Education Quandary: Should I emigrate and work at an international school abroad? Or will I end up in an educational backwater?

Hilary's advice

Mmm, let's see...It's February, it's dreary and damp, and The Times Educational Supplement is full of advertisements for teaching jobs in the Middle East and the Caribbean.... What's not to like about a job that swaps sun and sea for commuting to and fro in winter traffic jams? If you are genuinely up for it, and prepared to accept that one of the fundamental laws of moving abroad is that coming back is often harder than leaving, then why not? I've worked on four continents and know that these years abroad have given me a rich knowledge of the world that I couldn't have got any other way.

However this comes at a price. By going abroad you may well be stepping off your career ladder and have to work hard to restore this when you get back. So think strategically. In terms of your CV, a job in a high-profile international school is likely to be a safer bet than a stint in a village school in the African Rift Valley.

And while one year in the sun could be forgiven as just an adult gap year, a longer spell away might make it harder for employers to take you seriously.

On the other hand, you could end up landing the perfect job just because you have had a particular kind of experience abroad. It's always going to be a gamble, and only you know whether you want to take it.

Readers' advice

If you want to go abroad for sun and relaxation, wouldn't a holiday be better? Running away from things will not work either. You might be able to get away from our "health and safety culture", but you will run into other frustrations, such as third-world bureaucracy or harsh cultural differences.

Caroline Paine, London, E17

I have done three spells of teaching abroad, in the Middle and Far East, and in Poland. The experiences have been mixed – one great job and two that were quite demanding, but I have never regretted any of them. They taught me about all sorts of things, including myself, and I have many fantastic memories. When you work abroad, you have to think on your feet and rely on your own resources and those qualities will help you whatever you do in life later on.

Howard Cooke, Berkshire

Fourteen years ago, I also wanted to get away and went to teach English in Istanbul but the school was going broke, a lot of the teachers stopped turning up soon after I got there, and my classes were chaotic.

I loved the city, but my life was stressful and lonely and I came home two months before my one-year contract was up. It also took me a year to land a permanent job again. You want adventure, but you could get more of it than you bargained for.

Shelly Doncaster, London, SW16

Next Week's Quandary

I keep wondering about who should be allowed to run our schools. The Government doesn't seem to be doing a very good job, but local education authorities aren't much better, and not all the public-private Academies are doing well. Should charities and parent groups take over, as the Tories seem to be suggesting?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at They can be searched by topic.

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