12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #12 – Is the school parent-friendly?

October 13, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how parent-friendly the international school is?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #12 – Is the school parent-friendly?

parent-teacher-conferenceIt is very important that the international school (that you are considering working at/sending your child to attend) communicates well with parents in order to keep them abreast of school policies, events and other developments. With the parents kept the most informed as possible, they are happier and more at ease about surprise changes that happen at the school.

Some people might say that international school parents are a little bit more (or A LOT more) invested in what is going on at their children’s school.  Normally international schools have two parent teacher conferences during the school year, but those meetings can be as short as 20 minutes (not really much time to share everything that you’d really like to share).

But at an international school, you might find that you are meeting with parents more often than just two parents teacher conferences!  Many international school parents like to set up more conferences with their teacher, meeting before or after school.  They just want to “catch up” with what is going on at school and how their child is doing.  They also want to give the teacher an update on how things are going at their home.  These extra meetings can be really beneficial to have for all parties involved, but it is smart-thinking to make sure that these meetings also stay to a minimum (you don’t want the parents to constantly wanting to set up extra meetings with you…that’s for sure!).  Some international school parents will have one person that stays at home all day (a n0n-working spouse).  Those parents will have all the time in the day to meet with you!  I worked with one international school teacher that wouldn’t even give out his email address to the parents of his students. Even knowing that communicating with parents via email is a great way to “get the job done”, there are definitely international school parents that will take advantage of having your email address.

In terms of communication with parents, you school might use a common online (password protected) resource for the parents to keep informed and stay up to day with all school happenings.  It is great to have a “get-all-information” place for parents to go to whenever they want to know what is going on at school.  Teachers can upload pictures and videos to this online portal, as well as putting up newsletters each month or so to let parents know more about curriculum-related things.

Even when an international school has the best communication possible all set up and running smoothly, there are always going to be some international school parents that just don’t make the effort to participate in this excellent communication.  It is true that even if a school has a really clear plan for communication with parents, communication is a two-way street.  Some international school parents have better things to do or bigger worries/concerns on their plate to make time for effectively utilizing (or even fully knowing about) the school’s current way of communicated with parents.  We had a parent come in recently stating that they didn’t know anything what their child was learning at school (and other things), but when asked if they will looking at the online parent portal, they of coursed answered…no.

So how is parent-friendly is your international school?

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Have a specific international school in mind that you thinking of applying at? Check out our “Where our Members have worked” page and start contacting some of our members that know about the international school you are interested in knowing more about. Our 3000+ members currently work at (or have worked at in the past) 516 different international schools.  Feel free to send them a private message related to finding out more about how parent-friendly at their international school.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 8.55.12 PMFurthermore, we have a comment topic section that is for parents to fill out or for teachers to share more information about how parent-friendly their international school is.  It is called: PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school.  Here are a few comments that have been submitted in that sections:

“At the old school in Tay Ho, VAIS, many parents withdrew their kids due to complaints that the Korean CEO who decided he was qualified to teach TOEFL prep classes so he could save on a qualified teacher, would openly cuss the students out in Korean during class and many students complained the class was more a Korean discussion class than an English one. He does not manage those classes any longer and thankfully so.” – Vietnam American International School (47 Total Comments)

“As a teacher/parent, I felt my kids had a solid group of other teachers’ kids to hang out with. There is a solid community feel in general and it is a welcoming atmosphere.” – Anglo American School of Sofia (21 Total Comments)

“Decisions made at the school are mostly knee-jerk reactions, and seem not to have a lot of fore-thought. This results in confusion and frustration, with parents, students and staff unclear where the boundaries are.” – Oeiras International School (28 Total Comments)

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Surveys

Survey results are in: Describe the current condition of the international school building you work at.

September 15, 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 Brand new/Excellent international school building.

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We all dream about teaching in the perfect, purpose-built school building, but many of us never get the opportunity.  According to our recent survey results though, it appears as if most of us are!

Maybe it is because of working at an international school, I mean many of these schools are run by some of the richest people in the city’s community. Most of these well-off families want their children to attend not just the best school in the city, but possibly the nicest looking as well.  If some people with money and good connections in the community want a nice-looking school building for their children, then I am sure they can and will do just that!

Many international schools however find themselves stuck in a converted building, meant for another purpose….not so much for teaching.  In those buildings, international school administers and teachers struggle to ‘make-it-work’; somehow managing to educate students in less-than-ideal situations.  Even when they try to update something in the building, there are too many extraneous factors that stop them from doing so.

Other international schools start off as someone’s (or a group of people) dream.  Not existing before, the new building is constructed to fit that dream.  The people in charge can direct how the building looks like and make it the most purpose-built as they can to fit their needs.  There are definitely international schools out there just like that, someone’s dream school.

But for the other international schools stuck in a building that is either falling apart or too small to fit the growing needs of the school, getting a new building made for them is a big challenge to say the least.  Constructing a new international school building is multi-faceted and very time-consuming.  Many factors come into play and the timing has to be perfect.  There needs to be the right amount of funding up-front.  There needs to be years of planning to take place and support from all stake holders.  There also usually needs to be a stable student-body where the student numbers are either growing or holding very tight.

Of course when the stars align, then the lucky international school teachers (and all the other stake holders) get to work and learn in a brand new, excellent school building. I mean who wouldn’t want to work in a new purpose-built international school building?

