Middle East offers record of pedigree and integrity

13th September 1996 at 01:00
The Middle East often suffers from a bad press, and it is important to keep the record straight in view of the negative message of the article "beware the delights of the Middle East".

While the writer is wise to advise caution, the sensible thing is surely to do one's homework in advance and to ask the right questions before making a commitment. For example: What is the reputation of the school? How forthcoming are the answers to questions about living and working conditions? What illustrative material is shown to candidates - for example, leaflets and videos?

Is the head a member of the Conference of British Schools of the Middle East? If not, is this simply because it is not a British type of school, or is there a more suspect reason?

Does the school have accredited status - for example, through the demanding, ongoing process of review and professional scrutiny of the European Council for International Schools? (ECIS accreditation can be carried out anywhere, not just in Europe.) If you feel unsure, is there a current or former number of staff who you can talk to for a "shop-floor" perspective on the school and the conditions of service?

Then you have to weigh up the facts, taking into account, on the one hand, long-term plans, job security, pensions (you can arrange your own) and the probable low regard held on the part of employers "back home" for overseas experience.

On the other hand, there is the adventure of broadened horizons, different challenges, the possibility of excellent professional and financial conditions and there is also the opportunity for teachers to get on with the real job of educating children who like school and whose parents value and respect the work of the teacher.

Ultimately, whether in the UK or overseas, we are all at the mercy of political and economic forces beyond our control.

However, there are schools of good pedigree in the Middle East, with heads and boards of governors who have integrity and respect for staff, and where many teachers are happy to live and work for several years, often with their own children benefiting from the education offered.

RUSS LAW Director The Continental School Jeddah Saudi Arabia

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