What factors should be considered when choosing an international school?

When we read stories about international schools and how to choose the one that matches your needs, invariably, the stories only look from a parent’s or a student’s perspective. However, the decision is equally important for teachers, who themselves, will also be preparing for a massive shift in both their professional and personal lives. If you are in this position and coming directly from the UK, or have been teaching in another country, this article includes things that teachers need to consider.

As arguably being the best international school in Bangkok, we believe that it is vital that teachers, as well as student, make the right choice when it comes to choosing an international school. At the interview stage, we are always keen to learn what motivates an individual, why they want to work at our school, what their ambitions are, and what they are like as a person. Finding the right character to work within our team is equally as critical for the teacher as it is the school.

Here are eight things you should consider:

1. Where do you wish to be located?

Some people wish to work overseas but don’t want to be too far from their friends and family, in which case, working at a school in Europe would probably be most appropriate. Other teachers may prefer to experience something completely different, a new way of working, a new culture and a different way of life. The latter group are usually looking for an overall life experience as opposed to merely a professional one. If you fit into this group, you are probably looking at more far-flung destinations.

2. What motivated you to want to teach at an international school?

People have very different motivations for wanting to work at an international school, and there is no right or wrong answer. For some, it is because they want to gain broader teaching experience and feel that this will be a good move professionally. Others are aware that they can probably get paid more, while probably experiencing less day-to-day stress while others may feel that they want to give something back to those who are perhaps less fortunate. Not all international schools are to the same standard as Harrow Bangkok, and this should be acknowledged when you begin your research.

3. Are you moving alone or coming with your family?

If you are moving to a new country with your family, there are many things that you need to consider, and your own dreams may have to be curtailed slightly to meet the needs of your family. You will need to think about where you are going to live, local amenities, hospitals and possibly other schools. Ideally, you will want there to be a strong expat presence so that they can adapt quickly and not feel isolated. If you are moving with your family, we would strongly recommend looking for an international school in a city with a dense expat population.

4. Do you view the move as short-term or long-term?

For some teachers, the idea of working at an international school is purely to gain more experience before returning to the UK. If this is how you view your move, you may look at smaller schools where you could teach a variety of subjects. The more prestigious schools generally look for teachers with more of a long-term strategy and try to maintain as much continuity amongst their teaching staff as possible. However, there is lots of short-term work available, but you should be aware that the pay scales are often appreciably lower.

5. What are the facilities like at the school?

At Harrow Bangkok, and indeed many international schools in Asia, we have some fabulous facilities which make teaching and learning a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Those who plan to teach at one school long-term, have career progression and have high salary aspirations in mind, are probably advised to seek out schools with better facilities. It is quite easy to become disenchanted at schools where you are always frustrated by inadequate or non-existent equipment. Sadly, poor facilities are likely to be a reflection of what you can expect your teaching experience to like.

6. Is the school adequately funded?

We are fortunate to be a well-funded school, and this gives us an excellent foundation on which we can build a superb teaching establishment. To be regarded as a ‘good’ school doesn’t require massive funding, but there are plenty of underfunded schools. It is a scenario which can cause countless problems further down the line. Poor facilities, fewer students attending, along with low teaching standards, can be what awaits. In turn, this leads to a lack of job security and perhaps a role that is more hassle than it is worth.

7. What is your overall perception of the students’ attitudes?

We would always recommend that you try to find out as much about the school you are planning to work at as possible. Research the school on the internet, visit forum sites and, where possible, try to visit in person. Try to gain an impression of the students’ overall attitude. Are they studious and smart, do they seem to be enjoying school, or are they angry and feeling unfulfilled? The attitude of students will have a significant impact on your own experience, so knowing what to expect before applying will ensure you are prepared.

8. Are the other teachers enjoying their role?

Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, and this should be apparent by their demeanour. If possible, speak to the teachers about their thoughts about the school. Try to talk to a few different people as views may differ. Naturally, you are looking for overall positive feedback, although it is also good to know the downsides too so that they don’t come as a shock. If most teachers are unhappy, something is fundamentally wrong, and we would suggest steering well clear! 

In Conclusion, becoming a teacher at an international school is very much down to what you want as an individual. You need to consider what your goals are, what are your long-term objectives and if it is an overall life experience or merely a professional one you are after. The most important thing is to do as much research as possible on the school, the city and the country and be as best prepared as possible.