JUDE BARBACK asks New Zealand teachers overseas the important questions about recruitment, money, family, culture, and teaching. Recruitment agent, Lauranne Croot, also shares her views.
Q: What is involved with the agency registration process including the time frame involved? What was your experience of the recruitment process?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: I went through the Teachanywhere agency. For me, there was a three-month gap between starting to look for a teaching position and being offered one. This was mainly to do with the timing of international jobs being advertised. Most of the best schools hire in January for a September start. As far as the process, I updated my CV, talked to the agent on the phone, outlined the type of jobs and places I was interested in, and just waited to see what turned up. I was offered the first job I applied for.
Anonymous, China: Very easy. A quick process to register with Teachanywhere, and I was contacted quickly by possible employers. The agent was in touch regularly and continued to present me with options.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: I don’t remember much other than submitting my CV, in and it didn’t take long for Teachanywhere to ring me, and give their feedback and where they think I would be best suited. After that, I got an interview with the school, a week later I got offered a job, and a lot of paperwork followed. Excellent communication from my recruiter made this easier.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: Registration was fine – a few documents to fill out as to be expected, and I cannot remember the time frame as I am an organised person who does not need time frames or deadlines to work to! Recruitment was fairly straightforward.
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: Firstly, Teachanywhere (Randstad) is a reputable and professional agency that I would recommend to others. Secondly, the registration process consists of putting together a profile of the teacher, their strengths, qualifications, experiences, gaining their CV, being in correspondence with the teacher and the agency either by emails or telephone calls.
My experience with Dubai was very fast. It happened well within a week from the time I was informed about the vacancy, to the interview on the telephone, then to getting the job. Lauranne Croot is excellent. She is friendly, approachable, helpful, patient, and very informative. Her support and encouragement was vital in the process.
Anonymous, UAE: The registration process is very thorough, quick, and informative. Leading into my new role in HR Education Administration/School Support, I deal with recruitment agencies to pre-screen candidates for selection as EMTs (English Medium Teachers). Due to security clearances of the UAE, set criteria is required which the agency has to ensure all candidates meet before progressing forward to the interview stage. This is an essential part of the agency’s job, which has always been very thorough.
Justine Wedge, Malaysia: Since I was already registered with the agency, it was just a matter of informing them what I was looking for and within a few days I was already looking at possibilities. The experience is fine/normal, since I have done this three times already with the same agency.
Lauranne Croot, recruitment agent: Teachers are required to register on our website. Once they have registered their details, we then send the teacher our registration requirements with an international CV sample for them to update their CV. The CV is your first introduction of you to a school and it is vital you put the time into following our advice to meet the CV requirements of our international principals. International schools are very pedantic about what must be included in a CV as this helps our schools complete a work permit for a successful teacher. Teaching certificates, references and police checks then follow. Once we have an updated CV, the process can be very quick from us submitting your CV, to a school requesting an interview, to an offer being made the next day. We have had teachers placed within 2-3 days of registering with us.
We also do a phone screening of our teachers once they have registered online.
Q:Did you have a clear idea of where you wanted to teach – if so, why this destination?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: I wanted to teach somewhere in the Middle East because of the generous contracts and proximity to major travel destinations. It was also the furthest from New Zealand, which meant that we had a large travel allowance.
Anonymous, Abu Dhabi: Financially the move had to be of benefit, so the UAE was a natural choice. In the future, my priorities will change and curriculum and school reputation will become more important.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: Yes, I read about the UAE as a going-forward country, but still had that strong grip on its tradition and culture. It was also so different from home and halfway around the world, which made a perfect spot to live and see Europe and the rest of this side of the world. They also offered the best package to teachers.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: I initially wanted to go to the UAE, but a lot of positions I wanted (advisory) were ‘drying up’. The opportunity arose to be an advisor in Malaysia and when I thought about it, sounded better than the UAE in many ways – cost of living, climate, proximity to New Zealand.
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: When I first made the enquiry, I asked about Spain! For its culture, warm weather, and close proximity to other neighbouring European countries. However, Spain wasn’t a popular destination. So Dubai was the ‘hot spot’ where teachers were travelling for work in 2008.
Lauranne Croot: We recommend doing some research on countries you would like to live and teach in. We will advise by looking at your experience and qualifications to best match you to positions available and will discuss countries that are more family-friendly for teachers with dependents and non-teaching spouses.
