalat International School (6 Comments)
Mont Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur (8 Comments)

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

December 30, 2012


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to your start at your new school, in your new host country.

Must-have #6: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

You just get off the airplane.  You have what seem to be a million bags with you. You are quite tired from your long flight journey to your new host country.  You are frantically looking for the person that said that they were going to pick you up from the airport.  You find them and they bring you to your new place that will be your home for the next few years.   So many things on your mind, so many things to worry about, and SO many things to buy!

Sure, you can prepare ahead of time and get some of the local currency at a bank in your home country before you get on the plane.  Sure, you can make it a point to visit an ATM at the host country airport or try and find a local bank near your new house that has an ATM.  But even then, you will have to use the money that you have in your home bank account and for many people, they might not have the finances to support starting up a completely new life and home.

How nice then if the international school that you will be working at gives you a settling-in allowance on your arrival to your new host country?! Getting cash in the local currency straight away is definitely a perk and a very nice benefit to look out for when searching for a new international school at which to work.

International School Community members have a wealth of information to share! Here are a few comments about their experience getting a settling-in allowance at an international school they have worked at:

“As soon as I got off the plane and claimed my baggage, I met the school principal at the arrivals gate, he introduced himself, and handed me an envelope with 1,500,000 won (roughly $1,500). Seriously, it was that quick.”  – An international school teacher at Seoul International School (68 Comments).

“Upon arriving at our apartment, we were given an envelope with some cash in it. This was our settling-in allowance. It was enough to go to a Walmart-type store and get all the basics you don’t bring with you but need right away. Cleaning supplies/trash can/kitchen utensils (beyond the basics). The school already provided all the basic furniture, bedding, and kitchen stuff (pots/plates/cutlery) but all of the odds and ends were purchased with that settling in allowance. It was great to have local currency right away…but it sure didn’t last very long!” – An international school teacher at Graded School Sao Paulo (16 Comments).

“They gave the first month’s salary in cash upon arrival.” – An international school teacher at GEMS American Academy (Abu Dhabi) (23 Comments).

“The Canadian Academy has a decent size settling in allowance. Seems large at first, but was used up quite quickly, as Japan is VERY expensive. So perhaps not as good as it seems. (I think it was about equal to one paycheck….?)” – An international school teacher at Canadian Academy (Kobe) (10 Comments).

Getting at least some help monetarily during your first days in your new host country is very much welcomed by all international school teachers!  Though you typically go through your settling-in allowance very quickly, it is still nice have.  At many postings, you often don’t get your first paycheck until the end of the month that you start working.  There are way too many things to buy during those first few weeks, that it would be impossible to wait until you get your first paycheck!  Not to mention all the money you end up needlessly wasting when you buy certain items impulsively at one store (because it is near to your house), not knowing that the other store (down the block) sells that same item for half the price.  I’m sure that has happened to all of us at one time or another!

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In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to the settling-in allowance: Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)?  There have been 100s of comments and information submitted in this topic on our website and many of them refer to the settling-in allowance you will get (or not get) working at that international school . Here are a few of those comments:

“You get one flight per two year contract. There is a 1500 USD appx. local settling allowance, and the school gives an interest free loan of one months salary to assist with settling costs. Shipping – be careful as if you are transitioning from another international post, you must use your home of record for quotations. Some people buy furniture, others rent furnished, some take out car loans, others buy 2nd hand cars. There are plenty of different options.” International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)

“At the end of your contract the school provides travel and transportation to home of record. Annual flight allowance (KIS pays up to Rs 12,000 / person once every term contract). Shipping allowance for staff on term contract upon joining and at the completion of service. Also there is a transportation allowance. Settling in allowance is given upon every term contract signed. Lunch / tea in our school cafeterias while the school is in session is provided to teachers.” Kodaikanal International School (25 Comments)

“VAIS paid for round trip airfare from the US to Hanoi and back to the US for school year 2011-2. For school year 2012-3, there’s a cap of $1,700. VAIS paid $500 settling in costs. For school year 2012-3, there’s no settling in allowances. There are no free lunches. Lunches cost $3.50.” Vietnam American International School (26 Comments)

Log-on today to check out the many comments and information submitted in this section topic!  Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding out the benefits an international school offers to its new teachers.

So, does your international school offer a settling-in allowance?  Please share your experiences!

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