Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you answer?

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blinky
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Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you answer?

Post by blinky »

Looking around on Search Associates and TIE online, I've noticed something: salaries and benefits in this industry are going WAY down. Everywhere. Fast. Economists, Is it because the pool of applicants is rising? Or, is it because the number of schools is increasing?

I read somewhere that the number of international schools worldwide will double in the next 12 years. Now, I'm not an Economist, but I thought that the supply and demand would be on a teacher's side, because the pool of teachers would shrink relative to the demand of schools.

But, now I am thinking - because there are more schools, does this mean the opposite? The larger supply of schools increase competition among them; as a result, they have to lower tuition fees and provide a more comprehensive service. Now, this inevitably effects teachers who have to work harder for less money, as a lower profit margin will certainly come out of salaries and, as any teacher knows, we don't get overtime pay for working a 70 hour week. Schools can do this as long as they have x amount of qualified, marketable staff who will carry the lower paid, unqualified staff on the marketing, PR and accreditation fronts. For example, you see many more schools that employ P. E. teachers from the Philippines and Math teachers from India working for half the salaries they should be. Now, most of these folks are fine teachers, but are they posted on the website of the American or British school they work in? No. Who is? The Western certified teachers who the marketers flaunt - especially to the Asian/new money markets.

Which is true? Is this career turning the way of other mass produced services and goods where we are just the parts? Are we the service in demand, or simply another speaker in the ever cheaper cell phone? What will this be in twenty years, when the market is squeezed further and technology takes a bigger market share? Is this really a wise career choice? Salaries have actually gone down in the last 15 years. On Search, there is a school in Bahrain advertising for a certified Native English speaker to teach math. The pay? 12,000 USD a year. This is not even minimum wage in Georgia.

I'm not greedy or in this for the money, but we all have to think about retirement one day and need to save for that.

Any thoughts? Anybody else notice this trend?

nathan61
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by nathan61 »

Great post. You mention something that worries a lot of teachers. I'd say this is just part of a larger trend of middle class people losing ground. The same problems exist in the USA. Costs of healthcare, housing, and university are skyrocketing, but salaries are not even keeping up with inflation. Europe has the same problems, plus no jobs. People are increasingly willing to leave their home country, and globalization is only going to increase this trend. The golden days are over and it is more and more competitive for teachers. School heads have told me as much.

I have been overseas for nearly 10 years and have done well financially. I would not have been able to come close back in the USA. International teaching may not be as good as it used to be, but at a decent school it is still a great gig. Ride it out as long as you are enjoying the lifestyle. There are some great places to live in the USA too, but as a teacher you will be poor and never able to own a home.

helloiswill
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by helloiswill »

@Nathan61

Mostly agree with your post despite some forgivable hyperbole at the end.

@Blinky

I suspect there will be more "lower end" IT jobs as the number of schools, and consequently, the number of positions available increases. However, the core of solid relatively well-paying gigs should remain. The rich will always have kids and want to pay top-dollar or be seen paying top dollar for education.

senator
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by senator »

Salaries and benefits at many schools have been dropping. This has taken the form of lower retirement or no retirement allowance, lower housing allowance, lower quality of health insurance or only offering local insurance (or offering insurance not valid in some countries, like the U.S or Canada), and , well, lower everything.

I believe that the reason is that the internet has opened up the world of IE to so many teachers. Read some of the posts from people who want to teach overseas, so many with zero experience, zero certifications,etc:

"I am a just graduated teacher with a trailing boyfriend who wants to surf while working part-time selling his homemade, crocheted Mahalo bracelets. We have a dog, a big friendly golden retriever named Passion who we simply must bring with us. Oh, yes, and I am 6 months pregnant. Do you think I can get a job?"

The answer is, unfortunately, yes. So many schools only want to fill their positions with warm bodies - and know that they can do it - that they feel free to offer, basically, sh_t.

So, schools offer sh_t, get "teachers" who can't teach, and make a profit. So more people see this and they start schools that offer sh_t, and so on and so on. And in a lot of countries, workers don't have a lot of options if the school says: Sorry, no paychecks this month. Maybe not next month, either. If you want to leave we'll just find another guy named Bodi to teach science (Bodi, after all, did minor in biology at the junior college he attended).

