China: Choose the right school

I teach in the Jiangsu province. I married on the silk route some time ago, had a baby and have been very lucky to meet the most interesting, unusual and exciting people. Altogether, I have worked in three international schools over the last 10 years.

I carried out a lot of research before I took the plunge into overseas teaching, and that involved going into the background and details of the school, package, and country. I weighed up the benefits and analysed the opportunities. The most important thing you can do is check out the school because although there are many good schools out there, there are also some pretty bad ones, too, so you really need to do your research. The second most important thing to do is to check the safety of the country and the kind of package on offer.

Teaching in China is better than the UK because teachers are given respect and valued by the community they serve. The pay doesn’t correlate to salaries in the UK, but neither do bills. A good overseas package should cover accommodation, health care, school fees for dependents, professional memberships, Inset, flights and a bonus. The money you get paid is yours to keep; it does not get eaten away at.

Saying that though, along with the highs, there have to be lows. There are no safety nets available to teachers who work outside the EU. So if life throws you a few challenges, you can expect to face them alone. Retirement is another major factor for consideration. If you plan to work overseas for years to come then investing in an independent retirement plan is essential. There are lots of financial providers who cater for expat. communities.

Here in China, we use the Qualifications and Curriculum Association (QCA) schemes of work to guide our planning. We adapt the plans to cater for an international audience so they appear less Anglo-centric. Generally, international schools use specialist teachers for music, peripatetic lessons, languages and physical education. Specialist time releases the class teacher for their planning, preparation and assessment time, so there is time in the day to get your job done.

Working here has changed the way I teach because I feel better equipped now to teach students with English as an additional language. I also learn some of the best practice from teachers from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Russia and America. There are high expectations of teachers here as there are world over, but the work just feels more fun!

It was the right decision for me and I would recommend it to you: I’m never bored. I love to see different things such as a man cycling with an improbable load on his bike, or watching kites being flown. I know I am making the most of my life.

Top tips:

  • Research the school, country and package
  • Best place to pick up the top packages are in January/February job fairs
  • Remember to behave well and act as if you are an ambassador of the British community. The British international community is small world and many schools are networked so if you do something you shouldn’t news will travel fast
  • There is no job security as European employment law does not apply to international schools
  • Don’t teach abroad to get away from personal problems as they are likely to follow you
  • Aim for the higher tiered schools; the money is very good with excellent benefits


Useful organisations:

Council of international schools
TES overseas jobs
ISC research

For more advice on working abroad, visit Teaching overseas