Not All International Schools Are Created Equal - A Quick and Dirty Gu
Oct 8, 2008 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 2707 Views
Considering the recent unprecedented growth in the number of international schools in the world on top of the abundance already operating worldwide, it is no wonder you might be reeling from the thought of choosing the ‘right’ school for you.
Of course, that is assuming you are already frothing at the mouth to kick-start your international teaching career and that you are looking for clarification of what international teaching is all about and how to break into this select group of educational professionals. If you are not, well why not? Using my teaching credentials to secure a job teaching abroad was the best career decision I have ever made.
But I digress… this is all about helping you get a handle on the different kinds of international schools there are who are looking for international teachers to staff them.
Privately Owned International Schools
Private international schools are essentially businesses with directors who are aiming to make a profit. There is a considerable amount of money to be made in providing private education in areas where the supply is less than demanded.
Many wealthy parents are demanding English language education for their children, and that has lead to the propagation of international schools. This is a particular feature of the Middle East and Asia, where new schools are starting up each year. The year I was looking for my current position there were a total of 5 new schools starting up in Dubai.
The good, the bad and the ugly of private international schools…
The Good - they are plentiful. There are a large number of private international schools to choose from. The Bad – While it is possible to balance good educational practice with the desire to make substantial profits, it is unlikely that in a knock down fight between the two that the goal of educating the students well will win. The Ugly – When a school’s continued survival, and consequently profit making potential, is dependent upon tuition money from students, how likely do you think it is that the school will expel students that are negatively affecting the learning of others?
English Speaking ‘International’ Schools
Some schools do not do a very good job of being an international school, rather they should be called English Speaking Schools. In fact, many schools springing up in the Middle East do call themselves just that because most of the students are local.
The student body of an international school should hail from outside the school’s host country. If the majority of the student body is local to the host country, then surely that negates it being an ‘international’ school?
Many international schools put a limit on the proportion of students that can come from the host country. These international schools often have a waiting list for local students.
The good, the bad and the ugly of English Speaking ‘International’ Schools…
The Good - once again, there are a lot of them around, all looking for international teachers. The Bad – instead of enjoying a multi-cultural classroom with students that are enthusiastic and all have different experiences to bring to class discussions. You will be teaching wealthy children who possibly have no concept of what it is like to have to do things like chores and who may not have any concept of the real world. The Ugly - you will be teaching a class full of students who will share a common language that you don’t understand, mono-lingual classes being taught subject specific content in a language that isn’t their own can be a real struggle. You are not going into international teaching to work harder than you do at home!
A US Department of Defense (DoD) school is a school that is attached to a military base abroad. The DoD is responsible for providing education for all school aged dependents of all military and civilian employees who are required to live abroad in order to do their jobs.
There are over 100 US Department of Defense schools in Europe, and currently there are 210 schools located around the world in 12 countries. You might encounter the children of military personnel in American schools abroad when there is no DOD school available.
The British Equivalent is Service Children’s Education (SCE) Schools who operate 27 schools world wide with the majority of them situated in Cyprus and Germany. SCE schools are designed to give the students the same kind of education they would receive if living in the UK and attending school there.
The good, the bad and the ugly of Military Schools…
The Good –It is easy to evaluate the package you will receive because you will be employed on a national contract. If you are working for the SCE you will be employed on a British teaching contract, with a few extras. You will also be paid in Sterling. The same goes for a DoD school. The Bad – TAX! You will have to pay national taxes. One of the benefits that comes with teaching at an international school is that you can pay less tax or work in a tax free environment. When you work for a overseas military school you will be employed ‘in’ the country whose military the school serves. The Ugly - You’ll be teaching American or British students the relevant curriculum. You will miss out on experiencing a true multi-cultural classroom and all the benefits of teaching international children.
Private Board-Run International Schools
Let’s face it, most international schools are going to be private. What reason would any country’s government have to run a special school for foreign children? I can think of a few and none of them are particularly good!
And so, you’re going to be stuck with a private school. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Private board-run international schools are generally the best of the lot. These schools are run on a not-for-profit basis where any and all profits are usually ploughed back into the school in order to fund future improvements.
The board is often made up of a mixture of local business people and officials (to ease the school’s relationship with officials), parents and teachers. The primary goal of these schools is more likely to be to provide an excellent education for students because you’ve got educators and parents on the decision making body.
The good, the bad and the ugly of Private Board-Run International Schools…
The Good – Good quality education is a priority of the people with the power to make the decisions. You’ll be treated like a professional here. The Bad – When board members include people who are not trained educators, sometimes they have some trouble prioritising issues the way education administrators would for the good of the whole school. The Ugly – You’ll sometimes get a power hungry megalomaniac on the board, and once they’re there they can be difficult to oust.
Still, if possible, this is the kind of school you really want to be working for!