In the latest edition of the Tes International podcast, we chat with Rob Ford, director of Heritage International School in Chisinau, Moldova.
He discusses how he ended up leading a school in Europe's least visited country by tourists, and why the chance to shape the education landscape in a region still getting used to life outside the Soviet Union was too interesting to pass up.
“I loved Wyedean School and Sixth Form Centre [in Gloucestershire, his former headteacher role] but [moving to Moldova ] was one of those decisions where you think, 'If I don’t do this, I will be Mr Chips and be 20 years collecting my gold carriage clock.'”
Moldova was not an entire leap into the unknown as Mr Ford had done work in that part of the world and elsewhere, such as Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic, through the British Council and eTwinning initiatives.
International schools: The attraction of teaching in Moldova
This meant that when the founders of the school came calling, he already had a sense of the opportunities that lay in store.
“Moldova had fascinated me as a commitment to education, which you see in all the post-Soviet societies, is really strong – so you look at GDP and how much they spend on education. I think they are in about the top 20 per cent of countries according to the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.”
“And because of the way these societies are developing, [they see] how transformative power of learning can produce the next generation to take the country on further.”
The podcast includes a deeper discussion of how the school was approached by the nation's education ministry to help develop its remote-teaching framework when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“The national education community needs to have some coherence and so when the ministry came in and we had a cup of tea together to break the ice and get conversations going, we knew it was a big step because our model perhaps doesn’t sit with what they are used to. But actually the minister was very keen to see the distanced learning [we were doing].”
We also discuss the wider allure of Moldova and Eastern Europe as a place for teachers to consider for work – from its culture and history to the emerging international schools' network: "There are some wonderful schools across Easter Europe doing some great things that are definitely worth experiencing," says Mr Ford.
You can also watch the interview on YouTube below:
Dan Worth is senior editor at Tes