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11 International Schools that have a Good Work-Life Balance

May 2, 2021


Nobody wants to be worked to the bone. And then not have any time to enjoy life outside of work.

Many of us left our home countries to escape being worked too much at our home country schools.

Teachers want to do their best and have time, inspiration and encouragement to do just that.

Just like the schools located in your home country, there is also a wide range of work-life balance situations at international schools.

Sometimes the work-life balance is affected by the norms of the host country’s laws and culture. Other times it is more influenced by the school itself and its admin.

But luckily, there are some international schools out there striving to have the best possible work-life balance for their teachers. As they say, teachers are more able to keep their focus and do their best if they are not so stressed at work.

So which international schools then have some good work-life balance conditions? Can you guess which countries/schools around the world would make for the best conditions for a good work-life balance?

Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. Using the Comment Search feature (premium membership needed), we found 30 comments that had the keyword “Life balance” in them. Here are 11 of them:

Sudan

“There is a good work-life balance at the school. Teachers are required to lead an after school activity (1 hour/8 weeks) each semester…” – Khartoum American School (44 total comments)

Thailand

“Expectations are high and teachers work hard. There is very reasonable non-contact time and staff gets paid if they do extracurricular activities. The workload is not excessive and there is a good work/life balance…” – Lanna International School (LIST) (18 total comments)

Germany

“The expectation of quality is very high, but this is reflected in giving ample prep-time. One can also request a “retreat” morning/afternoon/day if you would like to spend some extra time planning with a team. I find this to be one of the best places for work/life balance, without sacrificing quality…” – International School Hannover Region (38 total comments)

Jordan

“Reasons to stay:
– Amman is pretty easy to live in – most things are available in stores
– The staff is a lot of fun and friendly and enjoyable to work and play with
– Jordan has a lot of amazing things to see and do, especially if you enjoy an outdoor life
– The school program is strong but the expectations on staff are realistic
– The school values a healthy work-life balance, there is not a workaholic mentality here…” – American Community School (Amman) (55 total comments)

Norway

“It is a great place to work at and the work-life balance is good too…” – Norlights International School Oslo (122 total comments)

Qatar

“In general people stay because they feel supported, welcome and have a good quality of work/life balance…” – The English Modern School (Doha) (99 total comments)

Vietnam

“There are pros and cons but I think it depends on what you value. If you want a good work-life balance you can find that here. You don’t need to bring work home with you once you are established. The school also has great kids and the lack of structure means you have a lot of creative freedom…” – The Canadian International School Vietnam (147 total comments)

Taiwan

“KAS is the best international school in Kaohsiung as far as school resources, work/life balance, collegiality among staff, pay, vacation time, and students who work hard. As of yet, it is not the best in Taiwan (those would probably be TAS or TES in Taipei), but it’s working towards it…” – Kaohsiung American School (43 total comments)

Ivory Coast

“There is a good work-life balance at the school. Teachers are required to lead an after school activity 2 out of 3 trimesters…” – International Community School of Abidjan (68 total comments)

Denmark

“There are many couples at our school, mainly young couples that are actively having children. There are so many staff having children each year! It is a great place to have children because of the long maternity and paternity leave, etc. What I’m trying to say is that if you are a couple and want to work at our school, it is a great match because couples really enjoy their work/life balance here…” – Copenhagen International School (391 total comments)

Philippines

“There is a lot of work, but everyone can maintain their work-life balance. The school is supportive of on-campus wellness activities before and after school…” – International School Manila (110 total comments)

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Discussion Topics

Is it stressful working at your international school?

September 4, 2019


You probably had a wonderful, relaxing summer vacation. Weeks of hanging out with your best friends and other seasoned international school teachers around the world can truly be most stressless time of the year.

It is exciting and fun to get back to school though and catch up with your colleagues (or get to know the new ones). Even when the kids start and lessons begin, there is still a good feeling in the air.

But after this honeymoon period of 2-4 weeks, the stress starts to creep in for at least some international school teachers.

So many factors come into play that might cause stress. Maybe the administration has some back-to-school initiatives and some new demands for the teaching staff that are overwhelming the staff. Maybe some of your students’ parents have been filling your inbox with messages that require prompt replies as you are also preparing the next day’s lessons. Maybe even you are meeting with your new teaching team and the discussions aren’t going so smoothly about how you plan be working together this year as everyone appears to have slightly different working styles.

And the list of stress-inducing factors goes on and on…with no real solution in sight.

On the positive side, many staff at international schools do work hard to try and reduce the stress levels of its staff. During the teacher inservice days, some international schools are, for example, taking some time to run whole staff yoga/breathing/stretching sessions. Taking a moment to meditate and connect to your inner-self can truly be a good daily practice to incorporate.

Other international schools cater a back-to-school BBQ for the whole staff during the first few weeks of schools. Relaxing, eating and chatting with your colleagues in such a way can really create the right climate for a more relaxing environment at work.

International schools should be mindful of planning in these types of things to help reduce stress in staff. Not just at the beginning of the school year, but maybe throughout. Additionally, it is important for staff to keep a health work/life balance as well when school is in session. “All work and no play….”

The big question always though is “what would a dream school do?” Is there such a thing as a stress-free life for a teacher working at an international school? Some schools are getting it right it seems, so it is definitely possible to reduce at least some level of stress.

Using the ISC’s unique Comment Search feature (premium access required), we found 58 comments that have the keyword stress in it. Some international schools have good news to share about how they helping teachers to reduce their stress. Other schools are struggling to achieve similar results. Here are just a few of the comment results:

“SLT mean well, but it’s gone past the point where it’s possible to get morale back to where it should be. Most teachers are fed up, stressed and over-worked.” – Smart Vision School (41 total comments)

“With the hiring of the new Lower Primary Principal and Associate Principal, morale has completely turned around in this division (K1, K2, G1, G2). So much is happening to create a positive and happy atmosphere. Many teacher requests to alleviate their stress/work load have been honored (less ad-on activities, meetings…just a reduction to the overall schedule). Also, once a month principals do an activity with an entire grade level so teachers can have that time to meet, or do work. (The kids also really know the principals). Once a month, principals host a gathering on a Friday after school. Whenever, this division has had a particularly busy day or week, our Principal stops by our rooms to check in and tell us to ‘go home’. 🙂 Let’s hope the morale can improve schoolwide.” – Hong Kong International School (136 total comments)

“It’s a true non-profit school. Board is not breathing down your neck. In some ways, it’s quite relaxed (no one is inspecting your lessons, usually.) In others ways, there’s unnecessary stress (poor communication, some teaching loads piled too high.)” – Berlin Brandenburg International School (80 total comments)

“There are 2 days for new teachers to attend at the beginning of the school year, before the other staff return. Given the complexities of the school, this is inadequate and can be a stressful experience for new staff. There are no social niceties or outings organised for new staff, who basically are expected to hit the ground running.” – College du Leman – International School (85 total comments)

“This is one of the biggest stressors at the school. The finance department can be very demanding and expects all forms to be filled out perfectly. It is not uncommon for teachers to have to fill out reimbursement forms multiple times, including getting signatures from 3-4 different admins depending on what is being reimbursed. Get used to hearing the term ‘fapiao’ used a lot. If you don’t have the correct one you won’t get reimbursed. It usually ends up working out for teachers, but the process can be quite rough.” – UWC Changshu China (38 total comments)

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