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Is work-life balance the key to international teacher recruitment?


Quality of Life Observer

- Education

- Jul 12 2016

Throngs of English-speaking educators are leaving their home countries to teach abroad in international schools – but what is the draw? Is it just the excitement of a new adventure or are they looking for a more balanced life?


The booming international school industry

Expansion in the international school market is at an all time high. What used to be somewhat of a rarity – coursework taught entirely in English at exclusive private schools in non-Anglophone countries – has become a booming industry. The student body has undergone a transformation as well. As the middle class expands in emerging countries, successful and prominent parents now seek out English-speaking schools as an investment in their child’s future. In certain countries local students now account for as much as half of the student body – expanding the market at a dizzying rate. In 2015, 8,000 English based international schools taught 4.2 million students. Within the next decade experts predict that 8.9 million students will attend 14,400 international schools worldwide.

Breeding burnout and stress

Along with this expansion comes the growing demand for English-speaking teachers. A demand so high that the UK Education system is now experiencing a “brain drain” as their teachers are enticed by offers from shiny new schools abroad. But given the current situation in the UK, some experts say it may not be so difficult to lure them away. Studies show that UK educators are not happy in their jobs and report low well-being. Nearly 40 percent of educators quit within a year of obtaining their qualifications. This exodus, which has nearly tripled in the past six years, has been famously linked to poor work-life balance and rising stress levels.

 

Much of this discontent stems from the UKs highly demanding and bureaucratic education system. In addition to the hours spent in the classroom, educators have become overloaded with a growing amount of paperwork and reports. According to a survey conducted by the Guardian Teacher Network and Guardian Jobs in the UK, roughly three-quarters of England-based educators clock in a 49-60-hour workweek. The accompanying job pressure experienced by 98 percent of respondents coupled with an “unmanageable” workload has left teachers feeling burnt out and undervalued.

The answer is work –life balance

Given these conditions in the UK, it’s no surprise that during the 2014-15 academic year roughly 100,000 full-time UK teachers worked in the international sector, making it the largest exporter of teachers in the world. While there are obvious advantages to working abroad – such as adventure, warmer climate, a new language and culture and tax-free salaries – competitive international schools are winning the recruitment battle by offering up a better work-life balance.

 

International schools appeal to the “work” side of the equation by providing professional development and career building opportunities. Meanwhile, many comprehensive offers include rent-free or highly affordable, furnished apartments to earn key points in the “life” column. Without the pressure of paying rent or a mortgage, stress levels drop and educators are able to focus on and enjoy their personal lives. Some schools go a step further to enrich teachers’ lives – from setting up programs and activities to help foreigners feel comfortable and at home, to waiving the tuition fees for educators’ children, to sponsoring round-trip plane tickets so educators can return home for the holidays. For many teachers, the sheer act of stripping away the layers of bureaucracy and paperwork alone has added hours to the day to be spent with friends, raising children or relaxing. Whatever the perk may be, the common thread ties back to finding a balance.

Learning from the competition

With nearly all UK teachers (96.5 percent) claiming that their workload has negative consequences on family and personal life, 81 percent saying it affects their physical health and a mere 12 percent who consider that they have a healthy work-life balance, it’s no wonder they are leaving the country in masses. As the international school market continues to flourish and pluck quality teachers out of their current schools, perhaps it is time to emulate the international model and prioritize a healthy balance between work and life. It seems to be working abroad.

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Is work-life balance the key to international teacher recruitment?

Throngs of English-speaking educators are leaving their home countries to teach abroad in international schools – but what is the draw? Is it just the excitement of a new adventure or are they looking for a more balanced life?

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