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Workload in International Schools

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by paul3b, Jan 30, 2016.

  1. paul3b

    paul3b New commenter

    Hi Im currently a primary teacher in Manchester and finding the workload quite overwhelming. I was interested to find out what the workload is like in international schools if anyone has any info they could pass on that would be great :)
  2. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    Sorry to disappoint, but you may well find that the 'workload' overseas is not a lot different. As many schools are fee paying, you will be expected to give your pound of flesh. In addition, many countries also have their own version of OFSTED along with 'OFSTED' inspections. In Dubai this happens once a year and is just as pressurised as in UK.

    You will likely have to work long(er) hours too.

    There may well be countries and schools which are more easy going, but the likelihood is that the salaries and packages in these schools reflect that.

    The biggest bonus working overseas is that, on the whole, you do not get the same type of disruptive behaviour and lack of respect (from children and parents) that you get in UK.

    Having said the above, there will always be teachers with 'beer in the hand, feet in the sand' approach who manage to duck and dive. If your conscience allows this, you could be one of them!
    Klempt and JL48 like this.
  3. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    I would have to disagree with stopwatch. I find the workload extremely easy as a lowly teacher in comparison to what i remember the UK. It has been nearly 10 years though. I will have to clarify though, apart from the complete hell hole that Spain was (never going there again), i have only worked in full IB schools since. In my current school its a maximum of 20 lessons a week (done in blocks of 4 a day), i have what is considered one of the "fullest" timetables, and on my worse week i teach a maximum of 10 lessons. This gives me plenty of time to prepare and mark my work. Also, the largest class i have ever taught internationally has had 19 kids in it. This is also very comparible to what i have experienced in my other schools. Yes i am in a "good" school, and this is coupled with a rediculous pay packet and amazing package, then the UK can never compare. This obviously can change dramatically around the world, so chosing your school or country can be very important.

    With regards to the "OFSTED" thing. I have been through "reacceditation" 3 times with the IB. Im my hubble opinion it was pretty painless. It is a little bit of paperwork, but certainly nothing like the UK version.

    Honestly, i have never looked back, and love the life i have now. It certainly does come with its own difficulties, and sometimes you will wonder how you life has become so "crazy", but just take life as it comes and enjoy it.
    jbourne8 likes this.
  4. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I would fall between the two previous comments. I certainly haven't found the REQUIRED workload in international schools to be particularly onerous. I do work very hard, but it's all child-related work -- lesson preparation, research, marking, and so on -- and I really don't mind that. I was always the mindless bureaucratic paper-pushing I used to hate, and that has been minimal.
    I've been in Spain for the last 35 years and have experience of two good international schools here and sorry revans had a negative experience here. I know there are a lot of bad schools here as well and he must have run into one of them. I didn't. My school also has a "normal" class load of 5 classes meeting 4 times a week. I teach -- voluntarily -- a sixth class and get a 20% pay increment for doing so. I have four sections of one class and two of another, so I have only two preparations to do. There is a wide and varied after-school activities program which teachers are encouraged to participate in, but this is also remunerated.
    I've also been through numerous "accreditation" visits over the years, but in all of them, I don't think I've had an inspector in my classroom for longer than 15 minutes. Last time, I didn't see hide nor hair of them. There was a bit of paper-pushing to do before the visit, but that was mostly taken care of by the dept. head...
    I also agree about the lack of discipline problems. I can hardly remember a single incident in the last 35 years! With a few exceptions, the bosses have been supportive of the teachers, and most of the parents have also been reasonable, although they do expect a bit more "customer service" than average since they are paying quite a lot to have their kids in the school.
  5. crinauk

    crinauk New commenter

    I have to say that the workload in my school is extreme - I am a secondary teacher but my good friend is in Primary and she has the same excessive workload. We both spend many hours after work in school and usually a day at the weekend as do many other teachers in the school. As one of the other posters said these are private schools and the expectation for attainment is extremely high regardless of ability.

    This is my 3rd International school and in my previous two schools the work load was comparable with the UK but no less.

