What to expect from teaching in South East Asia

A brief history of English-medium international schools

When English-medium international schools were first established, they were designed to meet the needs of expatriate communities employed by embassies and multinational companies. Employers enabled families to move together across the world and maintain the level of teaching that was provided in their home countries such as Britain or the USA.

Today, English medium schools are very different to their earlier counterparts. They serve new demographics, have different entry policies, curricula, resources and facilities. No longer are they serving only the needs of a niche group of expatriates but a global marketplace of students and families.

In the year 2000, approximately 2,500 English-medium schools were totalling $5 billion in revenue per year. In 2019 there are more than 9,600 schools. The sector is a global business in its own right and continues to expand into new markets. Tuition fees now total $48 billion per annum.

Globalisation helped schools expand their markets in the noughties with companies investing heavily in regions and expatriates moving into new regions. However, with families in developing countries keen to provide the best opportunities for their children, the demand is now driven by locals. As the local populations’ wealth increases, they opt to send their children to boarding schools in the West or they pay tuition fees for English medium schools in their country.

“The dynamics of English-medium schools have changed and continue to change. Their popularity is growing amongst local populations due to their reputations for excellent standards.”


Why is now a good time to teach in South East Asia?

South-East Asia incorporates Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Phillippines Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Many of these countries have developing economies and in the last decade have seen significant rises in the number of local pupils from affluent families attending English-medium schools. In previous years, Vietnam, South Korea and Malaysia had government restrictions on local citizens attending international schools.

In Malaysia, it was almost impossible for them to attend until 2007. Across South East Asia, governments have lifted restrictions allowing international schools to enrol more local children. This has caused an increase in demand for more schools.

In 2013 there were 875 English-medium schools and by 2018 there were 1,167. Pupil numbers have naturally increased during that time too, from 323,903 to 453,600.

A report from ISC Research found:
  1. There will be more international schools requiring teachers
  2. There will be more students, therefore more classes.
  3. There are recruitment and retention challenges within the UK and fewer people are choosing it as a career.
  4. There is a high number of teachers leaving the profession.

All of these factors are increasing the demand for UK teachers in South East Asia and around the world.

Why teachers choose to teach abroad
South East Asia is a great place to work

South-East Asia has a mix of developed and developing economies which makes it a fantastic place to live. Singapore, for example, is one of the richest nations in the world. The country’s infrastructure, forward-thinking clean air policies and schools are world-leading. Schools here came out on top for Reading, Maths and Science in the latest PISA rankings.

Living in many countries in South East Asia offers the benefit of excellent amenities, including large malls, restaurants, community spaces and excellent commuter links.

Like in Europe, when you’re based in South East Asia you’re just a short hop to another country. You can get a cheap flight from Singapore and be in Thailand in 2 hours for as little as £25. Your Instagram will be full of wonderful photos of all the amazing places in this region.

You’ll teach a familiar curriculum

English-medium schools teach a range of curricula in South East Asia. However, the UK syllabus is the most popular, followed by the national curriculum, BI, OEM and the US curriculum, making up the top five.

The UK curriculum has seen a 16% increase in popularity between 2013 and 2018, whilst the US curriculum has grown by 23%. The most popular examinations are IGCSE, which is taught by 29% of schools, followed by Checkpoint and IB Diploma.

Large parts of the syllabus are made up of topics which UK teachers will already have knowledge of and will be able to adapt to.

You’re not alone

In a foreign country, you will feel at home. Even though there has been an increase in the number of local pupils, expatriate families remain in the region and often make up the majority of the student population. The staff room will be a familiar place too. Across the region, staff nationalities are:

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