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Selecting an international school: Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about if the international school’s teachers are fully qualified or not?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

This is not typically a concern with mainstream international schools, but it can be a concern with some newer schools and in certain regions of the world.

pic1104Some might say having qualified teachers from early years all the way to secondary school are essential for an international school to thrive.  Why then do some international schools hire non-certified teachers?  Of course there are many reasons why schools make such choices for their staff.

One reason is that qualified teachers are sometimes hard to come by in some (if not all) countries. Additionally, the more experienced teachers may not be considering positions at less established international schools.  In some parts of the world, the pay is low.  Being that certified teachers seek out positions that value their teaching degrees (that they have worked hard for), they might not even consider working at some schools where the pay and benefits are less than desirable.

Another factor that comes into play is timing.  Some international schools get into “binds” every once and awhile, and sometimes the best choice is to hire a less qualified (or not qualified) teacher to fill the position. That non-qualified teacher is just waiting and waiting for the right moment, when the stars align for them, to finally get that job at the nearby international school versus staying at the “language” school down the road.  Also, when international schools are trying to fill vacancies for the coming school year during not ideal times of the year (e.g. the summer months or even May), they might not have the same pick of qualified teachers as they would have had back in January and February.

Even another reason that international school hire non-qualified teachers could be related to money.  International schools (especially for-profit ones) are always on the look-out on how to save money. Hiring non-qualified teachers can potentially save the school money as they can sometimes pay them less.  If there is a pay scale at the school, they would most likely be on the bottom of it.Mr-Boli-and-Primary-186

Many educators without university teaching certificates are the ones that are already living abroad.  They maybe moved abroad when they got a job at an English-language school or had an interest in “teaching English” in a foreign country.  We are sure that there are some great English-language schools around the world, but most of the teachers at those schools would prefer to work at an international school; mainly because of the better pay and benefits.  More established international schools though won’t consider them because they might not have the exact teaching qualifications that they require. The less established international schools might consider these less-qualified teachers though, especially if they are scrounging to find quality candidates to fill their positions.

It is true that you can be a good teacher, even an excellent one, without a teaching certificate from a university. Experience in the field can definitely equal quality teaching, and parents and other qualified teachers shouldn’t be so turned off to working with them.  If you agree to that statement, maybe we shouldn’t be so caught up in whether an international school has an all-qualified staff.  We all work hard to do the same job, it isn’t as if qualified teachers would work any harder at the school.  On the other hand, it is important to honor the time spent when teachers do go an get diplomas in education.  Many people with university teaching certificates have worked very hard to make teaching their career choice and not just a “job”.  It can be a bit of an “unfortunate circumstance” and a downer when a qualified teacher shows up at their new international school to find out that their colleagues are all “English teachers”!
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On our website we have a specific topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of which international schools have qualified teachers or not.  It is called “Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.”  Our members have submitted 100s of comments and information in this topic on a number of different international schools listed on our website.  Here are just a few of the comments and information submitted in this topic:

“About 65% North American, 20% European and 15% local and other. All teachers are certified and have at least 4 years’ experience…”MEF International School Istanbul (27 total comments)

“The school has both Colombian and expat teachers. All of the expat teachers are North American and all are qualified teachers. The Colombian teachers are also well certified. There is not a high turnover rate at the school. Many expat teachers, though young, stay three or four years and some have been at the school much longer…”Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 total comments)

“High Staff turnover. Probably 1/3 local hires vs. expats. The qualifications can be low. Many first year teachers with no teaching degree. Most expats are Americans and Canadians. People do not stay here because the taxes are high, the frustration level with the administration is high, and the level of academic rigor is low…”American School Foundation of Mexico City (35 total comments)

“You will find a range of teachers from New Zealand to Canada, via UK, Egypt, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, France and more. Most teachers are expat hire. Local hire teachers are well qualified. The school is still only 7 years old so turnover rate is hard to reflect on. It ranges from 1-7 years at current time…”Khartoum International Community School (37 total comments)

“Turn over rate last year was very low. This year is different with several teachers in the Secondary school being pushed out. The school pays on time and there are good benefits. Many teachers in the Secondary school do not have formal teaching qualifications but they have good subject knowledge…”Western International School of Shanghai (57 total comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get one full month of premium access. You will become a part of our over 1950+ members!

