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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!

Traveling Around: Myanmar (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

Traveling Around: Myanmar

Can you relate?

• Carrying all of your spending money around with you, including money for hotels and inner country flights, in US dollars, because there are no ATMs, and credit cards are not excepted.
• Making sure that this cash is only brand new, crisp bills, because otherwise, they will not be excepted.
• Feeling like you are in India or Bangladesh, because Myanmar borders both of these countries.
• Seeing Burmese people wearing a white powder on their face, and discovering it is actually their traditional sun screen and moisturizer.
• Realizing that this is such an exciting moment to be in Myanmar due to their fledgling democracy and the recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
• Talking to amazing locals, who are so happy that you have chosen to visit their country, especially after years of tourists bans.
• Traveling by horse and cart……because this is an actual mode of transportation in Bagan, Myanmar!
• Using a paper ticket! No e-tickets in this country.
• Actually going to the airline company to buy this paper ticket, and then waiting as the agent hand writes each ticket!
• Visiting Bagan, where there are more than 1,200 temples which sounds amazing until you realize that this country used to have more than 13,000!
• Being super impressed by the service at the airports, considering that tourism is just starting up again.
• Trying the traditional food, which is shared style, and the food keeps coming until you are full!
• Sadly, seeing a neighborhood slum right next to a brand new high end grocery store. Seems very wrong.
• Arriving in Heho, traveling one hour by car, and then one hour by boat, to Inle lake, and realizing it was worth every minute of travel.
• Staying in cottages on stilts which are right in the middle of the lake.
• Seeing the milky way at night.
• Hanging out at the Strand Hotel

Currently we have 6 international schools listed in Myanmar on International School Community:

• Yangon International School (10 Comments)
International School of Myanmar (10 Comments)
International School Yangon (6 Comments)
Total Learning Academy (9 Comments)
Myanmar International School Yangon (8 Comments)
Yangon Academy (0 Comments)

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world and how you are coping with any culture shock.  If we choose your “Can you relate?” experience, International School Community will give you a coupon code for 1 free month of premium membership!

New teacher orientation must-have: The orientation programme at The American School Foundation in Mexico City

One of our Linkedin contacts just sent us this information about the new teacher orientation programme at The American School Foundation in Mexico City.

“Of course I would be happy to share information on our Welcoming Committee, which I will once again be a part of this year. Already we have put new teachers in touch with mentors to help them with academic, and classroom needs for 2012/13. Apart from this our Human Capital (resources) team have already informed new teachers about available apartments sending info and photos. Some of the new teachers arrive with apartments waiting for them and the others will go to a residential hotel for a couple of nights until they have chosen apartments that are available and suitable. Most of these apartments are furnished and ready just to move into.

Members of the committee are allotted new teachers, usually according to divisions (K-12), and we help by showing the new staff how to use the subway, buses and taxis (safe ones). We help them get any missing furniture, go to the supermarket, Costco etc. We try and show them the nearest markets etc.  We also show them around the city and the highlight is a trip to our Mexican “Venice”, with a ride and box lunch on our “gondolas” and a trip to a huge nursery to buy plants for the apartments. The drivers from school mark the plants and add the addresses and then deliver to each home.

Each year Human Capital and the committee work better together and make the transition for new staff smoother. This is always easier when you have a friend to help you.”

Currently, The American School Foundation in Mexico City has had some comments and information submitted on it by one of International School Community’s members.

American School Foundation of Mexico City (35 Comments).

Here are three samples of the 35 comments:

“There is no staff housing. Most people live in Condesa. The commute time can be as much as 45 min. There are buses that run before and after school, 4:30 and 6pm. The city is huge and there are many centers.”

“The housing allowance is $1,000 US so when the dollar goes down so does your allowance. It is plenty for basic housing, which is worse than most US apartments.”

“Lovely weather, cool all year round however the pollution is terrible, really terrible, dangerous.”

Traveling Around: Iceland (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

Traveling Around: Iceland

Can you relate?

• Being amazed at how many tours were on offer for tourists to go on.
• Realizing I was there a too short of time to see everything I wanted to see.
• Having the feeling of actually wanted to return to this country, which doesn’t happen in every country I visit.
• Relaxing in the Blue Lagoon and enjoying the beautiful ‘moon-like’ scenery that surrounded it.
• Not really understanding what it is like to try and sleep during the ‘midnight’ sun of countries this part of the hemisphere…not easy.
• Meeting some interesting people on my day trips, and then seeing them again on the bus that goes to the airport.
• Taking a risk with a short time constraint to find a recommended restaurant, finding it, very much enjoyed the food, and then making it successfully to my destination on time.
• Checking out the beautiful sky and clouds patterns each day and trying to figure out if it is true the sky truly looks different in different parts of the world.
• Getting the chance to see the tectonic plate divide and where the North American plate and Eurasian plate meet each other.
• Having a good time listening to all the old stories and myths of Icelandic culture and history.
• Realizing that Iceland is indeed the land of TROLLS!
• Seeing a bunch of geysers, one that could blast upwards of 2-3 stories.
• Sneaking up to some wild common seals and just being in awe of being that close to wild animals (being that I normally live in a big city).
• Eating a picnic on a beautiful coast just listening to the sounds of the birds nearby, the relaxing sound of the ocean waves, and nothing else!
• Finding the Iceland horses (basically found everywhere on the SW side of the Iceland) quite unique and beautiful to watch.
• Walking over a side of a cliff on the coast and not realizing that I was walking over a bridge of rock with nothing but water underneath all of us!
• Learning about the Arctic Tern bird and how protective they are of their space/area; a few of the people in our tour (including myself) were actually attacked by this bird.

