Teach Overseas: Broaden your horizons and your opportunities

08/09/2011
Education Career Path
Dr. Roger Douglas and Laura Light

The world is getting smaller. The proliferation of global companies, social media, Skype, and inexpensive, readily available air travel have all conspired to make the world far more accessible. At the same time, education has become a means to a better life the world over. As a result, demand for quality teachers is exploding, offering adventurous teachers a remarkable opportunity: to travel, live and teach in an exotic locale. More educators than ever before are needed to teach overseas. Those wise to this changing world live a lifestyle few imagined possible. image

Riffa Views International School in Bahrain. The school serves PreK to grade eight students in world-class academic, athletic and arts facilities outfitted with the best technology resources.

Teach your subject area, in English

Most educators who travel abroad work in international schools using US, IB or British curriculum, with instruction conducted in English. These educators teach in the core areas they are certified in, such as science or math. The students they teach are native and non-native English speakers, and in many cases, a growing proportion of host country nationals. It is important to note that these teachers experience a life decidedly different from teachers who go abroad to teach English as a second language. The world we describe below does not relate to ESL instruction. Instead, we are describing the opportunities available to teach your area of specialty in English all around the world.

Global organizations building world-class schools

While set up for a specific purpose, these schools can be a non-profit organization run by the parents of the students attending; for-profit organizations that want to offer American or international-based education; religious affiliated facilities that are attached to a specific organization; or company-sponsored schools that address the needs of educating the children for families working in that company or location. 

More recently, entrepreneurs and developers who are building entirely new cities and communities are including a school to educate local citizens and to attract new residents to their projects.

A rapidly growing market

There are thousands of international schools worldwide, and each year more open their doors. ISC Research predicts that by 2020, there will be more than 11,000 international schools, educating in excess of 4.6 million students, requiring 420,000 teaching staff. Many of these schools are accredited by, or seek accreditation through, US and Council of International Schools (CIS) agencies, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and AdvancedED.  Amid this background, the International Baccalaureate continues to grow and is playing a larger role in the schools around the world.

These schools offer immense opportunities for educators. Many teachers and school administrators from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have already discovered this world.  Each year, many more go overseas in search of a career makeover or career-enhancing experience.

The international lifestyle

Teachers and administrators often speak of the benefits they experience when working abroad. Most schools have a very high academic standard with no attachment to mandates that affect the public schools in the United States. Teachers often comment about their ability to ‘truly teach’ when working in these establishments. Other benefits include the ability to travel, a high standard of living, and the enriching experience of making friends from a variety of countries. Many teachers actually then spend years and years working abroad.

Case in point:  John, from Winnipeg, has been teaching around the globe for over ten years and at times has to pinch himself to believe all he has been able to see and do. “The schools I’ve worked at internationally have afforded me the ability to get away to wonderful places like Paris, Macao, Bangkok and Crete, to name just a few. Having the ability to travel to places like these allows you to recharge and rethink your practice, which is incredibly beneficial for the teacher and ultimately the students.”

Beyond worldly benefits

The financial freedom that many experience is more than a benefit of working abroad – it’s possibly a best-kept secret. Along with your salary, international schools often offer benefit packages that can include a relocation allowance, shipping allowance, free housing, insurance, and yearly flights home. While the salary and benefit packages can vary greatly from one school to another, most teachers find the disposable income they earn allows them to live a better life abroad than they were accustomed to at home. 

Of course, financial compensation varies — sometimes greatly — with each school and each country. Consequently, a “look-before-you-leap” approach is prudent, as some schools do not offer the same amount of freedom as others.  A related matter for careful consideration is that of retirement benefits. For many years these were not a part of overseas life, but many institutions are now working with their teachers and administrators to offer this benefit.

Starting your journey

How does one start jet-setting around the world to enjoy a respected career as an international teacher? Well, believe it or not, these opportunities often come to you ... you just need to know how and where to look for them. International schools often come to the United States each winter in their search for outstanding educators.  The jobs they seek to fill are competitive, and depending on the school, many talented teachers and administrators may be applying for the same position. One of the first stops for teachers and schools alike is International Schools Services (ISS).  Since 1955, ISS has helped international schools around the world, find the best teachers/administrators and supplies to help schools excel.

ISS provides a members-only service for teachers to post their searchable credentials for about 175 hiring schools, search through over 1,500 jobs and interact with prospective employers online. ISS holds conferences each year where school superintendents come in for a limited number of days for interviews.  These recruiting events are intense, but many teachers leave the conference with a sense of thrill after having signed a contract for a school in an exciting locale in the world.

Approximately 82 percent of the people who responded to a survey about the ISS recruitment conferences said they had received and accepted a job offer at an IRC. Laura, a teacher from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, had a wonderful, and surprisingly typical, experience at a recruiting conference eleven years ago. “I was hired by a great school in Switzerland and spent the next eight years working and traveling to amazing places around the world. During my eight years abroad, I worked in Switzerland and in Vietnam. Now I’m back in the States, teaching and planning for my next job overseas.” 

Worldwide opportunities

For qualified teachers, these global opportunities are closer than you might think.  In fact, this December, International Schools Services and CASIE (Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education) will host a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This joint recruitment event will bring international education job openings to those looking for positions overseas. Their hope is to host at least 40 schools from all over the globe to show the benefits and opportunities that are available.

Planning ahead

While the hiring for this expanding market does occur year-round, the focus on recruiting for these schools is especially concentrated in the months of November, December, January and February. Schools typically look for candidates with a minimum of two years of experience and certification. “Teaching couples” are highly sought after. Flexible educators, willing to extend themselves beyond core certification area, are also more likely to be hired. Getting started typically includes registering with a firm like ISS, Search Associates or CIS in order to be found.

Doing your homework

While there are many outstanding schools around the world, not all schools offer the comforts or benefits mentioned here. Anyone who wants to work overseas as an educator would be advised to research the schools they are considering, speak with experts on this subject, and not make any hasty judgments. 

International school positions are available to quality educators, and for those who qualify, it can be a dream career move. The global opportunities are out there– if you’re ready to consider them!

Dr. Roger Douglas, Director of Administrative Searches, has held teacher and administrative positions in the U.S. and overseas for 17 years. Laura Light, Director of Educational Staffing, has over 20 years of teaching experience and has worked in Kuwait, the Dominican Republic, Singapore, United Kingdom and El Salvador.For more information, visit www.iss.edu.
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