International School Employment: What to Expect

Dec 20, 2012

International schools are prestigious; they pay the best, have the best facilities and only hire the best teachers, like we said: the best.

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? What’s an international school all about? What makes them stand out from the rest?

Let’s start with the basics. In order to be considered an actual international school, it is widely agreed that a school generally follows a national or international curriculum different from that of the host country. An emphasis is placed on international education and global citizenship. 

The school should have a  multinational teacher population,  international accreditation,   multinational and multilingual student body and  a moving population (higher than in national public schools). 

Different Shapes and Sizes

If you are interested in international school employment and it’ll be your first time abroad you will find it easier to teach in the curriculum you already have experience in (i.e. American, British, etc.), but with training available, you will find that you are qualified to teach in a variety of formats. Here’s a quick list of the most common international schools in China:

American schools   
Canadian Schools   
British schools   
IB Schools 

While some international schools have an American, British or other slant, some simply call themselves an international school because they have incorporated multiple approaches from different formats, and provide an international curriculum with a global perspective. Not all international schools deliver the IB program (just as not all IB schools are international), but one common thread that runs through these schools is the desire to create global citizens who have an understanding of other countries, cultures and histories beyond their own national perspective and/or system.

The Way Things Are Done
We know that international schools incorporate a multinational community of teachers and students, international accreditation and curricula. Let’s jump into the different curricula that you’ll be teaching at these schools.

Firstly, we have the IB curriculum. It’s classified as a global golden standard. The curriculum comprises out of four programs for students aged 3 to 19 from a wide range of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.  Secondly there’s the American AP Program that has enabled millions of students to take college-level courses and exams, and to earn college credit or placement while still in high school. 
Also, the British A-Level is an examination in a particular subject that pupils have to pass if they want to go to university.

AP vs. A-levels: many share a fair amount of confusion to what the difference is between the American AP program and the UK A-levels. Here’s the gist: A-level is a course, AP is a test. In other words, if students studied the A-level course and passed the exam, they can directly apply to the world’s universities. Whereas taking the AP exam, students must have a high school diploma. This is why high school students can give up their domestic studies while it is not the case for students who merely have AP courses.

Hiring Season and Application Window
Typically international schools hire new teachers for the spring and fall semesters. February is when the spring semester starts, right after the Chinese New Year, while the fall semester usually starts in the last week of August or the first week of September.

Don’t miss the boat! Most career opportunities are recruited sooner than you think. About 80% of the hiring for these schools is done for a September start. Roughly 20% is for after Chinese New Year’s in February. With this type of job you would want to apply anywhere between 2-9 months in advance. The more prestigious that the school is, the earlier we would advise you to apply. Once again, there are almost always urgent openings available near the beginning of each semester!

Related: Featured employers

What Do They Expect From Me?
As a general rule international schools employ foreign teachers who have at least 2 years of teaching experience. In most secondary schools, the teachers are expected to have a degree in and display strong command of their subject while being able to engage with their students. Most importantly, international school employment is focused on finding teachers that are passionate, well-rounded and who are committed to the values of an international education. In most cases, you’ll be expected to participate in extra-curricular activities and get involved in the school’s social programs.

The High Life
It’s no secret that a big perk with international school employment is the money. International schools can afford to pay their teachers a highly-competitive salary. Most schools also offer worldwide medical insurance, work bonuses, housing, flight reimbursement, relocation allowance, disability allowance, retirement plan and annual flight home allowance. 

The Main Point
International schools come in a wide variety of organizations, curricula, and styles, but they all give their teachers the opportunity to live and work overseas in a stimulating and exciting environment. Just as international schools serve to teach students that there’s a big world out there beyond their own country and culture, teachers at international schools benefit immeasurably as they learn the same life lessons along with their students.

Written by: Jumé Irmscher


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