The core considerations for international teachers in new cultures

“There’s a world out there to explore and teachers are uniquely placed to experience new surroundings while helping the next generation”

There are many benefits to teaching abroad and it is becoming a more popular choice for teachers with the current state of Britain’s educational and political system.

If you are considering or have already made the decision to teach abroad then there a few things you might want to consider before making the move. Do your research on locations and schools where you would like to teach before applying and accepting any offers. See what the job has to offer as a package, different countries may offer different packages.

A large number of international teaching packages should offer a competitive salary and include accommodation, medical insurance, visa costs and annual flight allowance.

All of these elements are dependent on if you’re moving alone or with a partner and/or children. If you have children, your school should provide free school places for them if they are unable to attend the school where you work.

Middle East calling

The Middle East has always been an attractive place for teachers that want a change of scenery. One of the reasons the Middle East is a hotspot for teachers looking to work abroad is the tax-free salaries which is a big incentive for professionals.

There are more than 70 British schools alone in the region, all demanding an experienced workforce. In terms of curriculum, some Middle Eastern international schools follow a modified version of the English National Curriculum, whilst others follow the International Baccalaureate programme or the US High School Diploma. The school year in the Middle East is similar to UK schools, running from early September to the end of June. However, the days start at 7:30am and end at 2:30pm due to the heat.

There are many cultural differences in the Middle East that can come as quite a shock to the unprepared. As about 95% of international schools are run for profit in the Middle East, they are an attractive business prospect. Because the schools are operated like a business, parental support is key to the school’s success.

“There are many cultural differences in the Middle East that can come as quite a shock to the unprepared”

Therefore, parents expect a lot from their investment, so it is not uncommon for teachers to be asked to remark work to help improve a child’s grade. Other cultural differences include no public displays of affection, drinking alcohol in public and cohabiting with an unmarried partner; these are not just frowned upon but are in fact, illegal.

Looking further East

The Far East is also a prevalent choice for professionals looking to teach overseas. China and Hong Kong are particularly popular options as they are home to many international schools. In the Far East, education is taken very seriously. Highly academic education is culturally very important to both parents and children. Many schools in the Far East believe their prestigious reputation is down to hiring the best teachers.

The local schools focus is academic excellence which can mean a strong focus on exams, rote learning and pure academic results. International schools tend to follow the UK curriculum and parents will expect high-achieving students. In the Far East, salaries are rarely tax-free.

However, taxes are quite low by Western standards, usually around 10-15% of your income. International schools in the Far East are taught from September to June with a long break at Chinese New Year in China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The lifestyle in the Far East can be quite different to what you are accustomed to. The climate can vary where you’re based: Macau, Shanghai and Hong Kong experience extreme summers, whereas Northern China and Mongolia have much more severe winters. There are plenty of historical and cultural sites in the Far East to fill your free time, in addition to a varied and notable culinary scene.

The land down under

If you’re looking for a country similar to the UK in terms of culture then Australia might be a good option. Different states/territories in Australia have different education systems so make sure to check the specific requirements before committing yourself. There are many regulations in the process of getting a job in Australia including visas, criminal background check, an English language assessment and a teaching skills assessment by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

The educational curriculum is still in its early stages by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) with the help of various schools to produce a finalised curriculum. The syllabus will cover English, mathematics, science and history to ensure young Australians have all the essential skills and knowledge to thrive throughout their life. The academic year is split in four terms covering from late January to late December with three two-week holidays and one five-week holiday.

“There is a high standard of living in Australia. However, this means a high cost of living too”

There is a high standard of living in Australia. However, this means a high cost of living too. Educators looking to relocate should expect to pay more for nearly all aspects of living, including rent. The lifestyle of Australians is well-known for being quite laid back with warm weather and plenty of travel opportunities.

The prospect of teaching abroad is an exciting one. There are different considerations for whichever country you choose. Research your locations well and find out the local customs to see which country would best suit you. There’s a world out there to explore and teachers are uniquely placed to experience new surroundings while helping the next generation.

About the author: Stephen Spriggs is managing director of William Clarence Education, one of the UK’s leading educational consultancies assisting families around the world with a variety of services.