Discussion Topics

The State of the Job Market for International Schools in 2022

April 10, 2022


In this article, ISC would like to highlight some of your recent thoughts and experiences getting jobs at international schools in 2022. It is April, so we are getting closer to the end of the hiring season. If you don’t have a position secured, you might be feeling a bit nervous about your prospects.

The landscape for getting an international school teaching position has certainly changed in the last 10 years. And if one thinks about 20 years ago, some people might have the perspective that the power of the international school job market was definitely in the hands of a teacher. The most experienced international teachers would remember these days of glory.

Surely, there are multiple factors that come into play for both the international school and the teacher that affect their decision-making processes. It can be a very rocky past to bring the teacher and the school together in harmony.

A lot of frustration and maybe even confusion can occur for both stakeholders from when a vacant position becomes available to when it is filled. The lack of clarity about what is happening during that process is the most frustrating part, especially for the teacher candidates.

We asked five seasoned international school teachers their thoughts on some or all of the following questions:

• Who has more of the power right now: schools or teachers? and why do you think this?
• How easy was it for you to find your last international school teaching placement? Please explain.
• What advice would you give to a recruiting teacher still looking for a job at an international school in April?
• Does having connections at an international school help and/or having lots of relevant teaching experience help in your job search? Please explain.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in SE Asia.

I don’t like the word power.

So much depends on the candidate’s experience and capabilities, and also on the type of school. Most people are chasing the dream of a beautiful location, great school community, and high salary. Those schools can pick and choose. Other good schools with less budget in more challenging locations find it harder to recruit.

People who have too high expectations, mediocre references, and poorly constructed applications find it harder to recruit. People should be more intelligent about how they use social media and represent themselves. Not many schools are looking for people with self-serving agendas!

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Central Europe.

I was recruiting this year and I signed a contract before the winter break in December. I had a shortlist of schools around the world that I was interested in working at and nearly all of them posted a position between September and December that fit my qualifications. (After I accepted the job, even more positions were posted.)

I was really happy that I had a lot of great places to even apply to, this time around. I had read online in some forums and groups that some people felt there “weren’t a lot of jobs this year” comparatively speaking, but it’s always a game of how many positions are open that are a match for your skills and qualifications. Each year is different.

I would say that a history of working at great schools, and connections/excellent references always help add something to an already great resume.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Vietnam.

As a maths teacher with PGCE and QTS but no maths degree I normally find I have to wait a while for the market to swing in my favour, normally April or May. This year has been different. I updated my details on teach horizons and 3 schools interviewed me in the first week. 2 made me an offer and the third said I would get a second interview. I took one of the first two and I’m off to Thailand in the summer. All done and dusted before the end of Feb. Very early for me so I guess the power is with the teacher

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Taiwan.

I think for who has the power, it really depends on the individual schools and teachers. I applied to many schools via different platforms this season and had many interviews. It wasn’t easy but I ended up with 2 solid offers from good schools. I accepted in November and that is very early compared to what I have been used to. If one has a solid network of people someone at a school you’re interested in, then that can certainly give you a leg up. For me this time around, I believe it was my subject (economics) and my experience that helped me get interviews and offers. I think if teachers are still looking now, they should be persistent as people drop out of contracts and some very good schools are still looking now.

Thoughts from an international school teacher currently working in Oceania.

How easy? It wasn’t. While I did secure an appointment in May of 2020 for an August start, on the first day of school, the corporation announced our school was closing permanently by 31 December. I had a six-month unemployed period trying to find another posting.

Connections? Vital, especially given my age and experience level (both high). It appears that most heads/hiring officials don’t bother to read introductory letters where I explicitly explain I come with my own health cover and the school doesn’t have to pay for it. I know some schools that are forcing highly experienced teachers out to cut their HR costs.

Issues: Aside from the obvious of a slow return to anything resembling normal, I have had school heads tell me to my face that a certain country has a mandatory retirement age… and while partially true, as a legal resident of that country, I know that mandatory age is only applicable to government workers, not to non-government entities.

