How liveable is my destination city and how can I find out about the school as a workplace?
Yes, it’s difficult to find information on what it would be like to work in a particular school abroad when you’re still in your hometown. It’s easier to find out about living in certain cities as there are websites such as:
Also, there are many Facebook groups you can join before you leave and other information on social media. You can even make friends easily by joining ‘Internations’ when you are there:
The tricky part is – because the schools are in another country, how do you know if it’s going to be a good school? The standards in that country might be different from your home country and the curriculum might be different or potentially non-existent. The truth is that it’s hard to find out about working in particular schools. You might be able to obtain information on parental satisfaction and exam results achieved, but what’s it like as a workplace? The first thing you can do is visit the school’s website of course and this will be very glossy showing smiling children and it will state what a great school it is!
All schools have their own culture, some better than others and some are downright toxic – I have to say it. Some schools suit some people better than others and because you won’t get a chance to visit them, it’s hard to find this out before signing that contract. One solution is:
This site has a paywall if you want to access the reviews, but there are a huge number written by current and former staff of international schools all over the world. They are written anonymously. The unfortunate thing is that the reviews on the whole lean towards the negative. This is because when people are happy and satisfied in a job, they don’t feel the need to write reviews, but when they’re unhappy, disgruntled or have been treated unfairly, they’re more likely to put their fingers to the keyboard and some venom might come out. Think about times you’ve been motivated to write a review for a hotel or other service. Was it a positive or negative experience?
On ‘International Schools Review’, I have seen reviews of schools I know to be good, still have bad reviews. Having said that, people don’t have a reason to lie, and you will often see a mix of good and bad reviews for the same school so take what you can from it. Also, note the dates of the reviews. Things change quickly in this business as the staff are often on 2-year contracts which keeps the staff turning over, including the senior leadership team. A former principal may have created a bad environment but a new one might be much better.
Overall, it’s difficult to find out exactly what a new school will be like when it’s elsewhere on the planet. It’s also highly subjective because what suits one person, doesn’t suit another. The main thing is to ensure that your needs are met regarding the salary, accommodation, medical cover, and any expenses you might incur. These must be made clear as a school that doesn’t communicate properly with you, probably should be avoided.