    I would disagree about behaviour in my current school and last school behaviour has been very poor with little respect for teachers or for learning and there has been little to no support for teachers in school. My experience is that the behaviour I have experienced is far worse than anything I experienced whilst teaching in the UK.
    Klempt likes this.
  6. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    are you in Spain by any chance Crinauk?? :D
  7. David Getling

    David Getling Lead commenter

    It very much depends on the school. Some schools will work you to the bone, just like in the UK. But, there are a lot of good schools where you will think you are in heaven, compared to the UK. The trick is finding the good ones. You certainly can't rely on what they tell you, or the face they present to the outside world.
    Klempt likes this.
  8. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    I think that what is coming across is that it depends which country and, probably more importantly, which school.

    As miketribe and crinauk have suggested, the kinds of pressures and stresses are different than in UK and come from different angles - parental expectations being one of them. Regarding behaviour of children I think that it may depend on whether or not you are working in a fee paying school or a public/state school and possibly whether you are teaching UK expat children or locals/children from other countries.

    In summary, there is probably not one definitive answer to your initial question paul3b. The only thing you can do is to research thoroughly on any schools you are applying to
  9. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    Not a 100% sure how valuable miketribe's comments can be. He openly admits that the last time he worked in the UK was 1981, thats pre national curriculum. Im in my 40's and i wasn't even in secondary school then. I only left just under 10 years ago, and i am damn sure the work load has significantly increased since then.

    It is a very different world on the international circuit, and there will be a huge variation throughout the world, but from regularly reading the rest of the TES forums, the UK does not sound like a nice place to be right now.
  10. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I can assure you, revans, that my comments are accurate. The last time I worked in England was, in fact, in 1975, but I am in touch with numerous former and current teachers from the Old Country, including members of my own family, and know full well how much more work is required of teachers now than back in the my day. And most of the extra work, I am told, is the sort I always hated: that which kept bureaucrats happy but didn't have anything to do with kids or the classroom... I know that I work very hard indeed but it's the sort of work I signed up for when I started teaching -- preparing lessons, research, checking students' work, talking to students and teaching them in the classroom. I am very thankful indeed that I rarely have to deal with all the other bullsh*t...

    In any case, apart from your continual negative comments about my adopted country, we seem to agree on most things -- that conditions in international schools abroad vary widely and choosing a school requires care and meticulous research, and that England would not be a place in which one would wish to teach...
    David Getling likes this.
  11. mikemcdonald25

    mikemcdonald25 Occasional commenter

    Stopwatch has it about right; there is no one size fits all:

    In summary, there is probably not one definitive answer to your initial question paul3b. The only thing you can do is to research thoroughly on any schools you are applying to.

    I too have worked in both types of school; at one we were expected to be in school an hour before the students and could not leave until 90 mins after the students day finished, two ECA's a week were compulsory, as was attendance at house activities etc. Class sizes were 24 and a maximum of one non-contact period per day. There were even some Saturdays.

    At another the school, the day started at 7.30. and finished at 1.30. and staff were free to go or stay, only one ECA a week and it was voluntary, class sizes all under 20 and sometimes two or more non-contact periods a day.

    Behaviour in both was good, parental expectations and interference can be an issue in some schools in some countries - again it varies.

    Some schools are of the opinion (as am I) that as you are well paid and well looked after you should be prepared to work for it. Yes make the most of it but as many others have suggested on this forum in the past - you work hard, you play hard.
  12. docHolliday

    docHolliday New commenter

    Here in Madrid, based on my experience of two different schools, I would say the workload will keep you busy but it never seems pointless or neurotic.
  13. crinauk

    crinauk New commenter

    No I am in the ME and my previous school was in Africa
  14. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    This is the key point I think to draw from this. The workload in the UK is insane and largely pointless form filling and box ticking that doesn't benefit a single person. You'll be very busy in an international school but it will be with marking / planning and other things that benefit the pupils. Therefore, you can work longer hours and it somehow feels less.
    Owen134866 likes this.
  15. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I agree completely with the last two comments. My experience in the four international schools in which I have worked has been that I worked hard -- largely from choice -- but always felt that the vast majority of the work was the sort of thing Tony described. And that's the sort of work I signed up for at the beginning of my career all those years ago...
  16. DarthVader1234

