With jobs aplenty, good wages and better work-life balance, British teachers are being lured to China, Bahrain, Nairobi and more.
With the current fury surrounding teachers’ pay in the UK, and the news that teachers are forced to work 60-hour weeks, it is little wonder that they are fleeing Britain for greener pastures in their droves. An estimated 18,000 UK teachers went to work in international schools in 2015. They joined the 80,000 teachers estimated to already be working at British curriculum international schools abroad.
What is it that is so tempting about teaching overseas?
Jobs are plentiful
Andrew Wigford, director of TIC Recruitment, a specialist recruiter for over 300 international schools, says simply: “Fully qualified, experienced British teachers are highly sought after by international schools. This is partly due to their training and pedagogy, their knowledge of the British curriculum and UK examinations, and the fact that they are first-language English speakers.” The number of international schools is expected to nearly double to over 15,000 by 2020 – heightening an already pent-up demand for British teachers who speak English as a first language.
Anyone with fluent English, but more importantly full teaching qualifications and two or more years’ experience, can apply to work at international schools, provided they have the mental toughness needed to uproot their lives to a new country. Hundreds of jobs are advertised by websites such as TES.com and offered by schools including Dulwich College in China and St Christopher’s in Bahrain.
A better payday
On average, international school teachers working in western Europe can expect to earn $61,900 per year. In central Asia, it is $52,800, while in southern Asia the average yearly salary is $30,700. In addition, says Wigford, “Your salary can go much further if the cost of living in a country is lower than in the UK”. Comparatively, in Britain new teachers are paid about 20% less than the average graduate trainee. Starting salaries have increased at a paltry 1% or less each year since 2010. And changes to higher education policy mean that trainee teachers now pay £9,000 to gain their teaching qualification through a UK university.
Good work-life balance
One common reason British teachers move overseas is to have a better work-life balance. The increasingly unacceptable workloads have made it more and more difficult for UK schools both to recruit new teachers and to prevent existing teachers leaving. In fact, more teachers have quit the profession in Britain over the past two years than those who joined it.
Dan Roberts, a former headteacher of a British international school in the Seychelles, says: “I found the balance between work and life healthier. I would leave school earlier than in the UK, often to watch the sun go down on the beach with my family.” But he added: “You have to be resilient. Moving your family to a new country with a different culture and language is challenging.”
You can see the world
Kai Vacher left London to become Principal of the British School Muscat in Oman in 2011. “I was in the UK state system for over 20 years. It was a tough job,” he says. “I used to go home and wonder if I still wanted to be in education. I thought about moving abroad, but it’s a scary thing to do and I always found excuses not to go.”
Then he was contacted by a recruiter about the post in Oman. “For me the location was important. I was attracted by the fact Oman had miles of coastline, plus mountains and deserts, and an exciting culture to explore,” says Vacher. “The opportunities have been incredible for me and my family. If we had stayed in England, we would not have them.”
Opportunities for peer learning
Teaching abroad “is brilliant for meeting interesting, like-minded people”, says Jonathan Andrews, a science teacher at British International School, Riyadh. “Teachers are interesting people – international teachers even more so,” says the Brit. “International schools tend to house their staff in the same compounds, so you end up with a thriving social life too.”
This is particularly beneficial for people who struggle to adapt to a new country and culture. Andrews says: “I got extremely lucky in my first overseas school in Nairobi, Kenya. They looked after me. I made lifelong friends.”