Q: How do you think New Zealand teachers are perceived at your school, and overseas in general?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: New Zealand teachers are generally highly regarded. Parents love them because they can individualise the learning for their children. They also bring a different perspective to teaching and learning. New Zealand teachers are generally much more adaptable.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: Top of the range, we have qualities that most other teachers don’t have. Or maybe it’s because of the harsh treatment we get from the New Zealand Government; we were overworked at home. We work less here but are still seen as the most hardworking and effective teachers in our school. When local people meet us and when they find out we are New Zealanders, you see their eyes open wide and the lamb chops, kiwi fruit questions come. I think we are loved here in the UAE and with Oman next door, where we get to go for free, it’s amazing. My US friends were jealous when they had to pay 200 AED each to enter Oman and we paid nothing.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: New Zealand teachers are held in high regard as we are ‘Westerners’.
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: New Zealand teachers have a very reputable name around the world. We are recognised for our numeracy and literacy programmes. We are hardworking and amicable.
Anonymous, UAE: From my perspective as being part of the HR team that recruits/interviews candidates selected from the recruitment agencies, New Zealand teachers are well respected.
Justine Wedge, Malaysia: Being a South African, I can say that New Zealand teachers are welcomed in international schools. Like South Africans, they are well trained, and work hard.
Lauranne Croot: New Zealand teachers are liked by international schools. However, in some schools the fee-paying parents can dictate the teachers they want teaching their children. I’m afraid our Kiwi accent is not always preferred especially in British and American Curriculum schools. The Queen’s English is definitely preferred.
New Zealand primary teachers are sought after for their skills in literacy teaching.
Q:How has working with other English-speaking teachers of different nationalities impacted on your teaching?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: It has made me realise that New Zealand teachers are great!
Anonymous, China: Incredible growth in my leadership role. Different culture, language, expectations. I have now learnt to speak one of the most difficult languages (Mandarin) at a basic level. The various nationalities of the teachers and children have had only a positive influence on me.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: Half of our English speaking staff are from New Zealand. I don’t really see any impact on my job other than the usual moaning from the Brits.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: It has helped me to refine and sharpen my own practice by analysing others’ work – I am a consultant rather than a teacher.
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: I have enjoyed sharing our diverse experiences with fellow teachers from around the world. Each one of us bring something different to the table and it keeps you continually learning, expanding, and growing.
Anonymous, UAE: I am a strong believer that the New Zealand education is amongst the best in the world. I have learnt that as educators we all bring strengths and have weaknesses. However, the current reform project in the UAE is ideal for teachers from New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom in particular, as the curriculum is very much student-centred/outcomes-based/integrated. Teachers from these countries find it very easy to implement in class and have a higher success rate in teaching and behaviour management.
Q: Has working in a different academic year been difficult?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: It takes a while to adjust to the rhythms of school life in the northern hemisphere school year. Your first Christmas is the hardest. When all your teacher friends in New Zealand are looking forward to a long summer break, you are just finishing term one. After the first year, you get used to things. Job-wise, it may be hard to come back to New Zealand because you will be finishing your contract in June.
Anonymous, Abu Dhabi: Initially yes.
The first year has in fact been 1.5 years. From now on, it will be fine. When I eventually move back to New Zealand, it will be in August so there will be a few months of relief work before the school year begins.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: Yes, especially for the first year where I left my job at home halfway through the year and start another year straight away. I am looking forward to my summer holiday after 18 months of teaching.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: The Malaysian school year is early January to mid-November, so very little difference.
Justine Wedge, Malaysia: Not at all, this is what I am used to. For a first timer, it can be a bit disorientating. But overall, it’s fine!
Lauranne Croot: The international academic year from September to July can work against teachers here. It’s not ideal, as it means you are leaving your New Zealand class part-way through the year. Secondary teachers find this especially difficult. August/September is when the majority of international teaching contracts are available, so New Zealand teachers do need to consider making themselves available part-way through our year to secure the better contracts.
Q: What has your experience of the different cultural aspects been? What is similar or different to New Zealand?
Susan McKenna, Abu Dhabi: For the past two and a half years, I’ve been working in a Government Girls’ High School in Abu Dhabi. In the school, we had local Emirati teachers, Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian teachers, as well as eight American and Canadian English teachers. As the school was in the early stages of a new school reform, there were many changes happening daily. Some of the Arabic teachers were very receptive to change but others were not. There were Science and Maths teachers who totally embraced the professional development on learning student-centred instruction, critical and creative thinking, and other pedagogical changes and are now wonderful teachers delivering lessons to a very high standard. Whereas other Arabic teachers struggled with the change and may never move forward.
