Showing posts with label Tefl Jobs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tefl Jobs. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

EFL Teaching: Stigma and Perception

A certain stigma surrounds the entire TEFL industry and those who become English language teachers. This less than pristine reputation exists for a number of reasons.


The main reason is the ease with which any native speaker can become a teacher and gain employment in numerous countries overseas. The great demand results in extremely low standards.

Quality of Teachers

This is directly related to the first point. Because the standards are so low for gaining admittance to the TEFL fraternity, many charlatans, frauds, layabouts and other riff-raff from the west enter the profession for the ease of lifestyle and possibilities for travel it provides.

There are few regulations that govern the industry in most countries and educational requirements for potential teachers are marginal. In some locations, a high school graduate can gain employment with few difficulties.


I like to use the construction industry analogy here. Years ago, after graduating from university, I worked at numerous different menial jobs before doing anything relevant to the degree I had completed. I worked for a number of years on building sites and discovered a simple truism that allows many unscrupulous bastards to prosper in countless different fields.

The greater the level of special knowledge required for the task in question compared to the relative ignorance of that same subject on the part of the recipient/customer, the easier it is to pull a scam.

Significant errors in the construction of houses are glossed over because the builders know the ability of the customer to detect such screw-ups is limited. This applies in other areas such as plumbing, car repairs and yes, even teaching English as a foreign language.

While knowledge of the English language is hardly equivalent to the technical expertise required in the other trades mentioned, the fact that most students are clueless as to what is right or wrong or whether the teacher in questions is an expert, allows many who lack the basic knowledge to continue teaching. The whole art/science of teaching is nebulous enough in its own right that this factor gets further exaggerated.

And the inability to gauge competence is further compounded by cultural confusion. Mannerisms, speech patterns and physical characteristics that expose drunks, wackos or other high risk individuals are hard to spot by those from different countries.

The TEFL Industry is a Racket

Yes, this is a huge generalization but it applies to a large segment of school owners and others profiting from the business of language teaching. They are in it simply for the money and don't give a damn about the quality of education being delivered. Many teachers and students who have been through the system recognize this and pass on the information to countless others and the reputation of all involved is further tarnished.


Regardless of how well a teacher was treated or how professional the school owners were, some people just get a kick out of maligning and belittling the whole profession. Of course, a negative opinion may be genuinely and strongly held. Just as some will rate hip hop music as a nuanced art form created by geniuses while others see it as tripe produced by thugs. Some class a filet mignon as a prime cut of meat cooked to perfection and some consider it a rotting piece of flesh heated up by an oaf in a white hat.

Negative views of the TEFL industry may prevail due to the fact that unprofessional circumstances and colleagues abound. And some of those feelings are probably because of self-doubt on the part of the individuals making the claims and as a way for them to explain away the fact that they never quite got their heads around any effective teaching methodology.

This psychology can best be explained by the famous Groucho Marx quote:

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. "

People Who Will Never be EFL Teachers

Many people will never be EFL teachers, just as they will never be many other things. Their view of others who head overseas to teach in foreign countries is instructed by many of the previous points discussed. Everyone likes having certain paths in life that can be labeled and dismissed as it validates their own choices to a certain degree.

I'm not saying all those who have never taught English abroad hold a negative view of it. However, I have heard enough stories of those returning home and having trouble with potential employers giving little credibility to their experience to know that it's not considered the best career move by many people.

And that isn't a totally unfair assessment. Pulling up roots and heading off to teach half way around the world is a thought that never enters most people's minds. But the negatives act as a deterrence for at least some who might have pondered the possibility.

And that's not a bad thing as it keeps the numbers relatively small and the demand high for those who turn it into a life-long profession.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

TEFL/TESL Training Courses

A 4-8 week TEFL course is the only training that many English language teachers receive before accepting their first job overseas. What do such courses offer? Are they necessary? What other options exist for those who recognize the need for some preparation but have limited time and/or money?

My Experience

I did one of these six week TEFL courses before I started teaching in Thailand. Looking back, the real information that I absorbed could have been picked up in three weeks of serious self-study on the internet and at the local library. However, this is an easy claim to make after the fact. Would I have known what to look for? Probably not.

Regardless, the basic things you will be taught include:

A brief history of language teaching and the methods and approaches that have come and gone in the past.

A focus on the “communicative approach” that is used almost universally in language teaching at the moment.

A simple but effective classroom methodology known as the “3 Ps” (present, practice, produce), sometimes labeled differently depending on the course provider.

How and when to implement pair activities, group activities and various classroom games.

The basics of classroom management.

How to make a lesson plan

You will prepare your own lesson plans, teach to an actual class of learners and be observed by one of the course instructors. Essentially, that is what you will get for your 1000 dollars. But is it worth it?