These statements were submitted anonymously by ISC members.

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Discussion Topics

Why Aren’t Seasoned International School Teachers Getting Hired?

February 6, 2022


There seem to be a lot of teaching vacancies being posted at 1000s of international schools this recruiting season. These positions are in many countries around the world (although MANY of them are in China it would appear this year).

But even if there are 1000s positions available and (most likely) 100s of those in positions that you can apply for, it seems to be quite difficult to get an interview, and even if you get that, getting hired is another big hurdle!

It is understandable that a teacher just starting out in their international school career is not getting called in for an interview, but why are many seasoned international school teachers not even getting the school’s attention?

Let’s say there is a teacher looking for a new position for the coming school year. This person has worked at three different top-tier international schools averaging around six years at each one. This person has also received glowing reviews from their supervisors, and they are looking for another international school of a similar curriculum and similar status in the international school community. But after applying to a select few, and after even having one interview at one of them already, this person is not moving forward to the next rounds of the interview process.

It can be really frustrating for this person. Why is this happening? Why aren’t these highly sought-after experienced teachers finding it easier to get the attention and support of these international schools?

Back 15 years ago, it seemed that the power was truly in the international school teacher’s hand. Sure there was still competition, but you could get many interviews at the recruitment fairs and also get multiple offers to consider. 

Today, it is a different story for sure. There could be 100s of applicants applying for just one position. One teacher at an international school in Zurich said 400-500 people applied for just one position! The power is surely back in the hands of the international school as the candidates simply outnumber the number of positions available. This situation is definitely the case at the top-tier international schools in desirable locations. It is unclear if that is also the case at lesser-known international schools in less desirable locations.

Getting a job at a good international school or at any school really is always all about being at the right place at the right time. It is all about luck and timing. Sometimes, it isn’t even really about how your CV looks or what you said in your cover letter. With international schools getting 100s of CVs for one position, there sometimes just isn’t time to read that many cover letters.

So how can you get noticed? How can you increase your luck so that you are at the right place and the right time? Some say having a connection at the international school can help, and maybe for some, it does help. But with a lot of strict interviewing guidelines that many international schools have adopted, having a connection to the school does not always get you noticed or to the top of an admin’s list of people to interview. The position also might be just filled internally in the end or filled locally for that matter. A nightmare situation for a recruiting international school teacher.

The key is just to keep your hopes up knowing that the right position will present itself to you when the timing is right. Do your research, fill out everything the school requires for an application, and stay in touch with the right people at the school. Keep in mind that if they don’t have any new news to share with you, that is why they are not getting back to you or they are just not that into you.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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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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Highlighted Articles

How to prepare your teaching CV for a job fair

November 18, 2020


An international education job fair is an excellent opportunity to meet and interview with a range of different schools, all in one convenient location. Events like the Explore CRS Shanghai job fair, taking place 8 – 10 January 2021, allow you to explore the career opportunities available to you, as well as build connections with new and interesting schools.

But just as during the normal job application process, it’s your CV that will determine whether a school wants to see you for an interview or take discussions further.

The recruitment consultants at Explore CRS sift through hundreds of CVs a year, in search of talented candidates to introduce to schools. They know exactly what information school hiring managers are looking for and what candidates can do to prepare their CVs ahead of an international education job fair. Here are their top tips:

Make an impression, fast

Recruiters and hiring managers are busy and spend as little as 3 to 5 seconds reading a CV. You, therefore, need to ensure that the layout of your CV is clear and that your employment story is coherently presented. Someone scanning the information needs to be able to quickly understand what you offer as a potential new employee.

Lay your CV out in clear sections: personal information, education, teaching experience, referees and other interests. Organise your work experience chronologically, starting with the most recent at the top. Don’t forget to include employment dates (month and year) and locations, as well as when and where you graduated from college or university.