Selecting an international school: Tip #7 – Does the school feature a curriculum that is consistent with your future plans?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about if the school features a curriculum that is consistent with your future career plans?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #7 – Does the school feature a curriculum that is consistent with your future plans?

indexInternational schools teach in many different curricula.  Some of the most common are the UK, USA, Canada, IPC, PYP, MYP, and IB curricula. Which curriculum is one that is consistent with your future plans?  Are you comfortable just continuing teaching in the same one curriculum that you have been teaching in your whole teaching career or do you have aspirations to teach and to gain experience in a different curriculum?

Most of us international school teachers start off in a school that teaches in the same curriculum as your home country.  After all, your home country curriculum is what you have the most experience teaching in, and it is also probably the one in which you are the most comfortable.  Also, if you work at a school that teaches your home country curriculum, then you will most likely be teaching alongside others who are just like you (which could make you feel “more at home” while living abroad).

There are definitely international school teachers out there that seek out new experiences though and would be risk takers and seek out to try and work at an international school that teaches in a curriculum of which they are not familiar.  It definitely broadens your skills in teaching once you start having experiences teaching in different curricula.  You may find that your personal teaching philosophy also starts to get modified or solidified even more.  You definitely have more “tools” in your teaching “toolbox.” Not only does teaching in the new curriculum change you, it is the people that you interact with at that new school (who might be from a different country and teaching background than you) that influence how you teach your lessons as well.

imagesIt is nice to have a couple of different experiences noted on your CV that refer to the different curricula in which you have taught.  It is not only good for you so that you grow professionally, but it is also potentially good when job hunting.  Only a few cities in the world have more than 20 international schools in them (Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, etc…) and can offer many different kinds of curricula.

Most cities though only have a handful of international schools (Paris, Chang Mai, Buenos Aires, etc…), mean limited choices for different curricula.  If you are interested in working in a specific city in the world and there are only three international schools in that city, then you can for sure “better your chances” of getting a job there if you have previous experience teaching the curriculum at two or all three of those schools.  It is not a given though that you will automatically get an interview/the job there of course (if you have experience in that curriculum), but it most definitely might put you on their radar.

With the international schools that teach the IB curriculum, some people say that it is getting increasingly difficult to get a job at these schools if you don’t have previous IB experience.  You might have PYP, MYP, and IB as part of your plans in your future teaching career, but many schools are not even considering candidates without previous experience.  There definitely have been candidates though who “got their break” and landed a job at an IB school without previous experience in the curriculum.  Those candidates say that some directors tell them that if you are a good teacher, then it does not matter one bit if you don’t have previous IB experience.  If you are a good teacher in one curriculum, then typically that would mean you are a good teacher in another one (with proper training and PD of course to help you along the way). So, if you are trying to secure a job at an international school that teaches a curriculum that you have no experience in, don’t just give up and not send them your cover letter and CV.  You never know truly who they are specifically looking for and of course they aren’t just considering candidates that have previous experience in the curriculum.  It might just be that they are not getting enough “ideal” candidates and are already considering candidates without previous curriculum experience.

Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 8.26.11 PMOn our website we have a School Profile Search feature that allows you to search for the schools that teach the curriculum that you are looking for in your next job.  You can search by choosing the following curricula: UK, USA, Canada, IPC, PYP, MYP, and IB.  We also have an “other” option to search schools that teach a curriculum that is not one of those eight choices.  When searching our 1340 international schools (updates on 16 January 2013), we have found the following results regarding curricula:

• There are 435 international schools that teach the USA curriculum.
• There are 413 international schools that teach the UK curriculum.
• There are 57 international schools that teach the IPC curriculum.
• There are 306 international schools that teach the PYP curriculum.
• There are 237 international schools that teach the MYP curriculum
• There are 472 international schools that teach the IB curriculum
• There are 29 international schools that teach the Canada curriculum
• There are 647 international schools that teach the “Other/Host Country” curriculum

If you are an International School Community member, log on today and submit your own search for the curriculum that is consistent with your future plans!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1600 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they have worked at over 200 international schools around the world, schools that teach all 8 of the curriculum search criteria. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions and get firsthand information about what it is like teaching in the curriculum at their international school.

Selecting an international school: Tip #6 – How well is the school linked to other international schools?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the school is linked to other international schools?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #6 – How well is the school linked to other international schools?

phoca_thumb_l_IMG_9309 Not all international schools are well-linked to other international schools.  Some international schools tend to just do things on their own.  The teachers at those schools typically don’t have much contact with teachers at other international schools.  Sometimes even in a huge city like Shanghai, were there are quite a few international schools, there are smaller schools that just seem to be doing things by themselves and on their own with minimal contact with other schools in the area. The teachers there can become quite content to be on their own and find themselves forgetting that they could be doing more collaboration with other international schools in their city.

