Breaking Contracts - How & Why to Avoid It

When searching for a teaching job overseas, it's difficult to know who to trust or what to believe. While there are very reputable schools in the international market, there are others that will not hesitate to falsely 

advertise or renege on contractual obligations after you have moved abroad. These types of schools are focused on bringing qualified teachers overseas by any means necessary, which includes false pretenses. Once these teachers arrive, the fairy tale quickly becomes a bad dream as they panic, resign and desperately search for alternative employment. The bad dream then becomes a nightmare as these teachers are faced with a whole new challenge: broken contracts.

A broken contract very simply means that the teacher has left the job before the date that he/she originally committed to. In all contracts, there is a three-month probationary period that allows teachers to either leave or be released from their contracts by their employers. This adjustment period gives both parties the right to walk away if the best possible match has not been made and one or both parties are unhappy. While it is the teacher's legal right to leave within the probationary phase, not all teachers are aware of the consequences. All teachers should be aware of these unknown or hidden ramifications, which includes: 

  • Limited options. If a teacher leaves or is released from a contract within the first three months, it will be difficult to find a new position when the academic year has already started. While there will still be some jobs available, they may not be in your preferred location or may not match your salary expectations. If you are flexible and eager to get out of your present situation and into a better one, you may still find that your application is rejected for the following reason:
  • The broken contract. Even if you leave within the probationary period to protect yourself, your contract is still considered broken. It becomes a game of 'he said/she said' that is too complicated and time consuming for new prospective employers  to unravel. While you may feel you were treated very poorly, new schools that you submit your application to may wonder if your former employers were actually the victims. Unfortunately, there are teachers who will unjustly leave their contracts and place their employers in the very difficult situation of having classrooms without teachers. New schools will wonder if you are a repeat offender and you may leave your next contract in the probationary phase. So, even though you may have been caught in a very bad situation, your decision to leave may influence your future job prospects.

So, how can you avoid making this mistake? The answer is to be knowledgeable, resourceful and unbiased. There are three proactive ways to find yourself an honest, supportive international school environment:

1) Research thoroughly. When considering the move abroad, make sure that you are comfortable with the distance, culture and customs of the country you are relocating to. Ask the questions that matter most to you during the interview - now is the time to speak with your employers directly. They are investing their time and money into bringing you abroad, so a good school is likely to be very honest when answering your questions or concerns to ensure they are the right fit for you so you will fulfill your contract. Remember to visit your school's website online and learn about their ethos and objectives prior to the interview.

2) Remain unbiased. When reading school reviews online, remember that not all of them are factual. While it is quick to judge based off of negative reviews, make sure you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was the review submitted anonymously?
  • Is the review older than 2 years?
  • Does the review sound credible?

While we like to believe that people will be honest and truthful when posting online, this is not always the case. There are people who will feel slighted and will post anonymous, damning reviews online because it is a public, untraceable forum. Without a name, it is impossible to know if the accusations or comments made are truthful because we do not know the whole story. Schools interview, on-board and hire hundreds of teachers, so chances are a few of them will not be satisfied. These unsatisfied teachers may post online in the heat of the moment because they feel there are no consequences. If the comment is made about the administration or teaching environment, then it's important to remember that a post made two years ago may not reflect the current administrative or teaching team. It's best to keep yourself unbiased when reading comments online so that you are able to look for patterns and discern whether or not the reviews sound credible.

3) Use a trusted source. Applying to an agency is better assurance that you will be matched with the type of school you are looking for. Many agencies do not charge their candidates any fees and are instead paid by their partner schools for the successful placement of teachers. Therefore, it is in an agency's best interest to keep their partner schools happy by matching them with teachers that present the perfect fit for the jobs available. Furthermore, agencies do not want to affiliate themselves with schools that do not fulfill their contractual obligations - it's just bad for business. Agencies partner themselves with schools that they trust to ensure teachers are happy and promote the agency they worked with positively. It's also a good idea to stick with an agency that stays with you from start to finish; this ensures that if you encounter any hiccups along the way, your consultant is there to help you.

When you apply for a job abroad, go into the application process wisely. You need to conduct your research and ask your burning questions in advance so that you are prepared to make a decision that will affect not only the next year or two of your life, but your career. It's also important to be open-minded and patient. What we envision in our minds rarely reflects reality. There will be unexpected surprises or obstacles along the way; you will be homesick and you will experience culture shock. What you feel in your first month abroad will be different than how you feel in your fourth month. The school may not be perfect, but no school is. It's unwise to make a knee jerk decision and break a contract when you are still adjusting to these news changes in your life. It's best to take a deep breath and keep moving forward. You will be challenged and ultimately you will be a better teacher for it. If, after completing the first year or two of your contract, you decide that you want to be somewhere different, then you can do so knowing that you were successful and proudly take this experience with you on your next adventure.


As an International Education Consultant with Edvectus, I connect newly qualified and experienced teachers with international private schools primarily located in the Middle East and the Far East. I am equally invested in and dedicated to my teacher candidates and our partner schools to ensure that the needs and interests of both parties are met.

If you are interested in learning more about Edvectus or beginning your international job search for the upcoming academic year, please register with us: 


- by Stefanie Donly, Edvectus Consultant 

Leave a comment