The Cynical View

In recent years more than a few people have discovered how lucrative the TEFL certificate racket is. 30 individuals rammed into a room, each of whom has paid approximately one thousand dollars for the privilege of hearing someone expound on how to play simplistic English language games with children. Every six weeks usher in a new herd of dupes.

Why do so many people feel it is necessary to take a teacher training course?

Fear is the biggest reason. Never having stood at the front of a classroom before, most of these neophytes believe that this six-week induction will set them on the way to being successful teachers.

Those offering the training play on this fear incessantly, flooding discussion boards with tales of the importance of such instruction. They hint at the dire consequences that will result if you dare to take on a teaching job without having first been anointed by one of their gurus.

This is an ideal business for anyone with a shred of ambition and potentially few scruples. It is completely unregulated, there is little overhead and there is a constant flow of eager western refugees ready to shell out the money. Best of all for those who offer instruction is the fact that such a certificate does apparently hold weight with many who are in a position to hire in the TEFL world.

Undoubtedly, many people swear by the fact that their money was well spent and the information they gained has helped them become the teachers they are today.

My guess is that they want to feel validated in their decision. Teaching is an acquired skill/art/science…whatever you want to call it. Those who do it for a long period of time necessarily rightly want to feel a sense of self-worth and pride.

But there is an attempt by many to attach greater significance than necessary to the skills needed to succeed. In doing so they increase their own sense of importance. Those offering these courses play up this myth of hard to define skills simply because they want your money.

Once you begin listening to the supposed wisdom, it often feels like the ostensible goal is to help prospective teachers learn how to eat up huge wads of classroom time and in the process hopefully instill their students with improved language skills. And the same general principle applies in the TEFL course itself…by demonstrating such activities much of the instruction time is pissed away.

A Positive Take on TEFL Training Courses

Most people recognize the limitations that are inherent in such classes. Four weeks is nothing more than an introduction that gives a person a glimpse of the major areas that they will need to learn more about if they are serious about teaching for the long term. But it is still a valuable primer presented to you by those who (hopefully) have many years of experience in the field. They can answer your questions and distill the vast amount of preparation a teacher needs into the bare minimum required to get started.

It also allows those with limited time the opportunity to instantly get their feet wet. It would be great if everyone who decided to be an EFL teacher made their decision years in advance and meticulously prepared for their first job. It rarely works that way. Many people get involved due to circumstance: lost jobs, vacations to a foreign country that convinced them to move there, long distance romances, and numerous other reasons. Signing up for TEFL training requires little advance planning or early registration.

Another positive aspect is the bringing together of like-minded people in the same situation. The support group mentality that develops amongst classmates shouldn't be undervalued. Many friends and family members may criticize or outright oppose your plans. The people you get to know throughout the duration of your instruction can provide a great deal of positive reinforcement. Also, the connections you make could provide you with valuable information regarding the country you are heading to or give you a lead on various jobs.

An additional important fact when considering enrollment is that many schools do see TEFL certificates a positive sign and it may be the deciding factor when there are a number of candidates for a job opening. Will the lack of a certificate disqualify you from being hired? Not necessarily, but in certain markets inexperience and the absence of a certificate will definitely make you less marketable as a teacher.

The teaching practice that is provided by most course providers (if the one you are looking at doesn't offer this, give it a miss) is probably the most valuable thing you will gain.

If you have planned well in advance, an alternative to this would be to contact organizations in your area that offer free or inexpensive ESL lessons to recently arrived immigrants and volunteer to do some teaching. Together with some intensive self-study, you could probably gain as much or more as any course offers. Of course, you wouldn't have a certificate to show to prospective employers.


These observations are based on the TEFL training that I completed as well as countless first person accounts from friends and colleagues. But not all courses are created equal. Do as much research as possible on both the training centre and the individual who will be teaching you. If possible, contact better business bureaus, government funded school watchdog organizations and former students.

I recommend that people looking to teach overseas sign up for some kind of training beforehand. The fee for most courses is running at about one to two thousand dollars. For the length of time involved, that really isn't too expensive.

However, after you have finished your studies and have secured your first job, you will quickly realize how much you still have to learn.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tefl Jobs: New Opportunities Listed Daily

I've added a TEFL jobs feed to the sidebar of this blog. This new feature is a good resource for current teachers thinking of making a change and also for those considering their first position overseas.

The five most recent jobs are displayed and updated regularly. Click on any of the links and a new tab or window will open that provides more details on each opening. Clicking on the main header, "Top EFL Teaching Jobs" should ideally take you to the raw feed with the latest 100 jobs. This works perfectly in Firefox but for whatever reason does not display correctly in Internet Explorer. Just one more reason to switch to Firefox.