This is why I left IE and returned to the U.S. I admit that I have been thinking about returning overseas, but ONLY because money is no longer an issue and I can do the lifestyle gig - though I have a lot of experience and teach IB math.

In a few years, only top notch schools will offer packages that will allow a comfortable lifestyle. But there will still be many horrible international schools and people willing to work for them...and peanuts.

Now let's see how many people with trailing surfers and golden retrievers reply.

Thames Pirate
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by Thames Pirate »

Well, for those of us who were never in it for the money, things haven't changed drastically. I went into it because I wanted to work in a truly international environment with TCKs and because I wanted to live in certain locations. If I could make a comfortable middle class salary, that was enough. I want to be personally and professionally fulfilled, and money doesn't do that for me. That does make me picky in my choice of schools--based on location and being truly international, etc. For those of us in that boat, I would say things haven't changed much.

It always surprised me how many people were in it simply for the pay. Don't get me wrong--decent pay is important to support the lifestyle I want. But people who say they cannot live in WE simply because they can't save 15-30K a year and have a maid, etc. are a mystery to me, though they are pretty well-represented on this board. For those people, I think the field is changing.

Just my perspective.

senator
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by senator »

Sorry, Pollyanna Pirate:

Money IS unfortunately extremely important. I hope you don't have to find that out the hard way. For example, you having to eat dog food in "retirement" while your school heads all are living like Kings and Queens.

Just talk to someone who has the misfortune to get sick and racks up crazy medical bills that their school's shitty health insurance won't cover or will only reimburse AFTER a stack of paperwork and months of waiting. If it should happen to you, you'll soon be singing a different tune.

People like you like to set themselves up as so very moral and so very "above it all", so much better than the rest of us. You do it because you like teaching TCK's?! You mean sons and daughters of Fortune 500 businessmen and billionaire criminals who can send their kids to private school? These kids have ZERO knowledge or experience with any culture except the culture of affluence.
Grow up.

You can be a great and passionate teacher AND be smart and responsible enough to make money. So stop preaching foolish and irresponsible advice to others who may actually be naive or inexperienced enough to believe your silliness.

You proved my argument. Namely that horrible and low paying schools survive and thrive because of people like you who are pawns for the system, willing to be used and abused for people who become wealthy on your sweat - and foolishness.

So tell your surfer boyfriend that if he gets his leg bitten off by a shark, he can't go to a hospital because you teach for the love of it, not the money.

global_nomad
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by global_nomad »

senator wrote:

>
> Money IS unfortunately extremely important. I hope you don't have to find
> that out the hard way. For example, you having to eat dog food in
> "retirement" while your school heads all are living like Kings
> and Queens.
>
> Just talk to someone who has the misfortune to get sick and racks up crazy
> medical bills that their school's shitty health insurance won't cover or
> will only reimburse AFTER a stack of paperwork and months of waiting. If it
> should happen to you, you'll soon be singing a different tune.
>
>
> You can be a great and passionate teacher AND be smart and responsible
> enough to make money. So stop preaching foolish and irresponsible advice to
> others who may actually be naive or inexperienced enough to believe your
> silliness.

I agree with Senator. I'm not sure why having financial goals so that one can be prepared for an emergency and have a good retirement someday would be a "mystery" to anyone. Sounds pretty responsible to me. I know no one will be in a position to support me in my retirement. And I don't want to "live on the dole" as my dear grandmother used to say. Perhaps Thames has a trust fund waiting for her- good on her of she does but most people don't, unfortunately.

What's a "mystery" to me is when certain teachers criticize other teachers for even thinking about money, wanting to have a good lifestyle, and save money. And let's be clear, even at the very top paying international schools, you will never be rich as compared to other professions.

