Reflecting on Natalie Obiko Pearson’s “Elite International Schools Have a Racism Problem.”

Do you track faculty diversity at your member schools?

Do you track pay discrepancy between white faculty and faculty of color, or expat hires vs. local hires?

Would you consider requiring your member schools to ban the use of photographs on faculty resumes and drop the native English speaker requirement?


Natalie Obiko Pearson, investigative reporter and Vancouver Bureau Chief at Bloomberg L.P., asked these pressing questions to multiple organizations in preparation for her article, “Elite International Schools Have a Racism Problem.” Published in March 2022, it circulated quickly within the International School ecosystem. Ms. Pearson graciously joined our April Community Visioning for about 90 minutes, answering questions directly from our AIELOC community.

Ms. Pearson based the article on her experience as an international school alumnus. Throughout her investigation, she conducted “Interviews with dozens of teachers, administrators, and recruiters.” She heard them “reveal hiring tactics unheard of in almost any other industry. International schools overtly prize White skin and calibrate salaries accordingly.” She shared her insights in receiving “the most baffling response” from well-known associations and education departments that “couldn’t even be bothered to respond.” Hearing her state the names of the organizations and institutions that continue to perpetuate systemic racism in the ecosystem was a relief to many in the audience.

Because of her personal connection to the story, Ms. Pearson took the time to listen and interview numerous members of our AIELOC community. The documentation of our experiences combined with her data analyses and inspection of the international school environment affirmed many of our lived experiences. She suggested, “I feel like another whole story could be done on the [insert international curriculum organization here] itself and how it’s managed to establish itself as the most elite curriculum in this sector and continues to evade these really difficult issues by saying, ‘we’re not prescriptive. We give a framework, and it’s up to the schools to decide.’”

AIELOC will continue to amplify the work of international educators and leaders of color. The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) is devoted to amplifying the work of international educators and leaders of color with a focus on advocacy, learning, and research.

AIELOC and Teachers in Countries Where We are Guests

International education prides itself on being cross-cultural, linguistically versatile, and a
bridge between nations. Unfortunately, the voices of ethnically and culturally diverse
educators are often ignored or silenced (Gozali, Claassen Thrush, Soto-Peña, Whang,
& Luschei, 2017). They are often denied the opportunity to interview for positions and
speak or publish in the international school community.

In some contexts, teachers in countries where we are guests are:

  • Denied opportunities to interview for teaching positions
  • Denied access to equitable professional learning
  • Not invited to be part of the decisionmaking process
  • Treated as (personal) assistants
  • Told their education is not adequate enough for teaching in an international

AIELOC has listened. Now is the time for all of us to act and ensure you are seen,
heard, valued, and affirmed. After all, for those of us who are guests in our respective
host countries, we must remember that (local) teachers are not only a valuable asset
but also knowledgeable of the culture and customs.

We Pledge To:

Be students of our host cultures and actively work toward understanding and engaging
our local communities.

To bring this pledge to life during 2022, we will:

  • Invite teachers from countries where we are guests to lead learning, open up
    dialogue, and join current AIELOC groups
  • Mentor teachers and seek pathways for them to access teaching and leadership
  • Offer free AIELOC membership to 100 teachers from countries where we are
    guests during 2022
  • Survey teachers to find out about their experiences, needs, and how we can
  • Work with all in order to address prejudice, racism, and discrimination.