Don’t go overboard

We appreciate that it’s hard to condense a long and varied teaching career down into a few paragraphs. It’s important, however, that you don’t include too much information in your CV. Try to keep it to a maximum of 3 to 4 pages. You need to present only the absolute highlights of your career and experience. Remember that adding more information also acts to dilute what is there, so keeping it brief will only strengthen your CV.

Emphasise your curricula experience

Many of the schools that Explore CRS work with are interested in teachers with specific curricula experience so be sure to emphasise all the curricula and national education systems you’re familiar with.

Although first preference will often be given to candidates whose experience matches a school’s criteria, many hiring managers do appreciate the similarities between curricula so it’s always helpful if you can clearly state those you’ve been involved with.

Explain the gaps

If there are gaps in your employment history, you should ensure you explain what you were doing during these times. There are a number of legitimate reasons for taking career breaks and very often these periods are spent doing things that actually enhance your CV. However, unexplained gaps in employment history can sometimes ring alarm bells amongst recruiters and hiring managers, so it helps enormously if you clarify why you took time out.

Write out your acronyms

In the international education sector, there are so many different institutions and academic bodies that it’s important to write out the name in full first and then use the acronym after. This is especially important if it’s not a well-known or globally used acronym. You need to ensure recruiting schools are able to understand your CV and quickly assess who you’ve worked for previously!

Include relevant professional development

Obviously, it’s great for recruiters and hiring managers to see that you’re dedicated to your ongoing professional development. They don’t, however, need to read every single PD workshop you’ve ever attended so make sure only to list the most relevant and recent you’ve taken part in.

Don’t forget, however, to include the most impressive examples of professional development, such as qualifications gained or participation in professional organisations, mentoring or research.

Spellcheck!

It’s amazing how many CVs come through to the Explore CRS consultants with grammatical or spelling mistakes. These errors completely undermine your attempts to come across as professional and diligent. Make sure you check your CV through at least twice and if you’re still unsure whether it’s error-free, have someone else check it too.

Use your CV at the event

Many job fairs (including those offered by Explore CRS) will include pre-scheduled interviews, so you will need to ensure your CV is ready to give to your consultant before you attend the event.

When the time comes for the event, it’s a good idea to print out 10 to 15 copies of your CV in colour and on high-quality paper to hand out to schools in person. You never know what face-to-face connections you’ll make, and a CV is an important tool in attracting the interest of a potential new employer.

One last useful tip for ensuring hiring managers remember you on the day is to include a professional headshot with your CV. While this is in no way mandatory, it’s a great way to make a lasting impression with school staff who will potentially meet hundreds of other candidates on the same day.

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This article was submitted to us by Explore CRS.

As well as helping applicants find teaching opportunities throughout the year, the Explore CRS team is also hosting a job fair in Shanghai, China, on 8 – 10 January 2021.

Attendees will have the opportunity to interview and network with a variety of international and bilingual schools, based both in China and beyond. After last year’s fair, over two-thirds of attending candidates were offered positions. An added benefit of attending the fair is the opportunity to take part in professional development workshops, after which all attendees can receive certification.

Learn more about the fair and sign up to attend via the Explore CRS website.

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An Insider's Story

International School Design Teachers: An Insider’s Story

February 22, 2020


How it all started…

I was in middle school in the 1980s.  At this time ‘shop’ or ‘industrial arts’ was still being taught with wood, bandsaws, glue and sandpaper.  During my high school years things began to change in the ‘vocational’ teaching world. Computers were growing in popularity and had become more affordable.  I distinctly remember sitting in front of the green tinted screens typing in measurements and coordinates to create 2 dimensional drawings on an early version of AutoCAD.   Wow! How far we have come in 30 years! In high school I did the minimum to get by. I didn’t push or challenge myself very much. It just wasn’t that interesting to me. The only exception to this rule was during my “Tech Ed” classes.  My teacher, Coach Vander Velde, challenged me to inquire and question traditional ways of thinking.  