These ‘less-connected’ schools could very well be for-profit schools.  Some for-profit international schools have strict or no allowances for teachers to network or attend conferences and workshops for international schools in their area.  Because the school doesn’t encourage this type of connection to the wider international school community, then the teachers there ‘loose touch’ a bit with how other schools are doing things or tackling similar problems.  It is easy to just get used to being isolated and to doing things on your own; forgetting how much collaborating with nearby international schools could be beneficial and important for your career.

Not all international school teachers would choose to work in a less-connected schools.  Many of us would not like to teach in isolation at an international schools that is not well-linked to the wider international school community.  We all know that networking and meeting more people in our international school community helps us learn more about what is going on at other schools; the current trends and best practices for working with third culture kids.  20080318_1191_01

Many international schools are quite well-connected and linked indeed.  These international schools usually do many things to make sure their school is well known in the local and wider international school community.  They might be providing generous PD funds to their teachers so that they can do and go to many events that can in turn help their staff and the school as a whole become more linked to other international schools.  Some schools well send their teachers to check out a specific programme in person at another international school.  Some of the best learning about teaching and running new programmes (or changing old ones) at your school can be had when you can get the opportunity to see how it looks in person at another international school that is already doing those things and having great success at them.  Does your international school promote this type of PD for their staff?

International schools in the same city can either ignore each other as separate entities, or they can create on-going PD moments between themselves and facilitate collaboration and sharing of skills and knowledge.  It takes the effort of administration, most likely, to get the ball rolling (and keep it rolling) so that international school teachers at each school get opportunities to meet, network and to get work together on common goals.  Do you have a good working relationship with the other international schools in your city?

Another way international schools can become well-linked is through the various sports leagues/organizations.  When schools participate and compete with other international schools in their region of the world, their teachers and students become better connected with each other.

International schools can also become linked and connected via the various accreditation organizations that school opt to become members of.  For example, an international school that is a member of the ECIS organization provides certain privileges and opportunities for its teachers.  Working at an international school that is not accredited can may limit their opportunities to become linked to each other.

If you are an International School Community member currently working abroad, please log-on today and submit your comments and information about your school and how it is linked (or perhaps not so well linked) to other international schools.

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1400 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions and get firsthand information about how well their school is linked to other international schools.

Selecting an international school: Tip #5 – Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about a school’s clear primary language of instruction? It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #5 – Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

In most international schools, the primary language of instruction is English (although there are French, German and other primary-language-focused schools), but it is best to confirm this (especially at the pre-school and kindergarten level).

A good question on a few levels and a good understanding of the layers surrounding language of instruction and how it is implemented within an international school context need exploring. On the surface, most prospective new teachers and parents would feel a strong measure of confidence just knowing that English is the primary mode of instruction, that the school uses a western country of origin in the name (British School of…, American School of…), and that the school has past some form of accreditation, which to a parent mostly means the school has been checked and measures up to a credible standard and English language would undoubtedly have played an important role in the process. All of the aforementioned in many cases would suffice most parents’ concerns.

However, in Thailand, for instance, a school is officially pronounced ‘international’ when it meets at least a 60% non-Thai student base. Unfortunately, many international school intake numbers reflect a much greater Thai national student roll. (Thailand is just one example; this goes for any ‘international’ school in any country where the bulk of the student body is made up of students from the country the school is in.) If this is the case, even though the primary language of instruction is English, students may find getting to know others who come from another primary language base quite challenging. Even within the classroom, when English is often the only language ‘allowed’, if the greater number come from a country other than an English-speaking one, much of the student conversation reverts back to the home language. Once out of the classroom, students automatically revert to their native tongue and an English-speaking student can easily be left out of friendship groups, study groups and other aspects of school, like team sports, may end up not being pursued even if it was a passionate option a student may have been involved in previously. Developing good peer groups with shared interests is absolutely vital for students moving to international schools, especially if the one they are moving to is their first.

Some schools have tried coming up with ‘English-speaking policies’ which could stipulate English as the only language spoken on campus.

  • Difficulty number 1: teachers become policemen; they endlessly are approaching students telling them to speak English only; much like trying to enforce a dress code whereby boys are to always have their shirts tucked in.
  • Difficulty number 2: students who continue to be caught not speaking English can begin to view this exercise as a way to annoy certain teachers (they love to watch some get all red-faced and look as if they are either going to implode or explode, or both), or it can become a way to show a measure of rebellion.

