International teaching opportunities look set to explode

Bookmark and Share

London teacher, Hannah Brunton has just packed her bags and joined 60,000 other British teachers and head teachers in the process. Having spent three years at Barrow Hill Junior School in Westminster, Hannah has moved to Beijing to start teaching at the new Harrow Primary School.

It’s a move that was surprisingly easy for her. “I first became interested in teaching in an international school last November,” Hannah explains. “I was looking to use my skills as a teacher to open up opportunities for experiencing a different culture and felt I was ready for a new challenge. Additionally, having lived and worked in central London since graduating, I found my bank balance to be no healthier than when I was a student and international schools can offer the chance of saving money while offering a better quality of life.”

This figure of 60,000 British teachers and head teachers already working overseas is expected to increase significantly as the number of international schools is presently growing at a rapid pace. It’s a market much bigger than most people, even those within the education sector realise. At present there are almost 5,000 international schools throughout the world teaching wholly or partly in English. They offer a variety of curricula including British, American, international (including the IGCSE, the International Baccalaureate, and the International Primary Curriculum) and bilingual. These are schools that use English as the language for teaching and offer an international curriculum. Most are independent, highly respected, well-equipped and skilfully managed. These schools not only attract English-speaking children from expatriate families but also children from the local population; typically the wealthiest of the local families who recognize that an international, English-speaking education opens a lot of career doors for their children. “In fact, international schools are now catering for the richest 5% of the non-English-speaking world,” says Nicholas Brummit, Managing Director of ISC Research who map the world’s international schools and analyse developments in the international schools market.

It’s a market that is changing significantly as ISC figures attest. “Altogether there were 1,701 English-medium international schools in April 2000. By April 2008 that number had grown to 4,827. By 2010 we predict that number to be 6,000, and by 2020 to 16,000,” says Nicholas. That means a lot of jobs for skilled, English-speaking teachers and head teachers and the reason why they’re looking, says Andrew Wigford of Teachers International Consultancy, isn’t just about salary. “In research that we carried out two years ago, the number one reason for teaching overseas was the adventure and the opportunity to travel. In retrospect,” he continues, “teachers and head teachers who’d been working abroad for more than two years were able to say that it was good for their career with 89% saying that it had improved their skills and job opportunities. More so than that, every single one of the respondents said that the experience of working in an international school had enriched them as a person and 66% had learned a new language along the way.”

Hannah Brunton hopes her own experience will prove just as positive: “Harrow already has an established secondary school in Beijing and its new primary opened last September,” she explains. “The opportunity to be one of a foundation staff at a brand new school with such an established reputation in education was far too good an opportunity for me to pass up.”

Another teacher who said goodbye to Britain this summer was Scottish teacher, Anna Coquelin. Anna, who taught French and Spanish at Craigroyston school in Edinburgh has joined the staff at the British School in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “There’s a lot of gloom and doom in the UK right now,” Anna said before heading out to the Middle East in July. “High cost of fuel, food, fluctuating interest rates. The weather last summer and this has been terrible. In Edinburgh there have been huge cuts in education budgets and there are a lot of people chasing few jobs. I don’t know if Scotland’s a great place to be teaching at the moment.”

Certainly the teaching opportunities where Anna has headed are far greater than Scotland. The British School in Riyadh is just one of 729 English-medium international schools in Western Asia,  234 of those alone are in the United Arab Emirates, another 83 in Qatar and 75 in Saudi Arabia. “And when you think that just eight years ago there were only 97 international schools in UAE and 21 in Qatar, you can see what a massively developing region this is,” says Nicholas Brummit. “Dubai alone is expected to have 500 international schools by 2010 and in neighbouring Qatar, well over 150. Governments, not just in the Middle East but in many developing countries like Korea, are actively encouraging international schools to open as they increasingly recognize their importance.”

So what of the opportunities for British head teachers and teachers like Hannah and Anna? “There are going to be more and more of them,” says Andrew Wigford. “And the first place the international schools turn to is Britain.” He explains why: “Not only is English the language of choice, but the skills of British teachers and leaders are highly valued throughout the international school system. Once you’ve taught for a few years in the UK you can literally work anywhere in the world that you choose. Once you’ve headed up a British school the opportunities in international schools are virtually limitless.”

British head teacher, Mary Van Der Heijden saw her leadership opportunities expand enormously within the international schools community. “I was head of primary at the English International College in Spain and then head teacher at Panaga School in Brunei,” she says. “Then I was offered a unique opportunity to train about five hundred teachers in Qatar with a great team of colleagues. My international teaching experience exposed me to many things from curriculum, leadership, and management and training to architecture and business strategy and it gave me the incentive to go on to the next step in my career as an educational consultant. It’s given me the chance to put to use all of my knowledge and to spread the wealth of experience that I’ve been fortunate enough to gain over the years. These links keep growing and getting stronger. They’ve opened my mind and my world in ways that, as a shy, UK nursery teacher I never ever thought possible.”
British teachers and head teachers like Mary, Hannah and Anna make up a significant number of the teaching and leadership staff in international schools where there are presently well over 165,000 staff teaching 1,838,000 students. According to ISC Research this number needs to increase to 207,000 staff in 2010 and to 587,000 staff by 2020 to cope with the growing demand.

“International schools are already big business,” says Nicholas Brummit. “They’ve attracted the attention of governments the world over and powerful commercial organizations. They’re no longer a small group of schools for expatriate families. International schools are now considered the opportunity to the future for many non-English-speaking families around the world. The international school market is changing at an extraordinary pace and will almost certainly double in size if not more over the next ten years. For many British teachers and head teachers this may just be the opportunity they’re waiting for.”

For more information about teaching opportunities at international schools go to www. For more information about the international schools market go to www.