I'm sorry to have been out of touch recently, but January is always a crazy month with teacher recruitment. It's a time of travelling, hotels, recruitment fairs, and living out of a suitcase. It's one of the most important things I do as a school head (putting the best teachers in front of your children), but I'm always a little bit relieved when January is over. I have done four fairs so far, three in Bangkok (which is a major recruiting hub) and one in London. The two smaller fairs I managed alone, the large ones I teamed up with Steve.
On the international scene, China is the major growth area with so many new international schools starting up, all with big tuition fees and big salary packages. It's a competitive market. The Middle East is still growing, albeit more slowly now. Currently, there are more than 300 international schools in the city of Dubai alone.
European schools are becoming more popular than they were. When I was a head in Germany, I became accustomed to seeing short queues at my table, because candidates were worried about the high taxes and living costs there. Now, this seems to have changed, and my conversations with candidates suggest that this is being driven by concerns over air pollution, which are moving candidates away from places like China and India.
This has been a good recruiting year for us so far, both locally and internationally. Indian schools are relatively new to the international recruiting scene, but becoming more involved. At the London fair last week, there were seven Indian schools represented (OIS, DAIS, ASB, Ecole Mondiale, Stonehill, American Embassy School of Delhi and British School of Delhi), and I can say with confidence that we were the most sought-after. I asked one candidate if she was interviewing with any other Indian schools and she said "No, yours is the only one I've heard of".
This is very important. We need to continually raise the profile of OIS internationally (as well as locally). Candidates are attracted by our special status within IB Asia Pacific, the importance we place on professional development, our holistic approach to teaching and learning, and our reputation as a happy place to work. When I asked one candidate why she was interested in OIS, she smiled shyly and said "I've seen the happy video."
When I make an offer of employment at a fair, I immediately put the candidate in touch with an existing OIS teacher so they can ask all those questions they'd be uncomfortable asking at interview. Where possible, I put them in contact with someone who's leaving, because then they can be sure that they're being told the truth. I'm told that this level of transparency is very unusual, which is OK by me - we're not like other schools!
We have hired 13 new expats so far this year (We still have two fairs in San Francisco, which Steve will be attending). And it's a varied group we've hired, with four Americans, four from the UK, two from South Africa, one dual passport (Zimbabwe/France), one from Spain, and one Australian. Among them is the daughter of a fellow Head of School I knew in Vietnam and later in Europe, and the niece of a couple I hired in Germany. The international school world seems to be a small one sometimes.
Locally, recruiting good teachers is getting easier every year for a number of reasons:
1. There are more IB schools in India, so there are more candidates with IB experience.
2. Our reputation is very strong within India - more candidates want to work here, and more want to get OIS on their cv. This means I get to interview more of the really good local candidates.
3. The status of the teaching profession seems to be changing in India. Teaching has become a first-choice profession for many.
4. International schools in India are more connected, through organizations like TAISI and SAIBSA, so international teachers in India have more opportunity to talk to teachers from other schools (and when they talk to OIS teachers, they want to work here). On a number of occasions I have asked "Why OIS?" and the response has been "I know someone who works here".
5. More local teachers visit OIS for IB training, SAIBSA workshops and other professional development events. So we get more IB teachers on our campus thinking "This is a cool place - is there anyone I can talk to about working here?
I always talk about expat and local recruiting separately, but there is some (increasing) overlap. Our local teachers are now good enough to compete with expats at international recruitment fairs.
Of course my main goal is to increase the quality of our teaching faculty every year because, as I never tire of saying, the quality of a school is measured by the quality of its teachers. I think we're making good progress, by providing guidance and training to the teachers we've got, and bringing in new, top-quality educators to join them. Thank you for reading. I would be interested in hearing any of your comments.
Neil A McWilliam
Head of School - OGC Campus