Thursday, August 23, 2012

International Schools - "So what exactly would you say you do?"

After spending six weeks in the USA this summer and catching up with our friends and family, one thing that has become very apparent is that many of them aren't really sure how this whole "international school" thing works.  Thus, I have been inspired, nay, compelled to write a post that will hopefully clarify our involvement overseas.

Since the world is ever-flattening and many companies are expanding to all parts of the globe, there is a demand to have English-speaking education available that is both of a high standard and completely transferrable to universities everywhere.  Whether you're a diplomat or business person, you don't really want to uproot your family and move them to a far away land without some assurance that your progeny will be able to continue their education in that new place without any gaps.  Therefore, nearly every major city around the world has one or more "international schools" to meet this need.

Now, there is a large variety of international schools.  Most are independently run, but some of them are members of a group of schools that is corporately run.  Some schools are "for-profit" while others are "non-profit".  Most of these schools offer all instruction in English, but some of them are bilingual or taught completely in other languages (i.e. French).  There's even a variety in the curriculum offered: most offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, and many offer British, Canadian, and American curricula including Advanced Placement (AP).

There's also a variety in the student body of an international school.  Schools usually have a mix of local and international students, just like in university.  For diplomats, a country might choose to send their kids to one particular school for whatever reason.  Private companies might only pay to send kids to a certain school, or they may offer a stipend to send them wherever they want.  We noticed in Frankfurt that of the two biggest international schools, one seemed to draw more Americans and had more of an American high school feel, while the other was more international and included a larger Korean population.  Of the students that are local, some come from wealthy families that can easily afford the tuition while other families make a huge sacrifice to send their kids to international school.  It's tough to generalize, however, since each country will work a little differently.

So, when people asked us if we were "working for the same organization" when we move to Hong Kong the answer is "no" because there really isn't an organization that joins these schools, as far as employment goes.  Our school in Germany was independent, but a member of the SABIS network of schools (which provided the curriculum and organization), while our school in Hong Kong is actually an independent, local, private school.  This may be confusing after reading my two previous posts on international school hiring fairs where I mentioned "SEARCH Associates".  The difference is that SEARCH is for-profit company that provides a link between international schools and teachers.  That being said, you can think of me as a free agent physics teacher that uses SEARCH to help me find 2-year teaching contracts at independent international schools around the world.

Make sense?

--Justin
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