Students may even begin to view English punitively, negatively, as something they have to do which can mean a negative outlook on education as a whole impacting on concentration, learning and formative assessments. There is much empirically-based written about this and the debate rages on – to what extent should English language be promoted throughout a school. The Australian Government of Child Services advocates, as one example, home languages should be encouraged and actually help fortify classroom learning when the primary language is English. The difference is in the teacher’s ability to differentiate individual student needs.

Some international schools (selective ones) may try to defer this rationale by claiming they have strict admission criterion but if the student population numbers are home country lopsided the outcome is certainly going to follow, to some measure, what is stated above. It is just a natural way students will gravitate towards.

Some international schools (Shell or other gas and oil company owned schools) are non-selective as they are primary education facilitators for the children of their employees. Shell schools are primary curriculum based and so English language acquisition and delivery is almost seamless; young learners pick up language nuances almost effortlessly. However, this is not true for older students moving to English language based curricula. Some parents are so keen to have their children in an English-speaking school that they forget to take into consideration their children’s ages. I have personally interviewed Algerian parents who enrolled their almost 17 year old son in an international school using the national curriculum of England. The lad knew no English. His Arabic turned out to be good but his French was below average. Because of limitations the school could offer, he was only able to take GCSE Arabic and French lessons, and Maths, which he really struggled in. The fact that the language of curriculum delivery was English had almost no benefit in this case.

My advice, interview the school, ask about student ratio intake numbers and definitely ask for other parent contact information. Parents need to take into consideration their child’s needs by closely monitoring and analyzing their educational progress and language proficiency ability both in the home language and in English. Learning in English, like any language, has to be understood from a multi-layered perspective not from osmosis; physical presence does not equate to language proficiency and successful grade scores.

Teachers scoping out new international schools to work for would do well to get a clear picture about how English is used in the context of the international school in question. Sometimes this does not become clear until INSET before the next academic year begins but after all the effort made in moving and uprooting your family for an international school experience, it is worth making sure as many bases have been explored before signing not only for your own work satisfaction and professional development but for the sake of one’s family’s happiness and stability. An international school experience can be a beautiful thing but I have also met many others who would disagree and won’t touch it again with a 10 foot barge pole. It’s not a vacation, it’s an investment. Assignment: Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member:  Sheldon Smith (contact him here – shelaomily@yahoo.com or visit his BLOG at http://shelaomilyblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/)

On International School Community all school profile pages have a topic in the School Information section that specifically addresses the language ability of the students and the “common language” spoken in the hallways.  For example on the Uruguay American School’s profile page there have been 1 comment submitted so far on this topic:

If you are an international school community member currently working abroad, please log-on today and submit your comments and information about your school’s language policy and the language ability levels of your students.

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1200 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s accreditation status and get firsthand information about how the accreditation process is going for them.

Selecting an international school: Tip #4 – Is the school accredited? If so, by what international and local bodies?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about a school’s accreditation status? It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #4 – Is the school accredited? If so, by what international and local bodies?

International schools intentionally seek various forms of approval and accreditation as assurances to its students, parents, employees, and community that quality and excellence drive educational decisions.  Countries have governmental standards that schools must meet in order to have local approval.  Schools generally follow specific steps to apply and meet approval status through the country’s Department or Ministry of Education and are monitored for annual renewal of the approval status.  This standardization is important for students and parents to have proof that the school provided an education that had to meet specific standards and provide some basic assurances of quality.

Accreditation takes the quality assurance factor to the next level of focusing on the processes used within a school to provide a high level of excellence not only in the “end product” of a quality education, but it examines the manner in which that excellence is achieved.  As in the previous blog post in this series, which focused on the value of international schools having a Vision, accreditation looks at what the school does and how it provides for an internal and external examination of its programs and processes: how decisions are reached within the school itself, what programs are offered that have international value, how student achievement is documented and used to increase learning, and to what extent the greater community is informed and included in the life of the school.  Accreditation not only looks at meeting quality standards; it requires that schools be engaged in a continuous improvement process so as to give its constituents long-term quality assurances.

Why is it important for a school to seek and obtain international accreditation?  Often international schools obtain multiple levels of approval and accreditation to demonstrate commitment to excellence for parents who are making educational decisions and educators who are seeking meaningful career experiences.  Let us take a look at what you should know about the processes involved in international accreditation.

