Understanding why Western expatriate teachers choose to work in non-traditional international schools in Vietnam

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The growth of international schools, particularly non-traditional schools, driven by demand from host-nation families for an English-medium international education, has resulted in increasing numbers of Western English-speaking expatriates teaching abroad. Although several typologies of international school teachers have been developed, international school teachers in general, and expatriates in particular, remain under-represented in the literature. This paper explores teachers’ reasons for choosing to work in non-traditional international schools in Vietnam through a thematic analysis of interviews with expatriate teachers. The analysis shows that the teachers’ reasons for teaching internationally are complex, and often exceed the limitations of typologies that seek to categorise teachers. Travel, change, adventure and employment opportunities all featured in these teachers’ accounts, while an ideological commitment to international education did not. The analysis also found that some teachers became ‘accidental travellers’, taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities to work internationally, while for others the decision was strategic and based on career-advancement. The paper argues for a more complex understanding of who international school teachers are and why they choose to work internationally, suggesting that fixed typologies are limited and pointing to further work that needs to be done to understand the experiences of expatriate teachers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-647
Number of pages15
JournalTeachers and teaching: theory and practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • expatriate teachers
  • Expatriates
  • international school teachers
  • international schools

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