Teaching in International Schools
The appeal of acclaimed international schools is certainly not lost on Chinese locals: aside from private schooling, this is considered the best schooling option money can buy. There are a lot of benefits that come with teaching in International schools. This is amplified financially if you’ve taught in one before.
If you have taught in at an international school in China, it helps to remember that the teaching experience will never be identical. Even if you’ve been following a pre-set international curriculum, perhaps one you’ve taught before, the overall experience will not be similar.
This is China, after all.
What is unique about teaching in international schools in China?
You’ll come across a greater variety of subject teaching when you teach in international schools, varying from English to music, art, literature, the sciences and even PE. Priority in hiring is usually given if you already have experience teaching in international schools and have subject specialization – along with a teaching degree – and even more so if you’ve previously worked with the same curriculum. Now, all this doesn’t mean your chances of scoring a job are nil if you haven’t, but it does mean your general teaching experience needs to be extensive and you need to show a willingness to undergo training. You’ll basically need to impress them, one way or another!
China is home to over 900 international schools (mostly British and North American) and a few dodgy institutions that are infamous for hiring inexperienced and hapless foreigners. Obviously, you’ll want to steer clear of the latter. Keep an open mind, however, as there are some exceptional Asian schools that give our Western-style institutions a run for their money. They key really is to do a lot of research for China-specific international school options.
When it comes to requirements and regulations, note that they do change depending on the school, obviously. Some, like Beijing’s Canadian International School, will insist on a teaching qualification from Canada, specifically, whilst most simply require full qualifications as detailed in our Am I Eligible? page. There are also international schools that run on a Chinese curriculum and that usually means a few military-style exercises in the morning are thrown in for good measure, as well as a two-hour nap in the afternoon. It’s worth doing some research on a specific school you’re interested in applying to – when we said China was unique…we meant it!
There is a caveat to the at-times strict requirements for working in International Schools, something that is quite unique to China. Considering the high demand for foreign teachers and the lack of enough applicants, requirement standards can be rather ‘fluid’, if you catch our drift. Apply to the right school at the right time (ie. when they’re desperate for teachers) and they may overlook a lack of previous experience. This usually doesn’t happen with the bestest international schools but if you’re willing to forego prestige to get a look-in, it’s an option that’s worth keeping in mind.
Moreover, if you’re not fully qualified to teach in an international school do note that, sometimes, there will be positions going for substitute teachers, teaching assistants and even interns. Your pay won’t be as high BUT a secondary position can get your foot in the door of international schooling (of the prestigious kind) and, if this is your long-term goal, it could be worth your while.
Excellent overall teaching conditions make international school jobs highly coveted. Class sizes are usually small, assistance is high, pay is fabulous (among the highest of all teaching jobs) and, besides, it always looks stellar on a teacher’s CV.
What’s it like teaching in international schools?
There’s no denying that following a pre-set curriculum can make a teacher’s life easy, except when it doesn’t. If you’re an experienced teacher and love to test teaching boundaries and explore the unique, these jobs may not exactly suit you. In saying that, teachers appreciate the assistance received in international schools, which usually includes Western-style housing, health-care payments, initial flight reimbursement, R&R flight reimbursement and extensive holiday pay, on top of the usually high salary. Score a job with the right international school, and you could be looking forward to a very comfortable expat life in China. Want to feel like royalty teaching in China? That’s pretty much the way international school teachers are treated here!
When it comes to the teaching experience itself, this varies greatly depending on the school. Some faculties are brand new and state-of-the-art whilst others have been left to deteriorate beyond repair. Generally, however, you’ll be immersed in a very motivating environment with engaged parents, committed students and very welcoming colleagues.
Workloads in international schools are usually quite high, with many extra-curricular activities being compulsory for teachers, as well as meetings in the evenings and some weekend events.
Are international school jobs well-paid?
Yes, they are, although given the workload, this can also be debatable. Salaries can range from USD 4,000 and up to USD 5,000 a month for the best-paid positions in Tier 1 cities, your experience and qualification being the biggest determiners of your initial salary. Consider all the extra benefits and the location of a school as pivotal to your final decision. See out Teaching Destinations page for more insider tips on which city may be just right for you.