by Jim Abrose

      There are literally hundreds of overseas schools offering employment opportunities for those wishing to move abroad or those who find themselves in a foreign location in search of work. The first thing one must realize is that there are generally two classifications of employees at most schools: local hire expatriates (as opposed to host country national) and overseas hires. This is an important distinction to remember.

      Local hire status usually brings with it (but not always) the same salary as overseas hire (O/H) but without the benefits such as housing, airfare, etc. It is intended to take advantage of the fact that many qualified teachers arrive at post accompanying their spouse and thus receive housing and airfare as part of their family status, saving the school money. Anyone contemplating moving abroad to teach is advised to secure a job before moving: it makes a big difference in living standard. On the other hand, if someone needs experience and would not be competitive as an O/H, it may be easier to find a job on a local hire basis and later parlay the experience gained to O/H status at another school.(Most schools will not change someone's status once hired.)

      Schools determine the ratio of local to overseas hires based on how many qualified candidates areavailable locally, but the better schools keep quality the first priority. They like to maintain a surplus of local applicants to fill in as substitute teachers and when unexpected vacancies occur during the year. School directors eagerly welcome new local talent. While teaching qualifications and experience for local hires are mandatory at most schools, expediency rules at others and it is possible to work one's way into a full time teaching job through experience substituting or working as a teacher's aide. In fact, volunteering is a great way to become known and first in line when a job opens.

      Applying from overseas, however, the applicant needs to have at least a BA/BS degree, a teaching credential and at least two years experience to be considered. There are many more applicants than jobs available and it is not uncommon for a school to have twenty to one hundred applications for each vacancy. A single parent with dependents does not stand much of a chance, nor does a retired teacher looking for an overseas experience. Schools prefer to hire teaching couples with no dependents, though most schools will hire couples with children and a few will hire singles with dependents. Almost all will hire single teachers if they cannot find couples.

      Anyone applying will need to carry excellent recommendations, be healthy and energetic and willing to work in the after- school program. Flexibility and adaptability are key attributes for successful candidates. Prior experience living abroad or at least foreign travel and knowledge of another language are helpful. The bottom line is expertise as a teacher and love of kids and if an interviewer discerns that in a candidate, a contract offer is likely.

     So, how does one apply to teach overseas?
      The better schools insist on an interview if at all possible, although they will hire through one of the major recruiting agencies if they have vacancies at odd times of the year. Schools which have a high percentage of host country national students or that tend to have lower salaries may hire on the basis of correspondence and could be targeted by inexperienced teachers. Beware, however, that salaries in such schools might be at the subsistence level and working conditions less than ideal. Most international schools are exceedingly reputable: a handful are not, so investigate carefully.

      Applying directly to the better schools is a good way to establish contact, but most successful candidates use recruitment agencies which arrange Recruitment Fairs that attract anything from 20 to 140 or more schools for 3 to 4 days of marathon interviewing. A cycle has emerged as follows:

September: the candidate selects and contacts a recruitment agency to register
October/November: references are submitted and a dossier created.
December: the candidate is advised if they are accepted.
February: interviews take place at recruitment fairs. Some contracts are offered on the spot.
March/April: more contracts are consumated.
May/June: a few more recruiting fairs open for schools to fill last minute vacancies.
July/August: recruitment agencies are requested to fill final vacancies

There are several major sources to choose from:

Search Associates: PO Box 2007   Minden, NV 89423    Telephone (775) 267-3122  Fax (775) 267-4122
Street address: 2618 Fuller Avenue  Minden, NV 89423  http://www.search-associates.com
A private agency comprised mainly of former directors of international schools, Search places around 500 candidates annually. Fairs are operated in Kuala Lumpur, Sidney, Dubai, Oxford, Houston, Cambridge, Toronto and Carmel, CA and Bethesda.

International Schools Services, PO Box 5910, Princeton, NJ 08543 A non-profit organization witha wide range of services for international schools, ISS annually operates two large fairs each February: one on the east coast (Washington, DC in 1998), one on the west coast (San Francisco, 1998) plus a late one in Philadelphia each June. They place over 500 candidates.

European Council of International Schools, 21 Lavant Street Petersfield GU32 3EL UK ECIS hosts a major recruitment fair in London early each February and a later one in April. A mix of American and British based schools attend.

University of Northern Iowa This is the grandaddy of all recruitment fairs and the one that started them all back in the 70s. It attracts up to 700 teachers and 140 schools.

Several other colleges or universities also sponsor recruitment centers:check with your university to see if they might be one of them. Which one is best for you? It may depend on location, time of the fair, whether you want a large one or one which is smaller with more personalized attention. ECIS London tends to attract a lot of schools from Europe; Search KL is heavy with international schools in Asia while Search-Houston focuses on Latin America and Search-Dubai is British oriented. UNI has schools from all over, as does ISS. All of the recruiting sources above have websites. Use a search engine to access them and learn more.

The Office of Overseas Schools (U. S. State Department) maintains an excellent website with links to the above. Fees for the above are all moderate and should not be a determiner of which one is chosen. Sources for learning more include the ISS Directory of Overseas Schools; The International Educator (TIE), a newspaper of great interest (PO Box 513, Cummaquid, MA 02637 for subscription); or, visit the Teacher's Internet Pages (TIPS) on the world-wide web.

About the author

Mr. Ambrose was named "Superintendent of the Year" by the Association for the Advancement of International Education in 1997. He has served as the President of the Society Limited to Overseas School Heads; represented international schools on the Elementary Commission of the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges; was a long standing officer of the Board of Directors of the Near East, South Asian (NESA) Council of Overseas Schools; a member of the Board of Directors of TIE, for which he regularly writes articles, and; wrote, produced or directed a series of videotapes designed to train overseas school board members. During his 24 years overseas, he administered a number of schools and was most recently Director of the United Nations International School in Hanoi, Vietnam.