Anonymous, Abu Dhabi: It has made me understand some generalisations about other countries and their people. It has taught me to be stronger and fight more for what I want as a person rather than the Kiwi laidback attitude of ‘she’ll be right’ as that isn’t always the case. It has also made me proud to be a Kiwi as New Zealand is a well-respected country. In terms of every day, in Abu Dhabi the expat community is big so you don’t spend any time with locals; in fact, the only time you really speak to them is when they come in as parents or for official things i.e. police, airport etc. Most people who work there are expats from somewhere. There is also a big class system i.e. Emirati at the top; white faces (and yes, I do mean that as white faces as you could be anywhere with a white face and fall into this. This is where South Africans have trouble, as white South Africans fall into this but black and coloured don’t); other middle eastern countries (this varies from country to country and some are definitely above the white faces but not all); then ‘workers’ which include builders, nannies, drivers etc. who mostly come from South East Asia, Pakistan, India etc. The workers are treated very poorly by a lot and this rubs off on children who continue the habit i.e. treating their drivers and nannies like slaves.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: I love it; I try to participate in whatever is happening culturally and I try to make friends with the locals. People are friendly, loving, family-oriented, and very helpful. Daily routine is different. Breakfast at 11am after your first few classes, lunch when you go home after school at 4-5pm, dinner at 10pm, and go to bed at 1am.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: Malaysia is a Muslim country and is also a country of mixed races, with a large ethnic Chinese population. It is rich in this respect. Where I live now (Sarawak on Borneo) also has the added dimension of the indigenous tribes like the Iban and Bidayuh. It’s been great being able to witness the various ethnic festivities, dancing, and food.
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: I love to travel and have had the privilege of travelling to many different places around the world. It’s fun and exciting to be in a new city, learning a new culture, trying new foods, making new friends, and planning more travelling experiences. At the end of the day, I believe New Zealand is stunning, it’s breath-taking, and it’s wonderful to always return back home.
Anonymous, UAE: Living and being immersed into a Muslim society was initially challenging. However, after living here for five years you quickly adapt to the ways of life in the UAE. Being more conservative with dressing has been a big change in my thoughts. You become quite a prude in some ways and when visiting other non-Muslim countries, you feel a sense of freedom to do whatever you like.
Justine Wedge, Malaysia: In Malaysia, there is nothing similar to New Zealand! It’s a very different mindset and a mixture of Asian cultures and foods, etc. If someone wants to experience something different to New Zealand, then Asia is the right place. The UAE, my previous place, is also different. At the end of the day, it’s what you make of it.
Q: Have your financial expectations been met?
Anonymous, Abu Dhabi: Financial expectations have been met. All the benefits exist. However, it is interesting that the teaching profession is not regarded as such. It is considered more of a technical job, unfortunately.
Anonymous, China: Salary is good for someone in my position (Principal/Director). There is a wide variation for teachers in the international schools. I get flights home and a lot of unexpected ‘treats’: trips to places in China, etc.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: More than expected. I got lucky with my contract and with some changes in the school, I got paid more than I expected. Accommodation is top class, brand new, spacious apartments. They gave me a three-bedroom apartment with two lounges, kitchen, separate dining room, laundry, maid’s room, store room, and four bathrooms. But that’s for a married couple with two children. Flights were paid for all members of my family, and they give you cash annually to fly homem but that’s up to you if you want to go home or somewhere else.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: Yes, on the whole. The added bonus is that the cost of living is low compared to New Zealand – one must always factor that in – as savings are higher when you have fewer expenses.
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: My experience with Dubai (which is tax-free) was there was more opportunity to save and to enjoy the luxuries of travelling. I did expect more salary, only because of what others were earning, but they worked outside the teaching profession (e.g. engineering etc).
Lauranne Croot: Salaries are relevant to the cost of living for each country so this needs to be factored in. Many New Zealand teachers have unrealistic salary expectations. They haven’t taken into account the cost of living. For example, the cost of living in China is a lot lower so the salaries are reflective of this. The salaries offered in China might be lower when put into New Zealand dollars, but the outgoings are far less in China and therefore, teachers can save a lot more. For the Middle East and Indonesia, it’s a tax-free salary.
