Not All International Schools Are Created Equal – A Quick and Dirty Guide For Overseas Teachers

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!

Military Schools

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!

Reasons to Approach Overseas Education Consultants

Studying abroad is becoming an increasingly popular option for students who wish to broaden their outlook on life, and gain a meaningful education. With so many options available, students will find it hard to understand which college and which degree would be the best suited to their situation. This is where overseas education consultants play an important role.

Most students who wish to study abroad are confused about which country to go to, the institute to choose, what they are looking for in their career, the procedures to apply for their visa and what tests to take. Overseas education consultants keep themselves updated on the latest compliances and requirements, and are well versed in the procedures for college and visa applications. They will be able to guide you through each and every step with precision and clarity. You will get a comprehensive idea about courses available at each college, possible career pathways, eligibility requirements, cost implications and application deadlines.

Here are some of the reasons why you should get in touch with a good education consultant.

They will help you chose the perfect career

Many students may not be aware of the various new career opportunities available. A good education counsellor will help you narrow down your options based on your talents and interests, and will help you take the right decision regarding your career. They will advise you on what kind of job you can do after completing a particular course and the money you can potentially earn.

They are well networked with leading universities abroad

If you are wondering which countries offer good education in your field of interest, a consultant can help by suggesting the best university for a particular course that you may want to pursue. You will be given various alternatives, a lowdown on the course at each university, and will also be advised on the admission requirements.
They will help you get your visa approval

Applying for a visa can be time-intensive, complicated and very harrowing. Many students find it difficult to get together the documents and approvals required. Going through an education consultancy will be much easier, as they have good experience in documentation, know all the right channels and can get things done for you in half the time!

They will give you valuable financial advice

Studying abroad is an expensive proposition, and many students do not even try to achieve their education dreams because they are unaware about how to get their finances together. Your overseas education consultants can advise you about fees, costs of living abroad, and any hidden costs that you may need to bear. They will guide you on getting education loans and /or applying for financial aid. Quite often, students can work part time while they study to reduce the burden of tuition fees, and you will be able to get advice on this as well.

They will give you guidance on accommodation and travel

Overseas education consultants are well networked, and can help you in finding suitable accommodation that fits your budget and is close to your college campus. If you want to stay within campus hostels, most consultants are in touch with top universities abroad and can help with this.

Keeping all these aspects in mind, you will realise the importance of getting in touch with a reputed overseas education consultant before you get started on your education journey! Good luck!

5 Reasons You Should Teach Abroad at an International School Instead of a TEFL Language School

Teachers who are looking to move their teaching career overseas have two options, teach at an international school or teach at a private language school. I’ve done both and I think that teaching at an international school is the best option. I’d like to share 5 reasons why I think this is true.

Reason #1 – disposable income

When I taught at private language schools, it was a luxury to buy paperbacks, and to have my legs waxed. I had to think about where I was spending my salary because I simply didn’t have enough money to spend on non-essential items. Not if I wanted to go on any vacations or have any time off over the summer.

Now that I teach at an international school, I am able to spend my teaching salary as I choose, and still have money left at the end of the month to save. I’m not talking about saving for the summer holidays, or for a rainy day. I can save money just to have it in the bank. I’m now able to save towards a deposit on a house, and contribute to a pension scheme.

Reason #2 – regular paid vacations

When you are an EFL teacher, you will usually sign a contract for an academic year (9 months) or a calendar year. Generally your contract will include a few weeks holiday, but you will be expected to work a larger proportion of your contract’s length than if you were teaching at an international school.

At an international school, your teaching contract will be signed for a period of 12 months. Of which you will be expected to teach around 200 days. The rest of the year the school will be closed and you will be able to go on vacations.

I spent 4 years working in the TEFL sector of the teaching profession, and I worked each summer teaching residential summer school courses. Since I’ve been teaching at international schools, I have been able to take each summer off and travel. I also travel during the school year as there is only two months in the year when I do not get at least a three day weekend.

Reason #3 – normal teaching contact hours

Private language schools that specialise in TEFL are ‘cram schools’. The students mostly attend their English lessons around their other school or job commitments. This means that your working hours will be crazy. At my first language school my working day was any hours I was given between 10am and 10pm. I was lucky because the manager of the branch at which I taught was very considerate of her teachers. Not all the EFL teachers working for the same company were so well treated.

