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Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Education




Tarc, Paul


The exponential growth of international schools worldwide has created a high demand for native English-speaking teachers around the world. São Paulo international schools are not exempt from this increase in demand for these expatriate teachers. As international schools typically offer short-term contracts of two years to expatriate teachers that are often not renewed, international teacher retention becomes a significant factor in improving teaching and learning in international schools. High teacher turnover is even more a concern in South American international schools, where teachers tend to stay at their schools for less time than in international schools in other regions and or in Canadian or U.S. public schools.

This study employed an exploratory instrumental case study to uncover what international school leaders in São Paulo are doing and might do better to improve international teacher retention in their schools. Through purposive and snowball sampling, twelve Anglo-Western teachers from three international schools in São Paulo participated in semi-structured interviews to uncover potential reasons for both remaining at or leaving their international school after their current contract. To bring in the perspective of school leadership on international teacher turnover, the findings from teacher interviews were thematically analyzed, then sent to two school heads to examine prior to semi-structured interviews with the school heads to develop insights on improving international school teacher retention.

Study findings reveal that, while there are structural barriers to school leaders improving teacher retention in São Paulo international schools, authentic cross-cultural leadership practices that focus on all teachers, regardless of background, while building a supportive school community through a common language is an effective and viable method to improve teacher retention. Additionally, the study found that there is a vital need for improved communication between both teachers and administrators as well developing communication and relationships between foreign hire and local hire teachers in cross-cultural organizations.

Summary for Lay Audience

There has been a major increase in the number of international schools that offer an English-language education around the globe that employ native English-speaking teachers. São Paulo has also seen this international school boom. International schools tend to have higher rates of teacher turnover than domestic state-funded schools and South American international schools have even higher turnover rates than international schools in other regions. Through qualitative interviews with international teachers, followed by interviews with school heads, this study investigates the factors that (potentially) heighten teacher turnover in three international schools in São Paulo. This study also examines what school heads can do to improve teacher turnover and what impedes them from improving some of these factors. The findings suggest that there are many factors that impede school leaders from addressing the concerns brought forth by international teachers, such as employment laws and cultural differences between various stakeholders. The findings also recommend that school leaders in international schools can work to improve international teacher retention by improving communication between leaders and teachers, creating a tight-knit supportive community of stakeholders, acting as authentic leaders in cross-cultural contexts, and developing a common language within the school.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.