After graduation, I pursued a B.F.A. degree in TV and Radio Production.  After college I was hired to work at a local TV studio. I started working the ‘graveyard’ shift which involved taping satellite feeds, organizing broadcast files and so on.  I was making a bit more than the minimum wage. I asked myself, “Did I really go to college to just make a bit more than minimum wage?” An opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a Masters degree in Technological Studies.  This degree gave me the skills I needed to teach ‘vocational’ classes in middle and high school. I completed my student teaching and started a job in an urban high school near Atlanta, Georgia.  

I enjoyed teaching during my first year of teaching, but one afternoon, during my drive home, I heard an advertisement on the public radio station for teaching English in China.  Being that this was over 20 years ago, China was in the process of opening up to the rest of the world. I contacted the company and the following August I was headed to China for the first of many times since!  I taught at a university in Beijing for one year. That year I traveled all over China and caught the ‘travel bug’. After a two year stint back in the USA, I returned to China where I eventually landed in an international school and was introduced to the International Baccalaureate curriculum.  I taught ESL and ‘MYP Technology’. I realized then that teaching IB was a natural complement to the ‘inquiry-based’ teaching approach of vocational education.  

I have taught in several IB schools since then.  In all of these schools I have been involved in ‘Design’ teaching and planning.  One thing that I have noticed about young people is that whether I am teaching woodworking or 3D printing, students love to be hands-on!  Additionally, careers have changed so much over the past 20 years that teaching student ‘technology-related’ content is outdated. As teachers we all need to be teaching inquiry-based critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  The subject of “Design” is the perfect crossroads for all of these things to be taught, practiced and mastered. In the school where I currently work, the students are able to experience robotics, podcasting, filmmaking, 3D printing, digital photography, graphics design, digital illustration, architectural design, fashion design, laser cutting/engraving, website design, coding and programming, drone operation, electronic music production and so on!  All of this is within the Design curriculum.  

One of our soundproof recording booths
Drone photo of the campus
Inside the school TV studio
The laser cutter
TV studio control room
One of the many sewing machines
A couple of the 3D printers
Midi keyboard for making original music
One of our small tool benches

An average day…

On any given day I will teach between 20-50 students depending on the schedule.  Students will be in various stages of development working towards a completed design project.  All of our projects start with an investigation or inquiry into some sort of issue, situation or problem.  This should include an account of some sort of interaction with the client or target audience for the project.  The students will continue to follow the Design Cycle and provide evidence of their work throughout. Most of my day involves checking on equipment, supplies, and so on.  I have informal conversations with the other members of the department to see if everyone has the materials and access to the spaces that they need. Currently, the members of the Design department are content experts in programming, podcasting, filmmaking, photography, materials processing, Computer Aided Design (CAD), and textiles, just to name a few.  

How to get involved…

If a teacher has some experience with similar disciplines and wants to get involved in an international school teaching ‘Design’, then I would highly suggest doing it!  Make a list of your priorities, regions you would like to live and work in, salary range, among other things. It is ok to target schools that you are interested in as Design teachers are often difficult to find.  Whether the school uses IB, AP, Cambridge, or something else, there is always a ‘design’ equivalent course that can be taught!

Giving back to the professional community… 

Since 2008, I have been part of the IB Educator Network or IBEN.  This means that I have conducted school visits, served as a consultant to candidate schools, lead subject-specific workshops, and other various IB related events.  This involvement outside of school has been a key part in my professional development. I have met hundreds of like-minded educators that I am in regular contact with and we share best practices/project ideas with each other.  This keeps my own teaching exciting and relevant to my students.  


Jason Reagin is currently the IB Career-related Programme Coordinator and Department Chair of Design & Visual Arts at Chadwick International School in Incheon, South Korea.  He taught in the US, Bermuda and China prior to coming to South Korea. Jason’s passions include being a live-long learner, coffee drinker and a cinephile. He has experience in curriculum leadership and development in several different school ecosystems.  Connect with him on Twitter @diskon4no

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