The Internal Process can take one to three years of collaborative examination by the Head of School, the Faculty and Staff, the Governance Board, Students, Parents, and members of the local community.  The Standards or Required Elements for accreditation become the work of focus groups that look at the present reality, then, using the Vision, set forth a map of how the school can improve and how that improvement will be assessed and sustained over the years. After much collaboration, data gathering, and communication, a formal report is usually prepared and submitted to the accreditation agency.

The External Process will likely include an on-site visit by a team of highly experienced educators with specific areas of expertise who have the responsibility of examining evidence to validate the school’s formal report.  This visit includes several days of interviews as well as classroom visits to observe the quality of instruction and the depth of student engagement, critical thinking, and application of knowledge.

The Accreditation Report that the visiting team provides will likely include a level of accreditation recommendation for the school and most importantly, that report will give direction and focus for the school to provide on-going quality educational programs for its students.

What has been described in this article is indicative of extensive work by a cross-section of a school and its community stakeholders.  So who benefits from this work?

School Owners and Directors are members of a highly competitive market.  International accreditation gives added distinction to a school that sets it apart from many others when parents are looking for excellence.  It also attracts quality teacher applicants for employment.

Teachers and Prospective Teachers who seek employment in international schools want to be in schools of excellence where there is a strong vision and the internal human support and programs that enable them to perfect their teaching skills.  They also want their years of experience to be recognized by other educational agencies should they seek graduate school acceptance or transfer to other parts of the world. It is important to note that when an international school is going through an accreditation process the teachers (and everyone else basically) have to spend much time and energy to gather and fill-out all the paperwork involved! It can be quite an intensive few years for teachers (and all other stakeholders too!).

Governance Boards appreciate direction for their decisions which accreditation defines.  It is added assurance that as a Board, decisions are intentional and supportive of the standards set forth in accreditation.

Parents want the best possible educational experiences for their children.  Often they feel inadequate in evaluating schools and programs, so the quality assurance component of international accreditation, can aid them in this important decision.  Additionally, international accreditation gives parents assurances that the education their children received will be viewed favorably by other schools and universities in admission to future institutions, transfer of credits, and possible scholarship acquisition.

Students are the direct beneficiaries of international accreditation.  Behind the scenes, educators are required to have on-going analysis and refinement of programs and activities so as to consistently provide an education of excellence.  As mentioned previously, student records indicate international accreditation for the purposes of transfers, admissions, and scholarships.

The community benefits from schools of excellence that are providing quality education; it becomes an added value and attraction to the area.  Corporations want to be established where high-performing schools prepare citizens for the 21st century workforce and generate sustained excellence for community growth.

International accreditation is a continuous process of internal and external conversations and review of what is happening inside and outside a school to prepare creative and productive problem-solving people for international stability in an ever-changing society.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)

On International School Community all school profile pages have a topic in the School Information section that specifically addresses the accreditation status of each school.  The topic is called “What types of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations?”

For example on the Seoul Foreign School’s profile page there have been 3 comments and information submitted so far on this topic:

If you are an international school community member currently working abroad, please log-on today and submit your comments and information about your school’s accreditation status.

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1100 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s accreditation status and get firsthand information about how the accreditation process is going for them.

Selecting an international school: Tip #3 – Vision: What is the vision that is expressed by the school head or officials? Is it consistent with the actual operation of the school?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about the mission statement and how successfully the international school is working to achieve their mission statement? It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #3 -Vision: What is the vision that is expressed by the school head or officials? Can anyone attest to whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school?

Whether you are a potential parent or teacher at an international school, it is important for you to inquire about the Vision of the school.  You might ask yourself “what is this notion called Vision” all about and why would it be a concern.  As long as the school is safe and orderly, isn’t that enough?

Vision is the core of the functionality of the school.  Many international schools are privately owned and operated as a business with a mission and vision, often that of the owners.  Other schools might be government entities or faith-based, both of which will likely have specific purposes for existence.  Nonetheless, the vision for a school should be clearly articulated and a driving force for all decisions within the school.  Furthermore, the vision should be one that is shared with a wide array of stakeholders from teachers and students to parents and community members.  It also should be re-visited each year or two for refining.

Strong, effective vision statements are often succinct and able to be implanted throughout the decision-making process.  A common current vision theme might include the concept of “preparing global learners for the 21st century” which can sound appealing to teachers and parents assessing international schools.   Don’t we want our children to be prepared for the workforce and the competitive market?

