Covid-19: Changes in International Education

We have all witnessed the vast changes that the Coronavirus global pandemic has had across all aspects our lives. In the international education sector the impact is likely to shape the future of international education as we know it.

We’ve observed changes that we expect are likely to stick around post pandemic. While each point could be a blog post in and of itself ( subscribe to our international teaching blog to get the latest!) they serve to cover the general observations from those in the International education sector: drawing on insights from our team, teachers, leaders and recruiters. Of course, things continue to change almost daily so please take them as considerations rather than set in stone. Curious about the ways the international teaching sector has been impacted by Covid-19? Read on…

International teacher recruitment moves online

helloquence-5fNmWej4tAA-unsplashAs lockdown continues around the world, the “new normal” is starting to emerge.  Many schools are anxious about having recruitment on hold and eager to get back to recruitment, this has prompted shift to online recruitment. For us at Teacherhorizons all our recruitment is and has always been done online. We can feel confident that, while we are under the same uncertainty as others under this pandemic, we can offer a smooth process and transition for teachers.  Our Director of Operations, Emily says it best: “Teacherhorizons is and always has been an online community. This means that we are experts in offering recruitment opportunities for teachers and schools online rather than relying on face to face events and interviews. Our team are specialists in offering advice and guidance on how to find and secure the best teaching job for you!”

As teachers move over to online recruitment, schools and other recruiters will be moving online, too.  Interviews online are likely to be more prominent. Rowan Bell, Senior HR Director from Wellington College China via Cobis stated: “We’ve seen a downturn in numbers of applications but have still been able to move forward with interviews and offers”.  Joining Teacherhorizons processes, St George’s British International School in Rome is also shifting over to the internet as a way to meet candidates as Eva Lamorgese at Cobis, wrote about.  Video conferences in the stages of recruitment is perhaps the new normal. At Teacherhorizons we are working to support our candidates in preparing for video interviews and have a wealth of information on the process including how to write a great CV for your next international teaching job. 

While the pandemic  has naturally caused a dip in candidate numbers, schools are coming up with ways to continue with as little impact as possible. As Cobis stated “ many schools are likely to promote staff retention or hire more local staff.” this notion was also echoed in a recent chat amongst head teachers on the Association for the advancement of International education . However, not all international schools will go this route. For many, it’s a case of seeing how things unfold.

International Education as we know it is changing.

Online teaching is here to stay

annie-spratt-4-4WPFLVhAY-unsplashPerhaps the most obvious change we have all witnessed is the move to online teaching. As schools start to shift back to face-to-face and reopen their buildings, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this doesn’t mean online teaching will become obsolete. Quite the contrary, some schools anticipate that it will be become a mainstay: “Teachers should anticipate teaching part of the school year online. This would include the expectation of having a portion of the classes synchronous.” according to International School Dakar.

Our Director of Operations, Emily stated: “I  have heard from some schools that have created their own online platforms to support online teaching and learning during COVID-19. They decide to create their own platforms instead of using ones that already exist, e.g. Zoom, as they are planning to continue to teach online and offer long-distance learning courses to students all over the world post-COVID. These schools were predicting a large decrease in student numbers due to the pandemic so this offers them another arm of income to support their teachers and keep the school open and operating.”

On a bigger picture level, the use of online work and learning is likely to be a mainstay across many sectors, international education included.  In a recent article touching on distance learning by Fast Company they said: “it is hard to say what our world will be like once we are allowed to go back to our offices and schools, but I very much doubt everything will return to the way it was before the pandemic. Distance learning, done right, has advantages that are hard to deny. This leads me to believe that both companies and schools will land somewhere in between where we were before the pandemic and what we are living with while sheltering in place.”

Are we facing an international education reform?

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to highlight what needs fixing and amending. Many of us are thinking about how we wish to navigate moving forward. School heads and leaders are thinking about the trajectory of international education, begging the question “what can our intended future be?”  One of our advisors, Jo, beautifully summarises this thinking: “I think school communities will take a serious look at the current western education model and reconsider what we teach, how we teach it and where we teach it, and, most importantly, why we teach it. The closures will have given educators and families a chance to reflect on what is important and this might lead to some well-overdue reforms in education. People don’t seem to want it to ‘go back to normal’, but to use this opportunity to really evaluate school systems and structures.”

Changes to school structures and systems

More experiential learning to be used

simon-ray-7h4ladPzhn0-unsplashExperiential learning has become more common play since the pandemic. The value of it perhaps increased while parents start to navigate and find creative ways to engage their children in learning activities. There has been a wealth of advice on how to help students learn in a non-traditional schooling environment, for example UNICEF created a helpful list.  The value of experiential learning is now more widely witnessed and schools are discussing how to make this more commonplace once schools start up. Part of experiential learning is the student at the center of learning process and discussions on how to create an environment of self-sufficient learners, even amongst younger years is being discussed. This was a topic of focus on a recent discussion on the Association of the Advancement of International Education. The AAIE have enabled their videos of Head of School Conversations on Covid related topics, available for free.

Administration and Access

While schools may start to reopen it’s not likely that the entire school year will return to business as normal. Teachers will have to take on a higher level of flexibility and responsibility. They may have to teach more classes than before, the calendar might change including their days and hours and the academic year dates and holidays may well see some changes, too. School reopening means thorough considerations in health and safety. Cleaning companies, temperature checks etc…what will this mean in the future? How long will social distancing happen? How will schools adapt to a distance style learning environment? These questions are mostly unanswered at this time but continue to be discussed amongst school leaders.

The pandemic has also highlighted key differences in access to learning. Some teachers are planning to do summer schools for those that haven’t had the same access. Some teachers are taking extra courses in special needs education. Stay tuned for a blog post covering Special Needs Education and Covid-19.

Changes to teacher movement around the world

This one is a little harder to predict or monitor. Teachers are still applying for jobs. Many are wanting to continue on and go ahead with their relocation or back to their host country as soon as they can. It appears that schools are not in shortage of teachers, despite a dip in candidates across recruitment platforms and schools. Some teachers might choose to stay home but some are using this time to plan their next steps.  A ‘life is too short attitude’  has fuelled movement for those looking for the next adventure. A candidate recently told one of our advisors that while they were actually planning on returning back to their home country, US, but since the pandemic they actually decided to extend their contract in China for another two years, instead.

Quarantining teachers on arrival back to school

The subject of quarantining for international teachers must be addressed on a case by case basis. Some schools will require that teachers quarantine upon returning to the country but it will depend on the government policies of each particular country and as this changes all the time we are unable to provide an exhaustive list. ISD said that “Staff who are outside of Senegal may be quarantined upon returning to Dakar based on the Senegalese government regulations.” same follows suit for many other countries and their international schools.

Professional Development

In a recent video conference for  head teachers and leaders of international schools around the world, there was a lot of mention of schools requiring that their teachers focus their PD on online teaching. For some schools this is a mandatory requirement, and some are expected to undergo it in the summer holidays before schools start to reopen. International School Dakar in Senegal stated the following: “Teachers will be required to participate in professional development activities during the summer related to online teaching. The specific activities will be determined by the teacher in conversation with their supervisor.  The school will cover the cost of the professional development.
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We will keep building on these observations. Stay tuned for future blogs that can delve deeper into these points, as there is a lot to be said and shared!

If you wish to share your point of views with us, please reach out at editor@teacherhorizons.com

Looking to be part of the exciting changes in the future of International education, sign up to teacherhorizons today- your next job is waiting for you.

Written by Alexandra Plummer

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