But to get back to the original theme of this thread, I have noticed that many of the Tier 1 schools of 10 years ago, have cut benefits and/or cut way down on raises. It seems that many school boards think that international teachers "make too much money" and cut back. And there has been an influx of garbage schools with poor packages- but they still get desperate teachers whose only goal is a "nice lifestyle."

blinky
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by blinky »

@Thamespirate

Most of us have to fund our retirements and pay for/back our education. I'm not solely interested money either - obviously - as a teacher. But if you can't make enough to fund your old age years, you are setting yourself up for extreme poverty later on in life. The job becomes insolvent.

To say that you don't care about money is because of one of these things:

1.) You come from money or have married into money
2.) You have a spouse who supports you
3.) You plan on dying at 60
4.) You are denying reality
5.) You expect your state pension to take care of you in old age (see number 4).


Honestly, I am asking people with Econ backgrounds who have knowledge of this subject. Go volunteer in third world countries if you want to act holier than thou.

ronaldtheclown81
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by ronaldtheclown81 »

These are my observations as a teacher at a low-paying for-profit in Southeast Asia.

The only goal of the school is to make profit, and education is secondary at all times.

White, western faces look good and are the ideal. If the school can get these at a low price, great. If the school has a few to some teachers like this, then parents are less likely to notice as the school hires people without teaching licenses, and more eastern Europeans, middle easterners, and south Americans. People who are happy with an American minimum wage 18-22k per year type of salary. I'm cheap labor, and I'm treated as such.

Can it be a career? If you can get into a better school. But many people can't, and they still stay international. Most good teachers, or teachers who think they are good, either get into a good school or return home. However, in many ways you can live more comfortably and save more making 22k in Southeast Asia than you can on a normal 50-60k teacher's salary in the US, and this is why for some it stays a career, even if they can't get into better school. And one so far unstated advantage for Americans, is that with an income based student loan repayment plan, and the fact that your entire income is untaxed because of the foreign earned income exclusion, you don't have to make student loan payments or ever pay your student loans back as long as you stay overseas.

Retirement wise, the perspective is somewhat different. If you've been in Southeast Asia, then you're probably comfortable retiring with 300-500k, instead of the 1-2 million that many financial resources say you need to retire comfortably. If you work from 45-65 and put away 10k a year during that time, which is still possible even making only 22k a year in SE Asia, then you can retire comfortably in this part of the world if not richly.

Thames Pirate
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by Thames Pirate »

I think you misunderstand me. Money is certainly important; I don't teach for free (well, I volunteer, but that is different). As I said, I DO care about being able to afford the lifestyle I want, and as someone who rides horses and likes to travel, I will not settle for a garbage wage. I also understand needing to support a family and do not advocate irresponsibility. But that wasn't what the OP was asking.

So often on here people refer to packages that are FAR above local wages--3x or more--as barely liveable. People talk about packages. This isn't a moral question and doesn't put me above anyone. Quite the opposite. I don't feel entitled to a housekeeper or to live far above what most locals do (most people are lucky if they can do a major trip in a LIFETIME, not every school holiday). Even here in WE we make 20-25% more than the average local salary, have top notch healthcare and a decent pension (which we can collect from abroad or get paid out). If this were about holier-than-thou saviour complex, I would hardly be the board's WE advocate working in a school full of rich kids. I am not telling people to take the Bahrain 12K job and would probably advise against it for most people.

The entitlement mentality--that one should be able to save 15-30K/year while still traveling internationally every break, having a housekeeper, etc.--is the mystery to me. I mean, if you can get it, great! And I fully agree that while HOSs should make more (they DO have more work and more responsibility), they should not be living like kings while teachers are barely surviving. I have never worked at a garbage school for a garbage wage, so I don't consider myself a pawn. I know my value. I just don't understand the entitlement. You DO see it on this board--all the folks who say you can't live in WE on these salaries, even though the locals do so on far less, many international teachers do so, and many even do it with families, etc. simply because they feel entitled to that flight home, that large central flat, and that huge cash bonus. If saying that lifestyle and choice of school is a priority for me over straight cash (even though we are saving and planning for retirement) makes me a Pollyanna, then I can accept that label, but I am finding it simple enough to live the life I want AND save. My financial planner husband and I will be fine, and if he wants to learn to surf, that's his call.