    DarthVader1234 New commenter

    Totally agree with miketribe and TonyGTs comments. Would I go back to the UK to teach?... Hell no..................!
  17. isotonic

    isotonic Occasional commenter

    As a teacher working here in the south of England..I have to say the workload at my current school is horrendous. It is my 7th year in teaching and every year the workload seems to get worse. Due to this I am handing in my notice and have been actively applying abroad. I mean I do work hard so it is not like I want to just teach and do no marking etc. But when your staying behind every day 2-3 hours after the school ends and then coming home in the evening and doing another 2 hours (total of 4-5 hours) per day after teaching then you know that it is time to pack it in...I will either try abroad in the middle east for a couple of years or just pack in teaching and retrain in IT as I have quite a few close friends in the industry. I mean I work longer hours than them all and take home less than half of what they bring!

    My friend works in Saudi Arabia at a university and he is on a good pay packet with max 12-18 hours teaching per week. He was laughing how little the paperwork workload is in comparison to his previous job back in the UK! He now has a social life where he can go to work and return home by 2pm - rest chill with family and still have time to go out before the evening!
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2016
  18. isotonic

    isotonic Occasional commenter

    Also I forgot to mention...it is not the behaviour of the kids that puts me off..although I do have to say the kids in the UK are quite rude in comparison to those that I have seen in the middle east..it is simply due to the workload and pressure by SLT and ultimately the head that I cannot take. I totally sympathize with those fellow teachers who complain about workload...You have to experience it to understand it...
  19. kitfo

    kitfo New commenter

    My experience having worked overseas for over a decade is that workload is increasing, but not everywhere by the same amount and certainly not to the extent of in the UK.
    "Top Tier" schools in many of the world's major cities are experiencing heavy competition and in an effort to show they are "the best" seem to be adopting and promoting many of the pointless UK systems of checks and balances that lead to stress and over worked staff.
    My advice too anybody seeking the rich rewards of teaching wonderfully behaved students in a well managed (SLT managed) learning environment, would be to look at the excellent "second tier". Often long established, not corporate franchises, usually owned by local businessmen and women who are in it for a reasonable margin of profit (or better still non-profit ones if you can find them). I have been very happy in such schools making a good wage and happy to work for it.
    In my recent experience I have moved up a tier - big mistake! 80% contact and very high, often unreasonable parent expectations (I pay more so my child should be smarter), heavy CCA and meeting schedule, very stressed out students who see very stressed out teachers as a role model.
    Salary is great! I send a lot home, but I want to live to enjoy it!
    Owen134866 likes this.
  20. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Recently a friend of mine visited China for the first time. He is currently teaching Science in the UK. His tale was depressingly familiar: a useless SLT, too much paperwork, an OFSTED looming and some shonky, spolied brat students. It all adds up to a pretty toxic mixture.

    When Mrs Hippopotamus and I were in Qatar, my school and the SEC (the Supreme and Absolutely Perfect Council for Education) were quite keen on the students doing their Islamic Studies and Arabic lessons. This meant that we infidel westerners had a bit of a break.

    Here in Shenzhen, the students in my Year 5 class are often leaving my august presence in order to have Mandarin, Science, Music, ICT, Art and PE. This does mean, of course, that I get one or two free lessons to catch up with my marking, do some planning and even scribble something on this TES forum.

    In the morning I walk through the park to my school and at 4pm, most days, I wander home along the same sylvan path. Stressed out? Overworked? I was pondering these questions over the Christmas holiday, when we went to Yangshuo, an amazingly beautiful and unusual place. I also thought about this question while lolling in the swimming pool during our recent holiday in the Philippines, over the Chinese New Year. Yes, it is tough, being an international teacher, but someone has to do it.

    Yes, I absolutely agree with the comments made about the pleasures of teaching polite, respectful and hard-working students. (Mine are also funny, charming and well-behaved, but then of course they are Chinese.)

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