With more and more British-curriculum schools opening around the world, there is an ever increasing demand for well-qualified and experienced staff with a UK teaching background. However, not all roles will readily translate to an overseas role so where are the opportunities?
First, it is important to think about the structure of international schools. For example, a prep school specialist teacher for a core subject may find it more difficult to find a vacancy as there are very few standalone prep schools in the international market. One area where there are is Kenya, but jobs are not well-paid and there can be security issues.
Junior schools internationally are generally looking for primary-trained teachers able to cover the breadth of the curriculum whilst senior schools will need subject specialists with experience of teaching GCSE, A-level and/or IB courses. International senior schools in the main offer IGCSEs and the IB diploma, although some do offer the traditional A-level curriculum. Experience of teaching the IB is an advantage, but most schools would offer training courses for new staff who do not have this experience.
Looking at specific subject specialisms, the demand overseas is much the same as the demand in the UK. If you are an experienced physics teacher, for example, the world is your oyster. There is also good demand for teachers in the more traditional subjects like maths, English, biology, chemistry, geography, economics and history. The more practical subjects such as music, PE, DT and art and design are definitely sought after, provided the schools have the facilities to teach them.
The area of the world that you are considering for work may also influence the types of opportunities available. For example, in Europe, whilst modern foreign languages are taught in most schools, it makes more sense for schools to employ native speakers of French, German or Spanish.
RE is the subject above all others which is particularly difficult to translate into a British-curriculum school. Religion plays a big part in the culture of many countries in the Middle East, Far East and South America where a British RE curriculum is not compatible. Art history also doesn’t translate well overseas due to the inclusion of Christian iconography, nudity and portraiture in the curriculum. The classics are not generally taught in international schools. Subjects such as media studies, psychology, politics, sociology and law are less common.
Even for those subjects which are in demand, there are often cultural sensitivities that teachers working abroad for the first time need to be aware of: discussions about evolution in biology or the Holocaust in history in predominantly Muslim countries, for example.
It is not only the culture of the host country which needs to be taken into consideration. Teachers in international schools also need to consider how certain topics may be viewed by students of different nationalities.
In history, covering World War Two can be difficult when you have Brits, Germans and Russians in the same class, all with very different points of view. The Cold War brings out a similar problem, with a European child and a Russian child having a very different stand on who ‘won’. Likewise, the Vietnam War if you have a Vietnamese and a US student in the same class.
This context can provoke some serious debate which can really enhance the educational experience, and is something that is difficult to replicate in a classroom with students all of the same nationality, but it has to be handled incredibly sensitively.
Ultimately, the message to teachers is that there are some fantastic opportunities for teaching overseas, but it is important to recognise that there are differences in both the roles that are in demand and the context in which the curriculum is taught. If in doubt do some research or talk to a recruitment consultant about your options before investing time in searching for your ideal opportunity.
Maureen Lacey is senior recruitment consultant at Gabbitas Education