International Schools in China and teacher turnover: The need for a more nuanced approach towards precarity reflecting agency

Tristan Bunnell, Adam Poole

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The under-theorised arena of ‘English-speaking International Schooling’ continues to grow and morph. The continuous growth seems paradoxical in light of the well-established view that the arena is an insecure and precarious working environment characterised by short-term contracts and subsequent high rates of annual turnover per school. We investigate this paradoxical situation in Asia Pacific, where a newer and large body of ‘Non-Traditional’ models are beginning to appear. Here we ask: ‘what coping strategies do teachers adopt to survive, and even thrive on, the precarity as experienced by the short term contract?’. Our study of three teachers in the under-researched arena of ‘Chinese Internationalised Schools’ in Mainland China reveals and explores how they plan their transitions both within and from school-to-school strategically, taking advantage of insecurity and precarity rather than merely being the victims of it. We develop a new concept of ‘transition capital’, which encompasses a newer, more nuanced approach, imagining the social reality of being a teacher as being a mixture of both an isolated ‘global educational precariat’ and a member of a privileged ‘global middle class’, with much agency. Turnover offers an accumulation of resilience through experiences, which in turn are empowering and advantageous in the long-run.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Education
Publication statusAcceptance date - 9 Jun 2021

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