Teaching abroad: five questions you need to consider

These are the questions employers will be asking about your application, says Mark Steed

Mark S Steed

Teaching abroad: five questions you need to consider

January is the time when teachers in international schools need to decide whether or not to extend their contracts and that’s the reason why the UK has been flooded with advertisements for international school posts for a September start.

Are you going to apply for one of these positions? If so, here are the questions international schools will be asking themselves when shortlisting and interviewing.

1. Will this candidate cope with the demands of living and working abroad?

There are significant relocation costs for schools in recruiting a teacher from the UK, so schools will want to be confident that the candidate will complete the (typical) initial two-year contract and not leave the school in the lurch after the first month.

Candidates need to show that they are able to cope with living at a significant distance from family and friends. Interviewers undoubtedly find it reassuring when candidates have lived or worked abroad before, even if it is only for a few months on a gap year. It can also be helpful if the candidate has some sort of local support network in the form of friends or family working in the same city as the international school.

2. Does the candidate know what the city/country is like?

There is always an element of a leap of faith about moving abroad, but interviewers will want to be satisfied that candidates have done their homework and have some idea of the context to which they are applying. It is undoubtedly an advantage to have visited the city/country, even on holiday. Indeed, anyone thinking of moving abroad might want to invest in their relocation project by planning holidays around visiting potential work locations.

3. Is the candidate sensitive to cultural differences?

Anyone living and working abroad needs to be comfortable with having respect for local customs and traditions. This is particularly important in parts of the Middle East where, for example, local attitudes to dress code and to alcohol can be very different to those in the UK. Furthermore, most international schools have a culturally diverse student population and teachers need to be able to sensitive to this in the classroom.

4. Does the candidate have experience of teaching students for whom English is not a first language?

While teaching in English is the norm in international schools, it is very common for a majority of students to be working in a second language. This brings additional challenges for teachers and, while schools are not looking for every teacher to be TESOL trained, schools are attracted to teachers who have experience of working with EAL students.

5. How much relevant experience does the candidate have?

There are mechanisms for supporting and ratifying newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in British schools overseas, however most international schools prefer to appoint teachers with at least two or three years' relevant experience. Any NQTs applying abroad should check the level of support that their chosen international school can provide before accepting the post.

Mark S Steed is the director of JESS Dubai and is moving to be Principal and CEO of Kellett Hong Kong from September 2019

For more tips on teaching abroad, visit our international careers advice section

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Mark S Steed

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