The top 10 questions about teaching overseas – all answered

Published on 18th February, 2019 by Anne Keeling. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

Are you thinking about teaching overseas? You probably have lots of questions on your mind!
Here are the 10 most frequently asked questions about international teaching, answered by the experts at TIC Recruitment. We hope these make your decision-making a little bit easier. And if you’d like to know more, join us on our forthcoming free Saturday Seminar for teachers in Cardiff. See details below.

Do I have the right qualifications and experience?

Gemma at TIC says: Most international schools require a reputable teaching certificate or qualification (including PGCE or equivalent). Many good schools also prefer you to have two or three years of experience teaching a reputable curriculum, ideally the National Curriculum of England, an American style curriculum, or the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Some schools can accept and support Newly Qualified Teachers, or will consider you with just one year of teaching experience. But to access the most options, it is best if you have a couple of years of experience teaching in your home country or a country where teaching and learning standards are recognised globally.
International schools don’t just look for experience; enthusiasm, positivity, flexibility and resilience are important qualities that schools look for too. Teachers who can lead extra-curricular activities are also highly valued.

Is teaching overseas the same as TEFL?

Wendy at TIC says: No, it’s completely different. International schools are schools that teach the entire curriculum, or most of it, in the English language. They often follow the National Curriculum of England, an American style of curriculum, or the IB. They employ qualified teachers from across the world, most commonly from the UK, United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa.

Will teaching overseas meet my expectations? 

Andrew at TIC says: Ask yourself the question - Why do I want to teach overseas? It’s not a decision to make lightly. Are your reasons positive? Running away from a problem, such as a broken relationship, is not a reason to go. And if you’re expecting lots of time on the beach, easy money, and less work, then you’ll almost certainly be disappointed. If, however, you want to develop professionally, work with teachers from across the world, gain broader and deeper teaching experience, and live within a new culture, you are sure to gain a great deal from teaching at an international school.

Can someone help me with my international job search?

Anne at TIC says: Yes! Recruitment companies can support you. Those recruitment companies that specialise in the international school sector only - like TIC - can expertly guide you through the whole process; offering advice, working with you to find the right school, directing you to reputable schools, and communicating with the school on your behalf.

Here at TIC we work hard to find you a position that is suited to you as an individual, based on your experience, skills, qualities and goals. All of this will cost you nothing; reputable agencies do not charge fees.

Do I need to speak the local language?

Leisha at TIC says: No. While it is helpful to know enough of the local language to get by in your new country, it’s not a necessity. All the international schools TIC works with are English-medium schools. This means that the majority, if not all, of subjects are taught in English.

Most of the leaders, and many of the staff at international schools speak English as their first language. 

Will working at an international school progress my career?

Angie at TIC says: It most certainly could! Promotions occur more frequently in international schools than in state schools. That’s because contracts are fairly short, allowing those teachers who want to move around the world, to do so. That means, if you are interested in developing your career and are prepared to stay at one school for a while, you’ll stand more chance of promotion.

In addition, once you have landed your first job at an international school, you are more desirable to all schools. The skills you will develop, such as working with a new curriculum, with students who have English as a second language, and with teachers from across the world, are valued by international schools and by schools back home.

What will it be like leaving family and friends behind?

Andrew says: It’s entirely normal to get homesick sometimes, I did when I first started teaching overseas. But the fantastic opportunities definitely outweighed that, and friends and family loved the opportunity to come and visit.

Today, the internet and social media mean that it is now easier than ever to communicate with loved ones when you’re overseas. Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, email; the possibilities are endless, and free to use. Some international schools will also include flights home within your package. You may even see more of the people you love than you did back home!

Do I have the right personal qualities to live in another country?

Gemma says: Are you open-minded? Can you view the world as one, with no culture, country, or type of people being more significant than another? If you can, you’ll get on very well. Being sensitive and appreciative of other cultures is a necessity for any international school role. If you are internationally-minded, you will make a great international teacher! 

Who will I be teaching at an international school?

Wendy says: The children at your school will be from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and countries. Some children will be expatriates and others will be local children wanting an international education. Many will speak English as a second or other language. Some of their parents won’t speak any English. This will require you to be patient and adaptable, with a positive frame of mind, and you will likely experience new circumstances and unexpected challenges. But don’t worry, most good international schools offer lots of guidance on how to manage these scenarios.

You’ll also be working alongside a team of staff who are from a mixture of cultures, and will have different learning and teaching skills to yours. Most international teachers say this is incredibly helpful for their own professional development. It’s a great chance to learn new skills and approaches to teaching and learning…and build friendships with people from all over the world.

Will I have time to travel?

Leisha says: Many teachers travel frequently, within the country they are working in and to nearby countries. Holidays tend to be longer than in the state school system which allows for more travel, and it’s considered quite normal to do short trips at weekends too. Often the cost of living is lower, so teachers have more disposable income, enabling them to travel to lots of exciting destinations.

Much more advice like this will be shared at the forthcoming TIC seminar for teachers. If you or your friends are thinking about working overseas, come and find out more. It’s free to attend and is a great way to learn about the opportunities that are right for you. We hope to see you on Saturday 28th September in Cardiff!

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Anne Keeling

Anne handles the media relations for TIC. She researches and writes the articles that appear in the press and on websites about how TIC is supporting teachers and the international schools, and how teachers who have been placed by TIC are getting on with their international teaching experience. She has spent over 25 years in media relations.