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Luckily on International School Community, we have a School Information section in the comments and information part of each school’s profile page that discusses the building and campus for each school.  It can be important to know more about the school’s building if you are planning on moving across the world to work in it.  Is your potential new international school state-of-the-art in its design with the most up to date technology or a building that is falling apart?

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

• Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

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Taken from the Vietnam American International School‘s school profile page.

There have been many comments and information submitted in this topic on numerous school profiles on our website; 547 to be exact.  Here are just a few:

One International School Community member said about working at MEF International School Istanbul: “The Int’l school is very subservient to the National school in terms of use of facilities and is given a real afterthought treatment by the general management.”

Another member said about working at Yokohama International School: “Space is really expensive in the school area, however, YIS has adequate space for its size. It is somewhat restricted in terms of sports facilities, but uses a nearby field.”

Another member submitted a comment about working at Wells International School (Thailand): “Wells includes three campuses: 2 kindergartens and 1 primary and secondary campus. All three are relatively small, but the facilities are expansive given the land restrictions. The head campus, located on Sukhumvit at On Nut, has over 30 classrooms, an auditorium, three science labs, 2 sports courts and more.”

If you are currently a premium member of International School Community, please take a moment to share what you know about the buliding/campus of the international schools at which you have worked. 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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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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Salaries at Int’l Schools

Comments and information about salaries on ISCommunity #6: Khartoum Int’l Community School, Int’l School of KL & Vietnam American Int’l School

November 10, 2012


Comments and information about salaries at international schools on International School Community.

Every week members are leaving information and comments on the salaries that teachers are making at international schools around the world.  Which ones pay more?  Which ones do you have to pay very high taxes?  Which ones offer tax-free salaries?  All important questions to think about when job searching, but where to find the answers to those questions?

Why do some international schools keep their specific salary information so secret?  Even at international school job fairs, you don’t really get to see the exact amount of your yearly and monthly salary until you see the contract paperwork.  Even then sometimes you don’t know what will be your exact take-home pay each month.  At International School Community, we want to make the search for salaries easier for international school teachers. In the benefits section of the school profile page, there is a section specifically for salaries.  The topic is: “Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for masters degree? Annual pay raises? Bonuses?)

Here are 3 out of the many comments and information related to salaries that have been posted on our website:

Khartoum International Community School (36 total comments)
“The school has a structured pay scale. Entry depends on qualifications or experience. Advanced degrees attract more money as does extensive experience. There are responsibility steps, particularly in Seniors. Every teacher receives a step each year and there are inflationary/cost of living adjustments annually. The school pays 1 year (2500 GBP pounds) and 2 year (6000 GBP pounds) resigning bonuses (very appealing to couples!).”

International School of Kuala Lumpur (28 total comments)
“There is a clear and structured pay scale. You enter it according to experience and qualifications, up to a maximum experience level. Within the school you receive an annual \’step\’ for every year of experience, plus there are usually small inflationary raises to the salary scale. Additionally stipends are paid for team leader responsibility. There are resigning bonuses after 4 years of employment.”



Vietnam American International School (26 total comments)

“I don’t know about all salaries. However, I don’t believe there salary increased with increased education, experience, or years of service. For example, there were no increases in salary between the first year of teaching at VAIS and the second year. Another example, one teacher with ten years of experience received the same salary as another teacher with only 2 years experience.”

Check out the other comments and information about these schools (and 1000s of others) on our website: www.internationalschoolcommunity.com

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Hiring Policies at Int’l Schools

Comments and information about hiring policies on International School Community #6: Saigon South Int’l School, Amer. School of the Hague & Changchun Amer. Int’l School

September 12, 2012


Comments and information about hiring policies on International School Community:

Every week members are leaving information and comments about the hiring policies at international schools around the world.  Which ones go to the Search Associates Recruitment Fairs?  Which ones hold interviews over Skype?  Which ones have hiring restrictions imposed on them by the host country?  All important questions to think about when job searching, but where to find the answers to those questions?

Sometimes it is hard to keep track of which international schools go to which recruitment fairs and which interview style and tactic each international school employs.  At International School Community, we want to make the search for information about hiring policies easier for international school teachers. In the school section of each international school profile page on our website, there is a section specific to the school’s hiring policies.  The topic is: “Describe their hiring policies. Which recruiting fairs do they go to? How do they typically hire (e.g. face-to-face interview, Skype, etc.)? Are there any hiring restrictions mandated by the country?”

Here are 3 out of the numerous comments and information related to the hiring policies of international schools that have been posted on our website:

Saigon South International School (18 Comments)

Comment about their hiring policies: “It is varied how this school hires. They hire via the job fairs, online websites, school websites, and word of mouth is big. There is an age restriction (?) and if you are HIV positive.”

American School of the Hague (15 Comments)

Comment about their hiring policies: “I interviewed with them back in 2011 at the Search fair in Boston. I met with Richard. He was really approachable and personable. I quite enjoyed chatted with him. We knew some people in common as well, so that helped to make more connections in our conversations. The timing wasn’t right though for me to get the position vacancy…too bad. Age limit for hiring is 65 years old as retiring at 65 is mandatory.”

Changchun American International School (1 Comment)

Comment about their hiring policies: “There is an age limit for hiring and it is 60 years old. Interviews are via Skype mostly. Candidates should have at least a BA and a teaching qualification. Ideally you would have at least 2 years of int\’l school teaching experience. The school does prefer teachers that are already in Asia or have had teaching experience in Asia. They do like to hire teaching couples as well.”

Check out the more than 200 comments and information about the hiring policies of numerous international schools at www.internationalschoolcommunity.com.

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