Am teacher will travel

The BBC is reporting that another top UK Independent School is opening up a campus in Asia. I am sure that the move will make good business sense and possibly even help to keep down fees in their UK operation if it makes money.

The BBC piece concludes that there are now about 8,000 international schools around the world, teaching 4.26 million students, according to research by the International School Consultancy. Apparently, nowhere has growth been faster than in Asia.

Such has been the growth that the BBC article reports Thailand now has over 172 international curriculum schools, half of them following England’s national curriculum.

Malaysia has 142, Japan 233, and Singapore – which makes it difficult for foreigners to enrol in local schools – around 63. Myanmar could also become a hotspot – Dulwich College will open there next year. .Hong Kong which had 92 such schools in 2000, now has 171. Only South Korea has seen a retraction, with some international schools struggling to fill places.

However, the big growth has been in mainland China. From a dozen schools 15 years ago, China has some 530 English-medium international schools, catering for 326,000 students.

Now those that have heard me speak at conferences recently will have noted that I have said I was one of the few people that would be happy to see a slowdown in the Chinese economy because of this growth in schools. I have said that too many international schools in China could be a real drain on teacher supply in this country.

If we assume that the majority of the 8,000 schools worldwide use English as at least a partial medium of instruction and employ an average of ten UK trained teachers per school that would mean upwards of 80,000 trained teachers not available to work in the UK. Assuming a 10% growth, would mean 800 new schools a year and as a result possibly 8,000 teachers departing overseas to staff these schools, this plus the regular replacement numbers for posts in existing schools. This might explain some of the growth in departure rates identified in the recent NAO Report. 8,000 teachers would equate to between a quarter and a third of the output of training in England, although presumably some of the teachers going overseas will come from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so the lower figure might be more realistic. Even so, anything above 10% would be worrying, especially in the subjects where there is a shortage of supply.

It is not clear what can be done to stem the growth of international schools and it is becoming a valuable export industry that no doubt also helps to steer undergraduates in the direction of UK universities. Perhaps we will need to import more teachers from overseas, but that won’t go down well with those worried about immigration.

What we cannot do is allow schools in deprived areas of England to be starved of teachers to satisfy the demands of the affluent middle-classes of the emerging Asian nations.




4 thoughts on “Am teacher will travel

    • Ross,

      Thank you for the comment. I am especially keen to push TeachVac over the next few months as a free service to schools, teachers and trainees in the recruitment sphere. Not only do schools that use TeachVac receive information about the job market but it helps us provide comprehensive and up to the minute data about what is happening. it takes but a few minutes to register on TeachVac and seconds to post a job that is matched every day with registered applicants meeting the requirements.

      I would be grateful if anyone reading this with their own blog would help spread the word about TeachVac and show what social media can do without the need for big marketing budgets.

      Every pound saved on recruitment advertising is a pound to spend on teaching and learning. With ever tighter budgets it makes good sound sense to give TeachVac a try.

      John Howson

  1. Dear John: Good to read your blog (I work with The International School Consultancy which supplied the data you have referenced). Two points to add to your discussion. Traditionally, many British Headteachers have been reticent about recruiting teachers who have been working away from the UK, thinking they are out of touch with National Curriculum of England (which many are not – over 40% of international schools follow NCE), or not appreciating the value that teaching experience in an international school can give such as a developed awareness of the world and international mindedness, increased ESOL skills, and a sharing of best practice from other teachers, many of who come from other countries other than the UK such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia where teacher training and skills are different yet still highly valued. In the past international school teachers have returned to the UK only to be frequently turned down for jobs because of this narrow-minded perspective. I know many ex-international school teachers who have been forced to move into commercial education jobs because of the limited teaching opportunities that have been available to them on their return to the UK. This mindset is changing significantly as more SLTs recognise the value of international teaching experience when recruiting, but there still remain a number of very traditional and ‘blinkered’ views in some schools.
    In addition, there are an increasing number of skilled expatriate teachers who want experience of National Curriculum of England who look to the UK for this opportunity. There are many Australian teachers seeking this opportunity; see this account from one Australian teacher:

    • Anne,

      Thank you for your comments. I recall when helping to set up the MA for teachers in International Schools at Oxford Brookes University in the early 1990s those on the course talked about the issue of returning to the UK even then. I think the government could do more to encourage and facilitate the return of these teachers and to recognise the global nature of the profession. At teachVac we are happy to receive registrations from teachers for free but our funding model means we would need to charge oversears schools for any vacancies they posted. We would be happy to discuss the issue with ISC.

      John Howson

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