A momentous year: a look back at 2020…

Published on 22nd January, 2021 by Andrew Wigford. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

With 2020 over, we look back on a remarkable year of international recruitment. From online teaching, border closures to adjusting to working from home, the TIC team and the wonderful teachers we work with have learnt to overcome the many obstacles of the pandemic. We are proud of the hard work and dedication everyone has shown this year. Our company director, Andrew Wigford, shares his review of the year detailing the challenges faced by TIC Recruitment and the people we work with. Our Associate Director, Gemma McSweeney then looks to the future and shares her 2021 predictions

Andrew’s 2020 in review

January - News begins to come from China of a deadly new virus. News reports liken it to SARS and it dominates the media in SE Asia. International schools are largely unaffected and there is little impact on the jobs market

February - International schools in China start closing and whole parts of China go into lockdown. The schools in China stop advertising vacancies. In the rest of the world, things carry on as normal.

March - We start to hear stories of more parts of SE Asia going into lockdown and of hundreds of infections are reported. Infections in Singapore where Andrew lives starts to rise, and his wife's school quarantines 50 staff and 200 children. The first cases appear in Europe and the UK starts to discuss lockdown measures. Offices around the UK start to close. 

April - Almost all countries around the world start to report infections, many countries start to ban international flights and many international schools close as lockdown hits many of us. The UK TIC office closes and the TIC team retreat to their home offices. TIC works with schools in countries which are not experiencing many infections such as Saudi and Russia and continues to find some good jobs for teachers.

May - Most countries are now shut down with borders locked. Travel anywhere is very difficult. Most schools have stopped recruiting as we all wait to see what happens next. Some new schools planned for opening in 2021 are put on hold as market growth almost halts entirely. However, most people predict that it will all be over by the summer holidays. Some schools start to re-open in China and are offering online learning. TIC makes quite a few placements with agencies offering online tutoring

June - News reaches us that international schools in South East Asia are beginning to lay off some staff or plan to not replace them, as many parents start to suffer job losses and face a damaged economy. Some international schools are struggling to honour contracts with teachers. However, in some countries schools are reopening with no loss of students.

July - Most international schools go into their summer holidays full of uncertainty and face a difficult decision. Do they replace staff that are leaving? Do they bring in new teachers? Most countries clamp down on work visas and the process of bringing new staff in becomes very difficult. Flights to many parts of the world have ceased entirely.

August - Many international schools face a delayed opening and still have many staff out of the country and thus prepare for a virtual start to the year. Schools seem to be more upbeat however, with good student numbers and some starting to recruit staff to join immediately. Some new school plans that had been shelved were now back on the table.

September - Despite a few countries experiencing a second wave of infections, many international schools reopen successfully albeit a few weeks later than usual. Many open only virtually and new teachers have a ‘virtual induction’. The teachers who can travel are facing two weeks or more in quarantine upon arrival.

October - There seems to be more confidence particularly in parts of South East Asia who have more successfully kept the virus at bay. Schools in Vietnam and Thailand reopen fully and start recruiting. In other parts of the world there is still doubt, particularly in the UK where there is not much sign of controlling the virus. TIC carries out a survey on 300 teachers who are looking to go overseas or change jobs. At this time nearly a third of those surveyed said they were deferring the decision to change jobs or go overseas due to the pandemic.

November - Many schools around the world despite the occasional surge of infections seem to have a handle on the virus and thoughts turn to vaccination news. This renews confidence in a more normal future and schools start to look to the future and start recruiting for August 2021.

December – the vaccine has arrived and people all over the world receive it but it will take many months for it to reach everywhere. School report good numbers of applications for the jobs they post. TIC starts handling many more vacancies for August 2021

Gemma looks ahead to 2021…

Unfortunately, we don't really know what will happen in 2021 - the future of international education - and the prospect of a return to 'normal' for us all - very much depends on a lot of current unknowns. 

What we do know is that the pandemic is not playing out in the same way everywhere. Places such as China, New Zealand and Singapore have reached a low - or zero - level of cases. Elsewhere, in places such as the US or Brazil cases are continuing to rise. 2nd and 3rd waves are hitting many countries around the globe, and most countries across Europe, in particular, are locking down for the Christmas and New Year periods. 

However, a beacon of shining light by way of a vaccination could be a sign that things are likely to change in 2021. At the moment, we don't know how long the vaccine will take to roll out, how long immunity will last, and how many different types of vaccines will be available. But what we do know is that there is light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

Once this virus has been contained to a more 'manageable' level globally, vaccines are readily available and providing the protection needed, what will this mean for the world of international education?  

At the moment, many countries still have their borders locked and even in countries where borders are open, they're experiencing lengthy visa application back logs. As we move into 2021, it is likely all being well with the vaccine(s), that more countries will start to reopen - allowing free movement once more. This, in turn, will enable schools to start planning recruitment in a more 'normal' way. 

Many teachers and leaders who were originally looking to leave during 2020 and stayed due to the market uncertainty, will be (presumably) looking to leave in 2021. In fact, TIC surveyed 300 teachers recently and nearly a third said they were deferring the decision to move from their current school until 2021. So, if this is indicative of a good proportion of teachers, this movement should create many jobs for August 2021. Opportunities will arise for teachers and leaders moving within the international market, and also for those looking to make their first move overseas. On the flip side, with the potential of borders opening up and a return to a safer world, it will also encourage expat families to move - in turn, creating increased student rolls within the international community. Again, creating more exciting opportunities for international teachers. 

If you would like to teach overseas in 2021, register with TIC Recruitment here for free. It’s quick and easy and gives you access to many international school jobs in reputable, accredited international schools, some that are not advertised anywhere else. Despite these uncertain times, TIC Recruitment are still recruiting and supporting many international teachers.

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Andrew Wigford

Andrew is Managing Director of TIC. He has been involved in international education both as a teacher and Headteacher for over 25 years and has worked in Germany, Colombia and Austria. He set up TIC recruitment in 2005 to help teachers find great jobs in great international schools.