THERE are currently over 250,000 english-speaking teachers in international schools across the world. Most of them qualified, experienced, expatriate teachers from the UK, Canada, South Africa and Australia as well as New Zealand.
The opportunity to travel to some of the most exciting locations on Earth while still developing teaching skills is a proposition that’s very appealing for many.
In New Zealand, with unemployment high and teachers’ salaries the lowest of the six top performing OECD countries, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of New Zealanders are accepting placements in international schools.
From New Zealand to Egypt
Tamara Thorpe from New Plymouth, New Zealand, had always been interested in travelling abroad to teach.
“The tax free option was extremely appealing!” she says.
When the opportunity arose to work in Egypt at the Sharm British School in Sharm El Sheikh, Tamara grabbed it and hasn’t looked back since.
“The first year here was very exciting and different,” says Tamara, who is now into her third year of teaching in Egypt.
“The children are well behaved and there is a great mix of nationalities. Due to the revolution and changes occurring here, I have seen more Egyptian children enter our international section of the school. The staff are also from all over; the majority from the UK. I am the only southern hemisphere teacher on staff.”
Tamara has made plenty of new friends since moving to Egypt, many who are work colleagues or friends of work colleagues.
“Socially there are lots of people from different countries which is always interesting,” she says.
“I met my fiancé here; he is from Barcelona and lives and owns a company here, so that is a great aspect!”
As well as an exciting employment destination, Egypt is also giving Tamara a chance to satisfy her sense of adventure.
She describes her recent camping trip in the desert: “We spent three days on a White Desert Safari. Wow, I absolutely loved it! We had a Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4 and all that desert to explore! We camped in tents, had fires every night, no luxuries as in bathroom facilities but that’s part of the experience! Being a New Zealander, I’ve grown up camping so it was all good for me! I would recommend it to anyone visiting Egypt.”
‘We can do it’ attitude
Working in an international school isn’t just about the personal experiences. Teachers can be exposed to a wide variety of techniques and cultures that become invaluable to their professional development.
Conal Atkins was principal at Scots College Primary School, Wellington, before migrating initially to Dusseldorf and has since led five different international schools in Germany, Vietnam and Luxembourg, before returning to New Zealand to work.
“Many teachers here don’t realise what a huge advantage they have on the international circuit,” says Conal.
“Our pedagogy and the flexible, creative approach to teaching and learning that we take here in New Zealand is very much valued by the international schools. Many international schools are very eager to recruitNew Zealand teachers because of their skills and also their willingness to be involved in every area of school life; in and out of the classroom. This ‘we can do it’ attitude which is so recognisable inNew Zealand teachers is highly prized by international schools.”
According to research produced by The International School Consultancy Group, the leading body on international school research, there are currently 6,000 international schools across the world. Conal describes what makes working in an international school so unique:
“Everywhere that I went, I was surrounded by skilled and knowledgeable teachers from many countries,” he says.
“There are very few new teachers in international schools; everywhere I went there was a raft of experienced teachers with huge collective and professional wisdom. Everyone is valued from day one because of this. The chance to share best practice and work alongside very passionate, motivated teachers was a great benefit to my own professional development and yet, not everyone realises these opportunities that are available to them.”
A Valuable Prospect for Employers
Conal found that his international experience helped his career significantly.
“A common perception is that teachers returning from overseas after a few years working in international schools can be out of touch with the New Zealand curriculum framework,” he explains.
“The reality is that these teachers will have worked with many curricula during their time abroad including such respected curricula as the International Baccalaureate. This gives teachers a great deal of skill in adapting to new and different curriculum needs as well as drawing upon the best of many different models. In addition, moving between systems, I have found that good teaching and learning or leadership skills transcend curriculum knowledge.
“International teachers have been forced out of their comfort zone and are usually strong and motivated educators. All these experiences add to your professional repertoire of skills which all have significant value for schools in New Zealand.”
As for working with his fellow countrymen, Conal says, “we’re great ambassadors and I’m proud to say that most New Zealanders represent the country very well while working overseas. I’ve never been as nationalistic as when I was living away from New Zealand!”
For more information about teaching in international schools you might want to visit the Teachers International Consultancy website. TIC specialises in international school recruitment, and offers plenty of free advice for teachers on its website at www.findteachingjobsoverseas.co.uk