Teaching abroad is becoming increasingly popular, as it gives educators across all sectors a chance for new teaching experiences and provides exciting opportunities for exploration into different countries and cultures. Many teachers aged over 50 are jumping on the bandwagon and choosing to teach abroad to widen their horizons. But is age a restriction to teaching abroad?
Although every country has different rules and regulations when it comes to employing foreign teachers, a recent study from The International Educator has reported that over 65 per cent of the 176 schools interviewed said that their school’s host country does not have any age restrictions for issuing a working visa. For those who did report restrictions, the mandatory cut-off was around ages 60 and 65. This is promising news for older teachers who want to work overseas, as often these teachers have concerns about their ability to be hired.
In fact, in many cases, teachers aged over 50 are very sought after. The study revealed that many education institutes are eager to hire older candidates, particularly at secondary school level where wisdom and experience are desirable traits. Older teachers can bring balance and most school heads from the study seemed to agree that good schools need a balance of age, wisdom and experience as well as youth, energy and gender. Although experience is an advantage for teachers aged over 50, they also need to be open to learning new ideas, engaging in professional development, and be willing to embrace change. The only barrier is that some overseas schools have concerns about health issues in older candidates and the associated costs in insuring them, and in some cases they need to demonstrate physical fitness and health.
High overseas placement rate
New Zealand has a high percentage of teachers aged over 50 applying to teach overseas and encouragingly most of them have success in landing the right job. There are a number of recruitment agencies in New Zealand that have no problem in placing teachers from all sectors (secondary, primary and early childhood) into positions across a wide range of countries.
Martin Strang from Oasis Education, a specialist international educator recruitment agency, says that they get many teachers aged over 50 from all sectors wanting to teach overseas and they don’t usually have any issues finding them work. He believes that there are many strengths that New Zealand teachers can bring to other countries, such as experience, stability, energy, humour and worldliness.
“All countries like New Zealanders,” he says.
Education Personnel, another New Zealand recruitment agency, also gets regular contact from educators aged over 50.
“In fact, it would be our second largest group of candidates, after the younger teachers setting off on their OE,” says managing director Stuart Birch. “Educators over 50 are often education leaders who are looking for a new challenge and to see the world after their kids have left home.”
He also comments that the majority of these teachers are primary trained; however, there are also significant numbers of ECE and secondary teachers.
Australia is another country with a growing number of older teachers looking to work abroad, and it seems as though these teachers have no difficulty finding work either. Nick Kendall, from Tasmanian-based Kendall Search Associates says that about 20 to 25 per cent of his candidates are over 50 years of age, which equates in numbers to between 80 and 100 candidates per year.
“If the candidates are exceptional teachers with great experiences and solid references, they can certainly be placed,” he says. “This is no different from candidates in other age brackets. These teachers can bring many desirable qualities to overseas schools – a love of children, numeracy and literacy knowledge, and inquiry-based pedagogy are high up there on the list.”
What about older teachers coming to work in New Zealand? How easy is it for them to find work here? According to Martin Strang, teachers from the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and South Africa are very desirable to many New Zealand schools, but in some cases it can be hard for older teachers to secure work here.
“Work test criteria make these teachers difficult to employ after the age of 30 and securing work visas for teachers aged 30+ from the UK, USA, Canada and South Africa can be very hard to do,” he says. “Incoming numbers drop steeply at 50–55 as 55 is the cut-off for residency.”
So which countries are more open to employing teachers aged over 50 and which ones aren’t? The research from The International Educator shows that things can vary within the same country from region to region and even from school to school. For example, in some parts of China there is a high percentage of teachers aged over 60, and even up until age 70, but in other parts of China, it is very difficult for older teachers to find work. According to the study, there are no age limits in place in Lebanon, the Pacific Islands, South America, Uganda and Bangladesh.
Persistence brings rewards
Another important factor to take into consideration is that even when there are no firm age specifications stated, age discrimination can unfortunately come in to play in many parts of the world, so in some cases it can take persistence to find the right job in certain countries.
So those teachers who have always thought that they were too old to teach overseas should think again, because it seems that age and experience truly is an asset in many countries.
“Often these teachers are exceptional,” says Stuart Birch. “They have been teaching and leading in education a good few years and have learnt how to teach a wide range of children and work with a variety of people.”
As long as these teachers are flexible and open to new ideas they can most likely find a situation that works for them, no matter what their age.