As the demand for international education continues to grow, so does the need for highly-skilled and experienced staff to work in international schools. But what makes a staff member “high-calibre” when it comes to working in an international setting? And how can international schools attract and retain the best talent?
First and foremost, a high-calibre staff member for an international school is someone who is passionate about working in an international and multicultural environment. They understand the unique challenges and opportunities that come with working with students from different cultures, and they are able to adapt their teaching and mentoring styles accordingly. They should also be comfortable with teaching students who speak English as an additional language and understand the needs of multilingual students. Whilst many students in an international school may be native speakers of English, it is likely that the majority will not speak English as their mother tongue. In some cases, students may even speak limited English when they enroll, but a high-calibre teacher will recognise that the level of English language acquisition as little bearing on the student’s cognitive ability.
In addition to cultural competence, a high-calibre staff member is also someone who is highly qualified and experienced in their field. They should have a strong educational background and relevant qualifications, as well as a proven track record of success in their profession. They should also be committed to ongoing professional development, and be open to learning new teaching methods and technologies. Teachers who meet this criteria can be found all over the world, and the best recruiters will seek to hire the best teachers regardless of their country of origin. Some schools make the mistake of limiting their recruitment pool to teachers from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Besides this being arguably unethical, and sometimes even racist or xenophobic, such recruiters are missing out on high-calibre teachers from other parts of the world. By casting their net further afield they might find excellent teachers, who speak English as a native or near-native working in excellent schools across the continent of Africa, in the Caribbean or in parts of Asia.
Another important aspect of a high-calibre staff member is their ability to work well in a team. International schools often have a diverse staff, and it is important that staff members are able to collaborate effectively with their colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures. Strong communication skills, both verbal and written, are also essential for working in an international school. A high-calibre international teacher will be able to adjust to their new setting, and respect the culture within which they live and work. Being a high-calibre teacher in an international setting extends beyond being able to effectively deliver an academic program!
So how can international schools attract and retain the best talent? One key strategy is to offer competitive compensation packages and benefits. This can include things like housing allowances, relocation assistance, and tuition reimbursement for staff members’ children. International schools should also provide opportunities for staff members to participate in professional development programs and to attend conferences and workshops. Moreover, international schools need to ensure that they have a secure understanding of their unique selling points. International schools may not be able to offer salaries and packages that are as attractive as those found in the Middle East or the Far, but can attract high-calibre teachers by marketing themselves on what makes them the most attractive place to live and work.
Another important aspect is to create a positive and supportive working environment. This can include offering opportunities for staff members to share their ideas and to have a voice in school decision-making. International schools should also make an effort to create a sense of community among staff members, by organizing social events and team-building activities. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see that many schools owned by the big hitting companies in the international education sector often don’t have the best reputation when it comes to how they treat their staff and too often have little focus on staff well-being. A high-calibre teacher is more likely to join a school that will help them to develop as a professional and offer them the chance to have an excellent quality of life.
In conclusion, recruiting high-calibre staff is crucial for the success of international schools. By focusing on cultural competence, qualifications, and experience, as well as offering competitive compensation packages and a positive working environment, international schools can attract and retain the best talent to support the development of their students. Many international teachers have wide networks and become aware of the schools that have the best reputations for supporting and nurturing their staff, and similarly those that treat their staff as disposable and replaceable. Ultimately, if a school wishes to recruit and retain the very highest calibre teachers then it needs to develop a strong reputation for staff development and well-being.