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Complete Guide to Working Abroad as a Teacher

Working abroad as a teacher

Working abroad as a teacher can be a great way to experience life abroad. There are many of jobs available in international schools worldwide for according to Teachers International Consultancy (TIC), an organisation that specialises in finding jobs for qualified teachers in accredited international schools around the world.

“It’s not too late to apply by any means,” says Director of TIC, Andrew Wigford.  “There are primary, secondary and management positions still available in some excellent schools and in particular, there’s a demand for physics, mathematics and primary school teachers in some fantastic locations including Singapore, Qatar, Italy, Luxembourg, Jordan, Costa Rica, Egypt and Turkey.”

International schools continue to gain global recognition as more and more of their students, both expat children and increasingly, local children achieve places at some of the most respected universities around the world.  It is partly for this reason that the number of international schools is growing at a dramatic rate; more than doubling in the past ten years to a present total of 5,756 international schools worldwide.  If you’re looking to explore new horizons, you’re a qualified teacher and you want to live abroad, read on to learn about the wealth of opportunities potentially available to you.

This growth in the number of international schools globally is expected to continue.  According to ISC Research, the organisation that analyses developments in the international schools market, the number of international schools is anticipated to rise to 8,000 within five years.  That means a constant and ever-increasing demand for teaching staff.

“The biggest challenge for the whole market is to keep finding good calibre teachers,” says Andrew Wigford…which is where you potentially come in.  If you’re a British teacher who’s looking for new challenges and new adventures, there’s nothing holding you back from going to work abroad.

“The reason why international schools have gained such global respect is due to the quality of the teaching they provide,” continues Andrew.  “Our challenge is to keep finding experienced, passionate, capable teachers who are also interested in working overseas.  Most teachers who do work in international schools find the experience extremely fulfilling both personally and professionally.

“The opportunities for professional enhancement, the development of teaching skills, and the experiences gained from working with children and teachers from many different countries are some of the reasons most often quoted by our placed teachers for choosing to work abroad.”

What Expat Teachers Say About Working Abroad as a Teacher in International Schools

Here is some feedback, along with some advice from a number of teachers who have worked in international schools for a number of years:

Dominic Crompton taught primary at the Colegio Anglo Colombiano School in Bogota, Colombia.  He says: “Without doubt, it’s an experience I would recommend to anyone.  It is impossible not to bring something back that is of great value, professionally and personally.  Professionally you are so employable, especially if you return with experience of developing curriculum and with leadership and international links.

“Having the right attitude is very important.  I was amongst a lot of young teachers from many countries including Australia and New Zealand, but they all had a great approach to teaching, really positive attitudes and open minds.  Working with these teachers was an incredible lesson for me.  It’s very easy as a British teacher to have a self-inflated belief that the whole world follows our lead.  That is absolutely not true.

“The knowledge of the Kiwi teachers in our school was incredible and the New Zealand systems in particular impressed me greatly.  I was amazed that a country so small and insignificant culturally could be so dynamic and innovative when it came to learning.  Because all the teachers in the school, wherever they were from, were having to think about what was right for the school curriculum, we were forced to consider the relevance of what we were teaching.

“Working as a team; sharing ideas, teaching skills and different perspectives from all over the world was an amazing opportunity and really encouraged me to be innovative.”

Jeff Burt taught physics to secondary children at Brent International School in the Philippines, then went on to the British International School in Istanbul, Turkey and is now in Sri Lanka at the Overseas School of Colombo.  He is there with his wife and two teenage daughters.  “Looking back, the whole international teaching experience has been amazing,” he says.  “I’ve taught Australian and American style curriculum, IGCSE (International GCSE) and IB (International Baccalaureate).

“You have to be prepared to adapt to new content and assessment styles as well as look at your own teaching methodology.  The IB programmes are substantially different to what I was used to in England, my home country – they and can be quite demanding when you first start them, but they are very interesting to teach and incredibly good for your professional development.”

Michael Wainwright is an Australian teacher who taught primary music in Sri Lanka before moving to Germany to teach.  He says: “When you’re teaching abroad, there’s wonderful stimulation from the varying environments and from the children and colleagues around you.  It’s quite an amazing opportunity that I thoroughly recommend to any teacher who is willing to take a risk.  You’re extending your knowledge, teaching different people 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 out more about yourself.  When I was in Sri Lanka, I taught in English, which is typical of all the international schools wherever you teach in the world.  But I still leant to speak a decent amount of Singhalese.  I did this to get around.  It takes a lot of energy to learn but it changes everything.

“The smiles on people’s faces says it all.  English is spoken widely in Sri Lanka; even the less privileged population can speak a little, but it’s almost a responsibility I think, to try to learn the native language of your host country….and it helps to drop the prices! Buying and selling was a bit of a game in Sri Lanka.  It’s part of the culture there and certainly added to the colour of life!”

Finally Janice Ireland is a teacher from Wales who taught in international schools in Kuwait, Cairo, Libya and The Netherlands for twelve years before returning to education in the UK.  “My daughter came with me and did her A-levels in the same school as I worked at in Kuwait.  She absolutely loved it!  It’s been a really good thing for me and my family and I would absolutely recommend it.

“The people who work in international schools are incredibly positive, interesting, confident, independent people.  They are really open, friendly and interested in you as a person.  The multi-cultural work environment of an international school opens your mind up to so many other possible ways of viewing situations, of considering the individual needs and circumstances of others, and of valuing differences.

“I never had one bad experience with all the people I worked with during my years in international teaching.  Overall, the risks of going to work overseas are small and the experiences you gain totally outweigh any negatives.

“When you are looking for schools, make sure you do some good research about the school.  Talk to someone who has worked there.  Don’t believe anything you read on Internet blogs!  People usually only ever write bad experiences there and you never know the whole story.  Talk to people you can trust; who have worked in various international schools, who have good experience.

“I think it is also important to choose the right time to go and work abroad.  Don’t go abroad simply to run away from a relationship, you’ve got to really want to do it for the experience.”

How to Take the First Step Towards Working Abroad as a Teacher

Teacher Dulcie Copeland is just about to start on her international adventure – moving from a teaching job in Kent in England to the British School of Budapest in Hungary.  “It’s something that I had always fancied doing; seeing other countries and experiencing other cultures whilst doing a job that I really enjoy,” she says.

“It wasn’t finding the job that was difficult so much as making the decision to look for it and now making the move.”

To start the ball rolling Dulcie attended an informational seminar about international teaching opportunities hosted by Teachers International Consultancy.  “This was really useful and helped me to decide that it was time to take the next step,” says Dulcie.  “TIC also gave interview tips which have been very useful, helping focus my mind on what to ask and at what point to ask for example.”

Dulcie is currently in the throes of preparing for the move.  “Now I’m thinking about things like how to find my way around the country, especially as I don’t know the language, and knowing what to take with me and if the accommodation will be suitable.  But I’m really excited and TIC has been very supportive with advice and keeping me informed throughout the whole process of getting my job and relocating.

“My main concern really is my youngest son who has just left home.  I’m not sure how he’ll cope, but he has to learn to stand on his own two feet and, all said and done, it’s only two and a half hours away!”

TIC is a free specialist recruitment and support service for teachers to help them find the best possible international teaching job to suit their experience, skills and destination preference.  TIC also provides expert advice to prepare teachers well for their move abroad.

There are many opportunities for English-speaking teachers with at least two years teaching experience to teach in international schools, of which there are now well over 5,000 throughout the world.  If you want to try working abroad as a teacher, register as a potential candidate and for more information about teaching in international schools visit their website  or call TIC on +44(0)2920-212-083.

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