At another school I taught at, each week I had days when I worked a split shift. I would be teaching my first lesson at half past seven in the morning, have a few hours off in the middle of the day, then I would have to be back at work and teaching for another 4-5 hours in the evening and finish the day at 9:30pm.

International schools operate regular school hours. If you are teaching at a school that starts early in the morning, then you will be done with your working day in the early afternoon.

Reason #4 – planning time is ‘included’

TEFL teachers are employed for contact hours. This is the time you spend in front of students. However, lessons don’t just appear out of thin air, teachers need to prepare their lessons and organise resources. When you first start out teaching EFL you may spend as much time preparing for a lesson as you actually do teaching it. I remember when I began, this was the case on a good day, sometimes I’d spend a lot more time agonising over what I was going to do in the lesson than I actually spent in the classroom with my students. Of course, this is not true now, when I am teaching in a well resourced language school, I am able to plan a lesson much more quickly than when I started out.

One thing that TEFL teachers need to know is that while your contract says you must teach 20-35 hours a week, in reality this will mean they are working (between lesson preparation, teaching and marking) 50+ hours a week. And the pay for all your extra time spent planning the lessons is ‘included’ in your hourly teaching rate. I can tell you, teachers become very efficient in planning their lessons quickly!

Teachers working overseas in international schools are employed as full-time teachers who teach a required number of contact hours. But overseas teachers are employed for the whole teaching day, and so their planning time is included in their salaries. I’ve taught in regular high schools in addition to international schools, and I have considerably more non-contact time in which to prepare my lessons when I teach abroad at international schools than when I’ve taught locally at state schools.

Reason #5 – professional development opportunities

I have a number of qualifications in EFL teaching. I have two Cambridge certificates and a Diploma in Second Language Teaching as well. I paid for all of the courses out of my teaching salary, when I didn’t have a lot to spare. I sought professional development opportunities to make me a better teacher, and the schools I’ve worked for have directly benefited from my efforts. But not one of the private language schools I’ve taught for in the past have ever helped me pay for my professional development.

Most international schools have a pool of money set aside for the professional development of their teaching staff. At my current school, there is a budget set per teacher annually. I went to a summit in Singapore this year, funded by the school. I’ve used a number of the techniques I learnt at the summit in my classes since I’ve been back.

In conclusion

I’ve taught overseas at both international schools and private language schools since I began my international teaching career, and I am happier and feel more valued now that I am teaching in an international school.

I found that many private language schools were run by people solely interested in their profit margin, and the quality of language education offered was hardly a consideration to them.

I now teach at a school where I’m treated like a teaching professional, the students’ education is the top priority of teachers and management alike, and I get regular vacations to satisfy my hunger for travel and new experiences.

Benefits of Hiring an International Educational Consultancy

Educational consultants are experts who provide individual guidance to students in their search for the perfect college, and help them with applications, scholarships and the entire process of college admissions. These consultants study the admission processes of colleges and universities, and gain knowledge about the basic minimum requirements to determine the simplest processes of gaining admission. They interact with admissions officers in various colleges to ensure that they have current knowledge of any changes that take place on campuses. They provide reliable information and educational planning for the student’s career. They also give advice to students and counsel them about the best course that would be optimally suited to their talents and inclination.

A high quality international education consultant is needed for achieving and developing international student enrollments. These consultants organize education consultancy fairs and exhibitions to set up an environment for a meeting between consultants and students. They offer programs for personality enhancement which is aimed at developing personality of participants including communication skills, leadership skills, presentation skills etc. By working closely with the students, the consultant develops an understanding of their capabilities, requirements and placements needs.

Educational consultants assist the students in applying for financial loans or arranging the necessary funding. Students need help in arranging well organized financial documents within the given time and in the required format. It is the responsibility of an education consultant to plan and assist students and educational organizations with the best educational planning methods. They help in choosing the most suitable institution, arrange accommodation facility and also book air tickets. Thus we can see that international consultants are a one stop shop catering to all the requirements of the student till they are safely ensconced in their preferred destination. Through specific training, the students are able to sharpen their skills and meet the minimum requirements for successful admissions. They prepare a systematic progress report on each and every student and inform their progress to the parents. International education guide and organizations also offer personality development programs that help the students to sail successfully through campus interviews, internship and personal interviews.

A degree from an internationally acclaimed university is of high value in your career path. Successful students can earn their place in reputed organizations and advance their career rapidly. It is clear that the international education consultants plays a vital role in guiding the students along the right career direction in various spheres of education.