You complain about TCK, but I think you miss a few key points. 1) I enjoy teaching entitled kids because they present a different kind of challenge--helping them understand their affluence. That is fun to me, but hey, that's me. 2) I enjoy teaching TCK because they aren't all entitled, but they do bring a lot of neat experiences and worldviews into classrooms, and 3) I enjoy teaching TCK because I was one. They are my people. It isn't about being moral or above anyone, but about understanding them. It's important to ME, not some shining beacon of what everyone should do.

I am not preaching anything, nor am I advocating people actually TAKE the jobs with the crap wage. Everyone must still make the choice that works for them. I am simply answering the original question with the opinion that at the top end of the industry--the established and truly international schools--not much has changed. At the bottom, things have changed and the many schools offering the low pay described in the OP bring down the average and paint a different picture of IE than what people envisioned or used to consider the norm. You asked for an opinion on if and why things are changing, and you got it.

blinky
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by blinky »

@Thames Pirate:

I was asking for an informed opinion on our industry from someone who is well educated in Economics. I qualified my question by stating that money is not the only issue for me, but important for old age safety. You responded with that. Surprise! Your husband is a financial planner! You have the luxury of not worrying about money. Congratulations.

Your responses to my question directed at Economics and Business people: "Well, for those of us who were never in it for the money, things haven't changed..." "...and It always surprised me how many people were in it simply for the pay."

Did I really misunderstand you? Really? People who hijack these threads with useless responses ruin this site.

nathan61
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by nathan61 »

@blinky

This forum is not that big, and telling people to buzz off your thread because you assume they are not "economics or business people" if seriously obnoxious. You have no idea what any of our qualifications are, and you are not going get people to present their CV before responding to your thread.

I have to agree with Thames Pirate on people feeling entitled in international teaching. There are good jobs out there, and if you can land one that is great, but if you can't it doesn't mean you deserve that big paycheck and are somehow being taken advantage of.

There are plenty of really good, well paying schools out there where you can still save a ton of money. The number of international schools is growing rapidly, but most of these new schools are catering to host country nationals, and are not as desirable. As more people go into international teaching the competition for jobs at the top schools increases. The career is not dead by any means, but that great job is no longer easy to land. If you only want to work at a top school you need to do an honest self-assessment of your abilities and qualifications and see if you stack up to the competition.

blinky
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by blinky »

@ Nathan:

Just more time wasting. I was asking a specific Economics question directed at business educated people, and the thread was hijacked with irrelevance. This is the equivalent of somebody on here asking a science question, and then a creationist jumping on board to offer their beliefs and denounce evolution, instead of answering the question with accepted EVIDENCE, REASON and LOGIC.

How is this an obnoxious request? I don't get it. I am asking for useful information from educated people on this subject (which I acknowledge I don't know), and I have every right to do so. I accept that Economic theory is more insightful than my own bias and certainly has more predictive power and credibility. This is obnoxious? You and TP, on the other hand, instead of using Economic theories to tackle the question, want to conflate the topic with a diatribe on entitled teachers. Who is being obnoxious and thick here?

Again, answer the question with evidence and theory or go away, or hopefully wait for someone who knows what the hell they are talking about, so we can all learn together. Isn't this what Education is all about? Is it strange to ask a group of university educated people to use their training to answer a question? Are you really a teacher? I do not see the arrogance of asking for informed advice. Do I admit there are useless, entitled teachers who expect too much? Yes! But I recognize that this is another topic. And I genuinely want to know what an Economist thinks. I admit I don't know how to answer my question!

Do you not get the difference?

nathan61
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by nathan61 »

Wow, relax! I have a business education, and no economists do not have a crystal ball, and in both my posts I described the current market changes that affect IT.

blinky
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Re: Is this really a career anymore? Economists, can you ans

Post by blinky »

Great. You have a Business education! I humbly ask you this question then: do you know any Economist/Economic theory I can study to better understand my question? I was hoping for something more than than anecdotal evidence. Do you have an idea/framework? Yes? No? I don't want a pissing contest here. I really just want have a better grasp of this industry.

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