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How to teach ESL for an international school?


Why International Schools?

There are many benefits to working for an international school. ESL or EAL (English as an Additional Language) teachers are usually paid well for a Monday – Friday job with regular hours. Pay is monthly and you are paid over the school holidays, national days and commonly over the summer too. Most also offer generous contract completion bonuses. Many international schools are part of a wider network, with sister schools in other areas or other countries, so becoming part of the network could be a gateway to future jobs in different places. As international schools charge high tuition fees chances are they offer much better facilities and teaching resources than what you’re used to at your regular school or language centre. If teaching abroad is a long-term career for you, then international schools offer security, job progression and better financial prospects. So how do we get into this (rather exclusive) circle?

Stand Out

High fee-paying schools have high fee-paying parents who will expect teaching quality and experience. Some international schools may not consider you at all without being fully certified (see below)…however many will take on ESL teachers who tick certain boxes. If your only teaching qualification is a TEFL or CELTA consider taking extra certifications (such as Teaching Young Learners) or plunging into a DELTA, Masters in TESOL or similar post-graduate level courses. If the fees or time involved for these routes is not possible for you then take on any extra training you can that your employer provides, try free online courses such as on Futurelearn, and keep a list of everything you have done to add to your CV.

Help yourself stand out too in your work experience. There are usually projects ticking away in the background at schools or language centres that you could help with such as creating lesson plans, writing tests or making resources. Speak to your managers and offer your time to take on something extra – it’s all fantastic experience for you and a boost to your CV. If any roles come up in your current employment that involve taking on extra responsibilities then go for it. Experience of managing other teachers or academic content is especially impressive.

International schools offer after school clubs or extra educational activities to their learners, therefore the recruitment team will be on the lookout for staff that have skills they can bring to these clubs. Could you teach musical instruments, or French, or basketball, or have lifeguarding certificates that mean you could help out in the pool? Make sure you include these skills on your CV and mention them in interviews.


Learn Their Language

International schools are usually aligned with the curriculums and educational values of a particular country (most commonly British, American or Australian schooling). Whichever type your target school is… make sure you read up on the relevant curriculum and especially the assessments they use. As an ESL teacher, your job will be supporting students who struggle with their English, to help them access the wider school curriculum. Familiarize yourself in particular with the phonics teaching scheme they use (for Primary) and their literacy assessments (eg. GCSE in English) – these should all be on their websites. What support could you provide to learners for these particular challenges? How would you prepare them for it? 

Get a Contact

International schools are notoriously hard to break into and tend to employ teachers from personal recommendation or who already work within their network. Try to get to know a teacher, TA, secretary or (best of all) HR manager from your target school, who would then recognize your name and be happy to recommend you should an opportunity come up. The best way to do this is to…


All schools need extra pairs of hands, especially at certain times of year. Contact your target school and offer your time and skills. As an ESL teacher, you could volunteer to read with younger children who are struggling with their English (offering this a term before they have their assessments) or to teach extra phonics. Perhaps you can pitch in at summer or Christmas fairs, help to invigilate exams, or even offer to be a supply teacher when staff are off sick. If you are already very busy in your days then offer to teach an after school club or even help with marking assessments. It’s all a great way for you and the school to get to know each other and for them to appreciate your talents and hard work.

Consider Becoming Certified

Finally, if you are serious about working in international schools, consider becoming a fully certified teacher. This may involve returning to your home country to complete your PGCE (UK), become licensed in your own State (USA), get a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Australia) etc. Becoming a fully qualified teacher will enable you to apply for all teaching jobs in the international school network. It’s an investment in time and money but worth it if this is the career for you.


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