Teaching overseas is proving attractive for beginning or retired teachers, so it pays to know how to increase your chances of getting hired.
EXPERTS in overseas teaching suggest that while there can be great variation in schools, principals and teachers need to research international methods of recruitment, interview procedures, benefits, cross-cultural attributes and other issues that may differ markedly from what they are used to at home.
Peter Thatcher, a former WA secondary principal, has interviewed for principal positions in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Beirut, Mumbai and Lahore with over 20 years’ experience in the international field that culminated in a position as director of schools in the Arab Emirates.
“Prospective Australian teachers or principals need to be very clear about the context of the school for which they are applying and project how their leadership can match the school’s requirements,” he said.
“The financial package is very attractive, often with a vehicle allowance, education benefits and tax free concessions if you work for two years plus.
“If both couples are teachers, in some countries you can save one salary because the cost of living is less.
“You are in schools where education is highly regarded, parents very supportive and behaviour problems rare,” Mr Thatcher said.
Mr Thatcher said schools are keen on hiring single teachers or married teaching couples, as the “trailing spouse” or large families could present problems relating to costs of hiring, transportation, tuition and housing.
Schools hire staff over 50 years of age if they are certified to teach, bring commitment, experience and talent to the school and a willingness to be flexible.
In many schools there was a preference for the American Curriculum, Baccalaureate training or English Curriculum, however, Australian teachers with good teaching experience in the Australian Curriculum were highly regarded, he said.
Bob Barlas, author of the Teaching Overseas Handbook has taught in Singapore, China, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the UK.
He said that competition was fierce as international schools wanted teachers with the most experience and qualifications, so it helped applying for a school that did not pay as much to get overseas experience.
“The biggest skills sets that are advantageous are cross-cultural experience that shows you are comfortable working in a cross-cultural milieu,” Mr Barlas said.
“The more flexible you are as a teacher, regardless of your age, the more opportunities you will get and the more attractive you will become to a school that is looking to hire someone.”
Recruiters suggest that the prospective candidates need to observe the following strategies.
Register early the previous year with a large recruitment company, provide a resume and covering letter of your achievements, be prepared for more than one interview by Skype, research websites on practical strategies, and commit to a minimum two-year contract.
Recruitment agencies agree that there is a high demand for teachers with science or computing backgrounds over English and Social Studies.
Mr Thatcher said the personal interview is extremely important and could take up to 45 minutes, often with more than one session arranged.
Usually the applicant will be interviewed by the head of school or director. It pays to engage in lively dialogue, ask thoughtful questions, explore possible challenges and show your curiosity about the school where you may be working, he said.
International schools are looking for proven performers who can hit the ground running and are capable of managing their own classroom behaviour independently.
My first-hand experience in an international independent school as a resident teacher in Bishop Cotton School, Bangalore, India, rated in the top 10 schools by Education World Magazine, demonstrated that the curriculum is not taught 9am to 3pm by local and international teacher recruits.
The staff had to coach students daily in an after-school activity, assist boarding students, undertake additional duties on Saturday, and be part of school community functions with parents.
Tradition and daily attendance at chapel were important, English was the language of instruction and we taught the British General Certificate of Education, which later changed.
The international school with students and teachers from the UK, Germany, USA, Malaysia and Africa is so highly regarded that a former principal, Dr Abraham Ebenezer, called it “Eton of the East”.
The administration office of Bishop Cotton School, a leading international school with boarding facilities for staff and students.
Two teachers in the computing laboratory of Bishop Cotton.
Peter Thatcher, international schools expert.