Let’s take a look inside the school’s operation as we examine the concept of 21st century global readiness.  Some easy to identify indicators of the use of the Vision for the school might include:

1.     Clearly stated on the school website
2.     Visible at the school
3.     Included in school marketing materials
4.     Articulated by school leaders in interviews and meetings

However, the true power of the Vision is embedded in decision-making and is generally harder for a parent or new hire to identify.  The following questions (and many more) can reveal if the Vision indeed drives the inner workings of the school:

1.     Do enrollment and hiring practices support diversity?
2.     How has the curriculum expanded to prepare students for a global future?
3.     How is technology financed and integrated in the curriculum and daily operations of the school?
4.     Do the instructional strategies reflect on teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving for students and faculty?
5.     Are multiple languages spoken at the school?
6.     Are teachers trained to use best practices in their instruction?
7.     Are there global partnerships for teachers and students to engage in international discussions, projects, exchanges?
8.     Is there a sense of shared leadership that enables teachers and students to have leadership roles and develop leadership skills?
9.     How does the school’s budget reflect a commitment to preparing 21st century global learners?
10.  What achievement expectations do the leaders have for learners?

From that limited list of thoughts, one can recognize that future parents and teachers need to be creative in their inquiry process.  Otherwise, the Vision might be more of “the blind leading the blind.”

This article was submitted by guest author: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)

On International School Community have a topic in the voting section (on the School Information part of each school’s profile page) that specifically addresses whether the school is successfully working towards its vision.  The topic is called “School’s realization of its vision.” For example on the American School of Barcelona’s profile page there have been 5 votes submitted so far on this topic:

If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, please submit your votes about your school’s realization of its vision.

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 950 members.  Many of our current members have listed they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s vision statement and whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school.

Selecting an international school: Tip #2 – Location: Is the school conveniently located?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  Finding out where exactly your international school is located and where you will be located is very important to know, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to attend or work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #2 – Location: Is the school conveniently located?

The American School of London (see picture to the left) and the United Nations International School are conveniently located, but not all international schools are in the same situation.  Some international schools are built way outside of the city center, far away, especially if you plan on living in the city center.  Sometimes your journey to work might be around 1 hour, one-way; an important thing to know before you decide on signing a contract to work at an international school.

If you don’t mind living in a 3rd ring suburb, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big of an issue that your school is so far away from the city center.  However, if you like to enjoy city life and prefer to live there as well, then it might not be the best fit to work at an international school that is not centrally located.

If you are a teacher with children that attend the school, living closer to school also might be a positive thing.  Maybe if you have children, you wouldn’t mind working at a school that is way out in the suburbs because that is always where you would prefer to live anyways.

Before signing a contract, an international school teacher definitely needs to evaluate their current situation and what their living-situation needs are.  Make sure to ask the right questions at the interview about how your current situation and needs match with the location of the school and where you would most likely be living in relation to that school.

If you had a choice, what would be the preferred way for you to and from work every day?  Would you rather ride your bike, take a bus, take the school’s bus, ride on a train, walk, drive your car, take a taxi, or a combination of 2-3 types of transportation?  What amount of time is an acceptable journey length: 10-15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 45 minutes, or over one hour?

One colleague friend of mine worked at a school that was more than a one-hour journey from their apartment.  Most of the teachers there were taken to and from the school on one of the school’s buses “for teachers.”  One positive thing this teacher took away from that experience was that many teachers were forced to not work so long at the school.  Because of the fact that the school’s bus for teachers left at a specific time, you had to get on that bus…otherwise you would be stuck at school with limited options to get home!  Sometimes teachers do need to stay long at school to get work completed, but often teachers don’t really need to stay for hours and hours.  If you are forced to end your workday at a certain time, you would be surprised how much of your work gets done during that time constraint.

Another colleague friend of mine lives in the city center and their school is very conveniently located in relation to the city center.  Many teachers at this school also live where this teacher lives, and the journey from home to school is around 12-15 minutes by train and 20-25 minutes by bike.  Many of the teachers at this school are quite pleased that they at least have the option of living in the city center and also have a relatively easy commute to work.  There are also many options to get to work based on the needs and situation of each teacher.  It is nice when there are many transportation options available to the meet the needs of a diverse staff.

We have had hundreds of comments and information submitted about this very topic on a number of international schools on International School Community’s website.  For example on the Shanghai Rego International School‘s profile page there have been three comments submitted so far:

On the Misr American College school profile page, we have one rather informative comments about the school’s location:

If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, please share your comments about if your school is conveniently or NOT conveniently located.

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 830 members.  Many of our current members have listed they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about where most teachers are living in relation to the school and the city center.