Currently we have 1 international school listed in Iceland on International School Community:

International School of Iceland (12 Comments)

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world and how you are coping with any culture shock.  If we choose your “Can you relate?” experience, International School Community will give you a coupon code for 1 free month of premium membership!

Traveling Around: Almaty, Kazakhstan (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

Traveling Around: Almaty, Kazakhstan

Can you relate?

• Seeing locations in a city that the Amazing Race teams did a challenge at.
• Noticing how amazing it would be to live next to a majestic range of mountains.
• Buying souvenirs that you normally wouldn’t buy because you are trying to make your current international apartment your “home”
• Being happy that the location that you are currently living in has much, much less pollution.
• Interrupting (in a respectful way) a important culture event that the locals were participating in.
• Talking with the local dried-fruit and nuts man at the green market in the center of town and buying some amazing dates from him.
• Meeting a lot of the expat international school teachers that live in the city and realizing how much fun they are having living abroad in a (very) foreign country.
• Laughing a bit as you walk through a mall and watching people skate around the indoor ice rink in the atrium.
• Passing by much of the produce at the local grocery stores because of its poor quality.
• Feeling grateful to have old work-friends in cool and unusual places around the world.
• Waiting for minutes, hours, and even days for the government to turn on the heat so you can take a hot shower.
• Eating at the main expat restaurant for some good-ole western food.
• Sitting in a cool section of a local restaurant and having some excellent, moreish local food.
• Checking out the very important opera house, but unfortunately not being able to buy a ticket to see a show.

Currently we have 10 international schools listed in Kazakstan on International School Community. They are:

• QSI Almaty International School (4 Comments)

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world and how you are coping with any culture shock.  If we choose your “Can you relate?” experience, International School Community will give you a coupon code for 1 free month of premium membership!

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Bilingual Children #1: Bilingual children start to speak later than monolinguals.

As teachers working in international schools, we are most likely teaching and working with bilingual children (or even more likely multilingual children).  Many international school educators also find themselves starting a family with potentially bilingual children.  We all know colleagues that have ended up finding a partner from the host country while living there, getting married to them, and then starting a family.  None of us are truly prepared to raise a multilingual family and for sure there are many questions and concerns that we have.

What is the best way then to teach and/or raise bilingual children?  What does the research say are the truths about growing up bilingual and how bilinguals acquire both languages?

On the Multilingual Living website, they have highlighted the 12 myths and misconceptions about bilingual children.

Myth #1: Bilingual children start to speak later than monolinguals.

Reality: There is no scientific evidence supporting this. Bilinguals and monolinguals share the same wide window for normal development.

It is true that EAL students go through a silent stage when starting to learn English as an additional language.  How long they go through that silent stage is dependent on many factors.  The student’s personality might come into play, the student’s cultural background might come into play, the role of the teacher and the role of the parent all indeed play a part in the development of when a child inevitably starts to speak.

It turns out though that when raising a bilingual child, it is mostly likely that they will have the same window for starting to speak as their monolingual counterparts. There is no silent period as such for when children are starting to speak their first words at home.

If you are a parent of a bilingual child, share what you know about raising your child in terms of their language development and when they started to speak.  Who speaks what language to the child at home?  Is there a dominant language at home?  What language did the child first start to speak?

Teachers International Consultancy (TIC): Webinars to help you find the right international school for you!

Have you ever wanted to teach internationally but struggled to know what school and what country would be best? Do you have questions about getting an international job? Well Teachers International Consultancy (TIC) is holding two one-hour webinars on Thursday 9th February to help teachers during their decision-making process.


Both webinars will be run by Andrew Wigford, Director of TIC, who has over 20 years of international teaching experience. The first webinar focuses on finding the right international school and the right job. This will include information on the different types of international schools, their locations and the different curriculum options. Plus, there will be a question and answer session where you can ask Andrew any questions you may have. This webinar will take place at 5pm GMT on Thursday 9th February.

The second webinar will concentrate on the application process to expect when applying for an international teaching job. Here, Andrew and Gemma McSweeney, Manager at TIC, will be explaining the process and giving advice and tips on writing a CV for an international school job and compiling a philosophy statement. They will also offer advice on techniques for the interview process. There will be time during this webinar to pose questions to both Andrew and Gemma about the application and interview process so that you are ready to start your own application for an international school job. This webinar will take place at 7pm GMT on Thursday 9th February.


Teachers International Consultancy is an organisation that provides free support to teachers who are considering working in an international school. This includes recommending international schools that best suit a teacher’s experience, personality and location preferences. The options for skilled and experienced English-speaking teachers are wide, with over 6,000 international schools throughout the world, many of them recruiting right now for 2012-13 teaching positions. For more information about these and future webinars hosted by TIC, go to  www.findteachingjobsoverseas.co.uk or email Reisha Adams at Reisha@ticrecruitment.com