Teaching abroad is no longer seen as a sideways move that could harm career progression. Steve Caulfield of the Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpar, describes some of the opportunities
An increasingly diverse choice of where to work is now a real option for professional, career-minded teachers.
Long gone are the days when a move to teaching overseas was seen as a ‘sideways move’ that could jeopardise your career path or progression upon your subsequent return to the UK. Forward thinking employers in the UK no longer see teaching overseas as ‘time-out’ or some sort of sabbatical. Indeed, quite the opposite; many value the international, multi-cultural experience(s) you will acquire, look favourably on the personal spirit, energy and commitment your initial application and move will have demanded and, not least, give credit to the adjustment(s), cultural sensitivity and flexibility you must demonstrate to make your time teaching and living abroad a success.
The last 10 years have seen a significant increase in the number of reputable British curriculum schools overseas. We have witnessed rapid expansion in the number of British curriculum schools in the Middle East (Dubai especially), North America (Chicago, New York, Houston and Washington), the Far East (Shanghai and Beijing) and Eastern Europe (the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Russia).
A number of well established and highly regarded public schools in the UK have branched out overseas such that there is now a Harrow School in Bangkok, a Dulwich in Shanghai and a Repton School soon to open in Dubai. Whether you are primary or secondary trained, there now exists a real opportunity for you to work overseas in British curriculum schools of the highest standard.
You have a global career that offers a global choice. The trick is, of course, all about making the right choice. In the box below you will see just some of the questions you may want to consider to help you make the right choice and get the right school.
British schools overseas
Apart from those catering for the children of British forces and EU personnel, British schools overseas are privately run. The Council of British International Schools (COBISEC) website describes the situation thus:
‘There is a wide variety of British private schools worldwide, large and small, some primary, some secondary and others all age schools. Some have been founded by companies, others by individuals, while others are owned by parents or by teachers. It should be borne in mind that the British government plays no part whatsoever in authorising or monitoring these schools, and while many may be excellent educational institutions, this may not always be the case.’
The website also points out that the name ‘British school’ does not necessarily imply that a school follows the British curriculum, but that some schools describing themselves as ‘international schools’ may nonetheless do so.
Gabbitas Education Consultants say that most good schools are seeking qualified teachers with at least three years’ experience and that primary generalists and secondary teachers of maths, science and English are the most sought after.
Teaching in a British curriculum school overseas: questions to ask
- Is the school accreditated with any professional body? Several reputable organisations now ‘badge’ many of the leading British curriculum schools overseas:
- BISW – British International Schools Worldwide
- ECIS – European Council of International Schools
- CIS – Council of International Schools
- BSME – British Schools of the Middle East
- COBISEC – Council of British Independent Schools in European Contries
- FOBISSEA – Federation of British International Schools in South and East Asia.
- Read up on your possible host country. Are you comfortable with the cultural, religious and political environment?
- Ask where staff move on to when they leave. Do they secure employment in good, reputable schools?
- Is there a comprehensive induction programme whereby new staff are helped to find accommodation, etc. Or are you generally left to sort things out for yourself?
- Is there a clear and transparent salary scale?
- Is the salary appropriate to the cost of living in the host country?
- Are there any references available from ex-staff or opportunities for you to contact existing staff?
- Check other contractual details such as accommodation details and allowances, medical insurance, education for accompanying children, availability of compassionate leave for family emergencies back in your home country and frequency of paid flights home.
- Does the school have a development plan outlining its future vision and direction?
- Ask how long overseas appointed staff normally stay? Do most leave after one contract?
- Are there good opportunities for professional development and regular in-service training? How does the school keep up-to-date with educational initiatives and trends?
- Ask to see the school’s examination results: NCTs, GCSE and A-levels.
- Ask to see any recent Ofsted reports or independent reviews.
- Are there any currency restrictions in sending money out of your host country?