Updated: Oct 1, 2020
With its low tax rates, diverse international community and buzzing social scene, Hong Kong has long been an attractive option for professionals looking to expand their global horizons. Sure, ‘The 852’ has seen its fair share of challenges recently, but unlike some destinations, finding your feet here is relatively straightforward – language barriers aren’t much of an issue, transport is efficient, safe and affordable, and people are well used to forging new friendships.
For experienced teachers, there are plenty of opportunities, although the city’s popularity means the job market is pretty competitive. You can’t simply roll out of university and land a place at a top international school. As well as having enough relevant experience, you need to demonstrate you’ve got what it takes to handle the pressures and challenges of international teaching and that it’s worth the school’s while investing in you – global relocations don’t exactly come cheap.
How much is ‘enough’ experience? Meishana Bargh, Top Schools’ senior search consultant, recommends getting at least three years under your belt as head classroom teacher before even contemplating a move to Hong Kong. “Working abroad is harder than working in your home country,” she explains. “Hong Kong has students from all over the world, so you need to be confident in your ability to teach children from a range of different backgrounds and cultures. You also need to be able to communicate confidently with parents, who can get very involved in their children’s education.”
Howard Tuckett, founding headmaster of Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong, says confidence is the first thing he notices when interviewing candidates. “If a teacher is pleasantly confident and values their own worth without being arrogant, it’s a sign that the interview will be worthwhile,” he comments. “I also look for resilience. When putting together the team for Wycombe Abbey, I purposely went for relatively young staff with a high ability to adapt as things change. I had a very clear idea of what I was looking for.”
A well-written, clearly presented CV, Howard adds, is also key – without that, you’re unlikely to even get a foot in the door. Your training has to be relevant too. If you’re applying for a role at a British school, for example, you need to have studied in a country that follows a similar approach, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and so on. It also helps if you’ve worked with various different age levels, particularly when applying for primary school positions. And if you’ve already got international experience, that’s even better, particularly if you’ve worked elsewhere in Asia. The ability to adapt to different circumstances and cultures is a big plus.
One of the most telling things about candidates, according to Meishana, is how long they’ve worked at each of their previous schools – two years here and two years there doesn’t make you an attractive prospect. “Job hopping doesn’t look good on the resume. Yes, it can be tempting to move on so that you can earn more, but it shouldn’t just be about the money. Passion for teaching – that’s number one. That, and commitment. That’s what we loo
How does Meishana select candidates? Some approach Top Schools directly, while others are proactively sourced through channels such as LinkedIn. This personalised approach allows applicants to be filtered up front and reduces the admin load for schools, saving them precious time. A more streamlined process than traditional recruitment fairs, it’s also more comprehensive; as a boutique agency, Top Schools offers a full service, including thorough reference and background checking – when it comes to education and child safety, corners simply can’t be cut.
What benefits do teachers gain from working in Hong Kong? First up, there’s the salary, which can be as much as double that of your home country. Then there’s the low tax rate, which averages out at around 15%, and benefits such as relocation allowance, housing allowance, one-way air fares for you and your family, private medical cover and gratuities at the end of your contract.
Less tangible but equally, if not more, important are the benefits that come from living and working in a different cultural environment. “Working abroad really enriches your experience as a teacher,” says Howard. “It’s another chapter in your career, and the more variety you encounter, the more capable you become. Our jobs enrich our lives. I would encourage any teacher to investigate an international experience, although I would caution them to do their homework. Investigate the school properly, and work through a reliable agency. Don’t go in sight unseen. It sounds blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times people come unstuck.”
It’s an important point and serves as good reminder not to rush any relocation decision. Every school is different, and you need to find the right match for you professionally. You also need to select the right country for your personal situation. What’s right for one teacher and their immediate family isn’t necessarily right for the next.
The good news is there are plenty of options out there. “The education market in Southeast Asia is rapidly growing,” says Meishana. “The last few years have seen lots of new schools open in Hong Kong. Obviously the market is a bit slower right now due to Covid 19, but that’s a global issue. In actual fact, teachers have had more flexibility to chat during the day while schools have been closed, so when things start up again, they’re going to move fast. If you’re not in the game, another candidate will just fill the role.”
To find out more about current job opportunities in Hong Kong, visit the Top Schools website or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org