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Pros and cons of going abroad

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by priyapankhania, Nov 3, 2015.

  1. priyapankhania

    priyapankhania New commenter

    Hi all,

    I'm currently researching my options for teaching abroad either in Asia or Europe and have spent hours scouring forums about what people's experiences have been, although they seem to be quite varied. I'd be looking to go abroad ideally to have a better work-life balance (currently working 60+ hours a week) and to have the opportunity to travel a bit during the holidays. What are the reasons that people went abroad and did it live up to the expectations? Were there any nasty surprises or things that someone like me (applying for my first international job) be aware of?
  2. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Having taught in the UK, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Romania, the UAE, Qatar and now China, I would say YES, teaching overseas is a lot more fun than teaching in the UK. Okay, there are some horror stories, but then again teaching in the UK is not easy. As an international teacher, if you get fed up with this or that school or this or that country, then you find another job and get on a plane.
  3. ejclibrarian

    ejclibrarian Established commenter Community helper

    My partner and I are in our third year at our first international school and we haven't looked back. Both our work lives in the UK were pretty dire and I was totally and completely miserable. We had no illusions that going overseas was going to be perfect but we did hope that it would be better than what we had. And it is in a lot of ways. I had totally fallen out of love with my job and I've been able to rediscover why I loved it in the first place. Our work/life balance is pretty good. Our school gets a lot from us but that's ok. Moving to work internationally is not a a cure all. There will be places that turn out to be worse than you expected but like Hippo says, you can always move on somewhere else. It's a great opportunity to see the world and I would recommend it highly. Just make sure you go into it with your eyes open. Do your research, ask questions, and go for it :)
    priyapankhania and the hippo like this.
  4. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    I reckon I work as hard as a UK teacher (I have family who are teachers back in the UK) and this is the case in many international schools. Those who come abroad looking for an easy ride normally don't last too long. There are upsides and downsides of international education:

    • more focus on working for the children - teaching/providing extra opportunities for them
    • less scrutiny (as long as you are doing your job well)
    • less data
    • often (not always) more autonomy
    • more opportunities to travel
    • living in a different culture, learning a new language, eating 'round the world'
    • great (for the most part) students to work with
    • pay - don't forget the extras like housing, travel allowances, insurance etc and the fact that in many countries your salary goes a lot further
    • often fantastic support with reference to your HR department ensuring that the practicalities of life work for you
    • Professional development is often very good and incorporates a more international and varied view of educational developments
    • friendships - make the effort and you meet people you would have never met in the UK - expand your horizons
    • smaller classes and more specialist support in primary settings
    • First class resources in many cases
    • career development, should you wish there are often fantastic opportunities for this - or if you want to focus on teaching then this wish is likewise valued
    • Experienced and older teachers appear to be more valued than they do back home - be aware that in many (not all) schools only responsibilities are paid extra, not experience
    • high levels of parental support and gratefulness that you are looking after their children
    • No OFSTED (inspections abroad are around but they tend to be far more supportive)
    • for profit means you have to do stuff which is purely a marketing exercise (and the non-profit schools have to play this game too)
    • for profit means sometimes decisions are made which you don't believe are in the best interests of the children, particularly regarding SEN
    • for profit (see a theme here) means resources although often very good are arbitrarily allocated according to what is perceived as 'looking good'
    • missing family and friends at home - support networks although sometimes very good in an international setting don't replace your lifelong friends and family and should a crisis happen you are a long way from home
    • Professional development provided abroad - seen by UK schools as lacking and irrelevant. I disagree
    • Isolation - all too easy to remain in the expat or even just the teaching expat bubble and not have friends outside work
    • pension - don't forget to work out how you are going to pay for your future
    • Relevant for some - meeting life partner if you are female and looking for a family, opportunities limited - but it does happen!
    • Some schools are horrific places but as previous posters have said you vote with your feet
    • Maternity pay, sick pay, job security are all nowhere near as good as back home.

    People say do your research make sure you pick the right school. In my experience that is easier said than done. There are some places that are clearly 'do not touch with a barge-pole' others that some love, some hate, others that should be 'do not touch with a barge-pole' but no one has pointed that out yet! Fortunately, you are usually on a short term contract (two years is standard) and you move on notching it up to experience, or if you are in a great place and your face fits then your contract is more or less automatically renewed for as long as you want.

    Overall - You can easily put the same hours in, but you feel your hours are more effective and valued. If you are prepared to work hard, (opportunities to play hard in an expat setting will naturally be available) then you can have a great life, full of experiences. It is certainly a decision I don't regret in the slightest, but it is not everyone's cup of tea.
  5. TonyGT

    TonyGT Established commenter

    I'd put professional development in both columns. Yeah it doesn't happen much abroad but stay in the UK for more than 2 years and you'll have done 5 of the same training course and 80% of the things you were trained on will have been replaced by 100 other things that are equally useless.
    the hippo likes this.
  6. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    rouxx, yours was the best post I have read for a long time. Yes, I would go along with just about everything you have written. Perhaps the most perceptive (and in some ways the most worrying) comment by rouxx is that it is often "easier said than done" when it comes to doing your research for a new school. I would definitely agree. Occasionally you might find someone on this TES forum who has actually worked at the school and is prepared to help, but actually this is quite rare. So what else is there? The school's own website? The ***? Tossing a coin or a visit to Delphi?
  7. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    Thanks Hippo!