International schools offer the complete package: competitive salaries, return flights (with some providing home flights at the end of each year), accommodation, and general medical coverage.
Q: If you have family members accompanying you, how has the experience affected them?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: My wife and son came with me. They both loved the experience. My son was nine when we arrived. He was just the right age to enjoy travelling the world. If you have children, read the education allowance section of your contract closely. Education costs big time internationally, and not all schools offer an education allowance. This is very important if you have teenage children as the availability of good-quality high schools that you can afford can be a bit hit and miss.
Anonymous, Abu Dhabi: Wife and two young children. All adjusted well. No issues. For my children it has opened up new ideas, thinking etc. in both school and culturally.
Anonymous, China: I have my wife with me. She has a teaching position at the same school. She has made friends with many of the other international staff along with the Chinese teachers. We have quite a large ex-pat community in the area so we have friends away from the school.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: All members of my family love it, in fact we are thinking of staying here for longer than initially planned.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: They love it here. My wife has met other ex-pats. The children go to a nice international school, where they have made friends of various nationalities. It is good for them, even though they miss New Zealand and family.
Anonymous, UAE: My family joined me two years later. They enjoyed the experience but the novelty wore off. They decided that life in New Zealand was where they wanted to be. Three years later, I am still working in the UAE continuing on with my contract. I see my family as much as I can, travelling home or half-way to meet up. Benefits for all.
Q: What advice would you give to New Zealand teachers considering teaching overseas?
Peter Cowie, Qatar: Go through an agency the first time. They know the good schools and which to avoid. I have met teachers over here on very poor contracts who dealt directly with schools.
Be prepared to do things differently. As a New Zealand teacher you will always be in the minority. You will have to fit into the British or American school systems. This will be a shock at the beginning as you realise how unique the New Zealand education system really is. However, once you overcome the initial homesickness, you will adapt and thrive.
The three to six month period of time is the worst for culture shock. Don’t make any major decisions about going home then. Everyone goes through it. Accept it as part of the rites of passage for an international teacher.
The best international school will be on par with an average New Zealand school. This is partly due to the fact most are run for profit and partly to do with the education system. International schools generally have a top-down dictatorial management style, which is very different from the New Zealand way of doing things.
Anonymous, Abu Dhabi: The culture of teaching and administration may be different to what you are used to. What is expected of you may not be what you consider good teaching practice. You can make a difference in the lives of children, just not administration.
Anonymous, China: First, make up your mind that you are really going; second, speak to teachers in positions overseas; third, have a positive outlook to overcome all those little quirks associated with moving abroad; fourth, use an agent; finally, when you get there be flexible – you are in someone else’s culture.
Siosaia Pomana, UAE: Why are you still working for a government who doesn’t think much of you? Get out of there if you want a future for your family. I will only go back to New Zealand if I get a principal’s job, which is the only job that will give similar pay.
Karl Signal, Malaysia: Do your research, use an agency to help, ask lots of questions, look closely at a contract, talk to others who have taught overseas – and if things look good, go for it!
Sharona Jayavant, Dubai: Go for it! It’s a great experience; utilise your teaching qualification and experiences. Make new friends and travel further. My advice would be to do research on the country you are going to or pick a destination where perhaps you have already visited or would always love to live and work there.
Anonymous, UAE: Do research on the country you want to teach in, what type of school you will be teaching in and the curriculum they use, what benefits are included, do a comparison to costs of living, salary etc, what facilities are available for recreational pleasure/accessibility to shops etc.
Justine Wedge, Malaysia: If you are keen on travelling and want a different experience (whether it be culture, weather, food, money, travel), then absolutely I would encourage it. It’s a fantastic way to travel and learn about the world. You meet wonderful people and make great memories. It’s a great way to pay off any loans if that be the case.
Lauranne Croot: Do some research on countries that you are interested in, ask teachers who have taught overseas for their recommendations but more importantly, be flexible on location and monetary expectations and let your consultant advise you. They know the schools, they keep in regular contact with their teachers they have placed, and they can match your skills and experience to teaching positions that are going to be the most suitable for you. Be active in your search for a good position whether that’s through the agency’s website or keeping your consultant up to date with jobs that are of interest.
Teachers interviewed for this article were placed through Teachanywhere. Lauranne Croot is a recruitment agent for Teachanywhere, based in New Zealand.