If you’re a teacher looking for a rewarding work experience, there are many benefits to teaching abroad. The growing number of international schools worldwide means there are many teaching jobs available abroad.
29-year old Anna, a native of Scotland, is working at the British International School in Riyadh. She says that “the children at the schools are from all over the world, are very well traveled and this reflects in their personalities; they are without doubt internationally-minded. I used to work in a very tough school on the outskirts of Edinburgh and there’s no comparison. The children here are very polite and generally, know exactly how to behave.
“I’ve made friends here who are American, Lebanese, Australian, and Canadian; and not just teachers but lawyers, engineers and other professions, too. Most expats travel abroad during the holidays. This year alone, I’ve been to Bahrain, Cairo, Jordan, Dubai and America, and I’ve just returned from Argentina.
“It has been a massive lifestyle change for me. Back home everyone tends to stay at home, partly because there isn’t the money to travel, but also there isn’t the expectation. Here, I have more money to do these things, and everyone does it. Plus, I’m meeting so many interesting people from around the globe. It’s opened my eyes up to a whole world and that’s been an amazing thing.”
Anna admits the experience is making her much more internationally-minded. “I’d never met people from Palestine, Jordan, and Syria before,” she continues. “It’s been a really interesting and positive experience for me. There are some very strict rules about men and women here. For example, single men and women can’t travel together which can be very restrictive for people in relationships unless they are married.
“Out in public, as a woman I have to dress in a long black cloak called an abaya to cover my head, neck, and arms. However, in school and on the compound where I live, I can dress in my normal clothes. There are no bars and no clubs because there is no alcohol. For me, none of the restrictions are a problem, but some people complain about it and find it very restrictive. I personally love it. I love the cultural differences.”
Making the move to teach abroad
Anna recommends the experience to other English-speaking teachers. “Some people don’t leave home because of family and friends, but they don’t realize what they’re missing. It’s been a massive change for me as a person and it’s not just about the money. I’ve learned and done so much, and yet I still have my family and friends at home. Being in Saudi Arabia, not having a mortgage, not paying tax, I’m earning very well. I’m managing to save money and I don’t think I could get anything better than this.”
What others have to say
Hannah Brunton moved from London to Harrow International School in Beijing. “I have enjoyed the experience thoroughly and have been well-supported both in and outside of school. Professionally, working in a growing and successful school has enabled me to grow as a teacher and I’ve enjoyed the freedom to try out new teaching skills. Personally, working abroad has given me the freedom to travel during holidays, experience a different culture, meet people from all walks of life and form lasting friendships.”
Michael Wainwright taught primary music and drama at the Overseas School of Colombo in Sri Lanka. He described his time there as an incredible journey. “It was a quite amazing opportunity that I thoroughly recommend to any teacher that is willing to take a risk. You’re expanding your knowledge, teaching different people and in different ways, and you’re expanding your wisdom of the world and your cultural perspective. It’s also a massive confidence-builder. It really does allow you to find a little more about yourself.”
Andy Wallace, a primary teacher from Devon who is now at the Antwerp British School says positive things as well. “Most of our students at Antwerp British School are Indian and do not speak English as a first language. However, we treat them as if English is their first language and they are able to deal with this, from three years of age upwards. ABS teaches from age three up to age 16, when they take the IGCSE. I think it is a fantastic resource though, and I have used the secondary specialists several times to make our learning that much more exciting.”
Andy sums up by saying “try it. I live in a beautiful, relaxed city, teaching in a friendly and welcoming school. I’m developing professionally and personally.”
Teaching jobs overseas
Almost 200,000 teachers, many from the United Kingdom, are now teaching abroad. Even more are heading that way thanks to the significant growth in the number of international schools.
According to ISC Research, an organization that tracks developments in the international schools market, in the last year over 500 new English-speaking international schools were opened across the globe. The most development happening in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Spain, and China, employing a total of 192,000 teachers.
The 2010–2011 recruitment for new teachers to international schools proved to be the biggest ever.
“Recruiters from most of the 5,000 international schools around the globe are looking for qualified teachers with good experience from English-speaking countries,” says Andrew Wigford, director of Teachers International Consultancy, an organization that specializes in the recruitment of teachers for international schools.
“Britain has a particularly good reputation for the skills of its teachers,” he says. “Not only is English the language of choice for international schools wherever they are located in the world, but the abilities of British teachers are particularly highly prized throughout the international school system. Once you’ve taught for a few years in the UK, you can literally get a job anywhere in the world.”
Many international schools not only offer competitive salaries and accommodation as part of the package, they can also be a fast-track to career development. But it isn’t just young, ambitious teachers who are taking up foreign posts.
“More and more teachers on sabbatical, supply work, and teachers taking early retirement in this country are grabbing the opportunity of traveling the world this way, as well as teaching couples with families,” says Andrew.
International schools are renowned for their small class sizes, excellent resources and exceptional facilities. But many teachers simply don’t realise the opportunities available to them.
“Many teachers don’t know that there are short-term contracts, long-term supply opportunities and the chance to move on to another post in another country after two or three years,” says Andrew.
“We also find many teachers haven’t applied sooner because they were under the misunderstanding that they needed to speak a foreign language. That is not the case. It’s their teaching skills that are valued.”
Getting a teaching job abroad
Andrew Wigford offers advice for any teacher considering international placement:
- Work through a reputable organization when searching for foreign teaching positions. There are a few unscrupulous owners in some schools who do not take the appropriate procedures to ensure that foreign teachers have the correct visa back-up, health and safety coverage, or suitable accommodation.
- Teachers have been known to find themselves in grave difficulty a long way from home. So working with an established organization to oversee your placement will give you the security you need.
- Make sure that the organization helping you with your appointment selection works with accredited international schools, or personally vets non-accredited schools in advance of your interview.
- Ensure that the organization you work through cross-checks all your terms and conditions once an appointment is offered, to give you the peace of mind you need when taking up a new foreign post.
- Work with an organization that is experienced in recruiting for the international market, as they will be able to give you all the advice and expert support that you need.
- Start your planning early. Most international schools begin recruiting for the new academic year in January and February, so the more preparation you can do in advance of this, the better.