    I had some spare time on my hands today to give a long response
    priyapankhania likes this.
  8. priyapankhania

    priyapankhania New commenter

    Thanks all for your comments! I'm under no illusion that it will still be challenging but I'm ready for the change. Your comments are confirming how much I want to go!

    Going back to the point about finding out if it's a good school, how on earth do you do that? What is considered 'good'? There are job vacancies for posts in a Singapore school that appears to have a lot of campuses through Asia - does anyone have any advice on this?

    I'm also concerned about applications as it's been a while since I've had to do one. How long should a supporting statement be? Is a CV for international teaching different to the usual format? I was also made a phase a leader in September and am concerned it will look dodgy that I want to leave after barely a term (even though I've actually been at the school for 4 years). Anyone point me in the right direction for application writing?
  9. worlo24

    worlo24 Occasional commenter

    Hi priyapankhania

    I am not teaching in an international school but am in a similar position - been teaching in the UK for a while, am a phase leader also but really ready for a new challenge and experience. Myself and partner are ready to apply for jobs soon and are looking in primarily in Europe.

    I asked a similar question a while back and have created my CV off the back of the advice given - I've kept it a single side of A4, to the point, brief and will tweak to make it personal to any posts I want to apply for. I will make my covering letter/supporting statement more detailed and specific to the school and job description of that school.

    Hope this helps a little.
  10. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    We are searching for life's meaning, but it eludes us, so we keep travelling, moving from country to country every few years until eventually we discover our voyages are in vain and enlightenment comes not from others, but ourselves.

    If you're looking to enjoy life, the local culture, how accessible it is, is important. Money has a element to play, but I'd argue those who always ask, "How Much do I get" before everything else, do not understand the value of the experiences in store for a best travellers. Rarely do schools, except for the one in Egypt looking for 'volunteers', offer such low salaries that you can't enjoy life: The norm is to be paid significantly more (as much as ten times) the local norm.

    Those who compare their UK salary to their overseas offer, are blind to value: Kuwait, you'll get much more, but everything costs more: financially and morally. In Malaysia, you could get much less than in the UK, but have a far better lifestyle: eating out every night with a different nation's cuisine each day of the month.

    An unscientific happiness potential scale:

    Africa: 0.5 - There are some who enjoy the filth of Cairo and the corruption of Nigeria
    Middle East: 1 (UAE / OMAN 2) - Money talks
    South America 4 - Fiesta time, live fast, enjoy
    South Asia Region (India to Vietnam) 5 - More mature / sedate cultures, welcoming locals, cosy places, with a cultural rather than financial richness. Maybe the younger milk under the nose teachers won't understand it, but the enjoyment of life in Thailand, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, etc is the essence of being.

    On the other hand, you could join a high paying, low quality smiling school in Malaysia, only have white folk for your drinking buddies, take the pee out the locals and understand nothing.
  11. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

  12. percy topliss

    percy topliss Established commenter

    Mrs T and I have worked in Asia for getting on for 17 years now. We moved from a pretty good Independent School in NW London because we fancied a change and we certainly got one. We have had countless fantastic experiences and seen some beautiful places however the bottom line has to be that we own two properties outright and save about 3 grand a month and have done for years, something which, had we stayed in the UK, we would not have been able to do.

  13. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Percy, money does not make a home for happiness. Nirvana is found not in bricks and mortar but through inner peace and resolution with your own demons.
  14. percy topliss

    percy topliss Established commenter

    Indeed it does not MM but it has made a jolly good home for my two daughters, will put them through university and see Mrs T and myself through our dotage at our little place in Tignes. I like teaching but I do not do it just for fun....
    Have a lovely weekend....Perce
  15. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    As I sip my $10 beer and savour stuffed poussin at the outstanding restaurant I frequent this weekend, I will be strike your name off the list of teachers I'd consider for coming to work at one of my schools that pays in buttons. Such hard nose attitudes make it difficult for School Directors to find skivvies to fill schools with. Where would the world be without mass profit focused school owners hiring British Heads to find cheap labour / teachers? There would be far fewer international schools for British teachers if it were not for greedy construction companies in Asia and the Middle East.

    It is not an easy task to increase profits when teacher aspirations for salary keep increasing. $1.5 million is apparently not enough, so we must teach teachers not to seek a material based future, but to embrace the now.

    I presume this also means you won't be heading to the private school in Egypt to volunteer as a physics teacher any time soon.

    Anyway, have a peaceful Deepavali weekend. May the lights of the gods enlighten you towards less reliance on possessions and material wealth. True happiness is the taste of an apple when you haven't eaten for three days: such is the mantra of the rich man who seeks to keep his riches.

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