Do Your Homework

Of course, I cannot endorse any of these jobs or vouch for their legitimacy. It's up to you to do the due diligence required as most people would regarding potential jobs in any industry. However, let me offer some advice regarding the whole TEFL job search process.

The old maxim about 80% of jobs never being advertised also applies within the TEFL industry. And the best positions are usually within that vast majority. The motivated individuals are the ones who do the research and find out which schools have the best reputations and offer the best salaries and benefits. When a rare opening comes up, the human resource department will have a stack of recent resumes and others on file. Or, just as likely, word of mouth will be enough to help put together a list of suitable candidates.

That doesn't mean very good jobs aren't advertised online or in other traditional places such as the want ads of local newspapers. Many reasonable opportunities crop up there as well and sometimes you do find a real gem. Also, the sub-culture in certain schools requires that all positions be advertised as widely as possible and some of those will be exceptional places to work. The question is, how do you know which jobs are worth applying for?

Google is Your Best Friend

Google did you meanThis is where research comes in. Do as much online digging as possible. Try to start with the official website of the institution (if in fact they have one.) While inevitably biased, there is information there that can assist you. If there is a staff page, make note of how long each teacher has been working there. The longer the better, of course.

Also, if there are accompanying e-mail addresses, fire off a few messages requesting information directly from those who have first hand experience. Most people aren't going to respond unless they have something good to say. On the other hand, you might find someone on the verge of leaving who is willing to be blunt or otherwise offer up a few insinuations to help you make a decision.

Do other searches as well. Input various combinations of the school name and different key words. This may dredge up discussion forum criticism or other vital information. And go directly to all the well known TEFL forums and search within their databases. Be aware, however, that more and more online discussion boards are censoring critiques of schools for fear of legal repercussions.

Just as importantly, compare the information you have acquired regarding individual schools against what you have learned about the standards of the particular country or region. Does an individual school offer wages far above or below the norm? Both could be warning signs.

Stated remuneration that seems "too good to be true" is a tough one to call. It simply may be the most prestigious school in the area offering a premium salary.

Beware the Recruiters

There are many legitimate recruiters who will help you to find a good position and then offer you support throughout the duration of your contract. They decent ones eliminate the need for dealing with backwards or difficult management at the school when it comes to issues such as contract renewal and timely payment of wages.

But remember that there are many dodgy recruiters who don't have your best interests in mind.

One thing to always consider regarding recruiters is that they are ultimately middle men who are taking a cut of your salary for providing their service. Some schools deal exclusively with these agents while others will hire directly as well. Almost always, a direct hire will earn more.

Try to discover what school a recruiter is representing before you start the application process. And then, approach the school directly. You may simply be redirected back to the recruiter but you may also be able to hammer out a deal with the school on your own terms.

Consider the Source

This hardly needs to be stated but I'll make the requisite warning about online information anyway. When you run across some harsh criticism of individual schools, keep in mind that the person who made the post may simply hold a grudge for whatever reason. However, multiple warnings and rants against the same place probably indicates a pattern.

Similarly, apparent danger signs might have a perfectly logical explanation. Lack of details in a job posting (for example, nothing about salary) is often a good reason to look elsewhere. On the other hand, many good universities don't discuss pay until the hiring process has begun. They may have been in existence for decades and stubbornly hold onto different practices just because that's the way they've always done it.

No matter how well-prepared you are, there is always some risk involved when accepting employment. However, a thorough and detailed investigation beforehand increases your chances of finding a rewarding and enjoyable position.

Good luck on your job search!

Edit: I recently took down the jobs feed (January 20th, 2011).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tefl Jobs: Top 10 Locations in the World for Teaching English

What does someone heading out into the world to teach in a foreign country consider before leaving? How do they decide upon their first (and for many, their only) port of call?

There are a number of different factors. Many of them will depend on the type of person you are and what kind of experience you are seeking. But I believe there are a few considerations that are important to every English teacher looking for work abroad.

  • Potential salary: relative to the local economy and how much you can save.
  • Availability of jobs.
  • Living conditions: is accommodation included and if not, what is available and how much are rents as a percentage of your salary?
  • Bureaucracy and red tape: how many hoops are you expected to jump through before setting foot in a classroom?
  • Education system and employer professionalism
  • Free-time considerations.
  • Fellow teachers and expat community.
  • Safety and well-being: newbies spend too much time thinking about possible hassles and danger for most locations but still worth including.
I've looked at a number of countries and using the above criteria, have assigned a maximum of 10 points for each and come up with a top 10 list for best locations to teach English world-wide.

This is mainly for newcomers to the world of TEFL. Obviously, a 15 year veteran with a Masters degree and a university job in Japan will have different considerations than a greenhorn.

I have not worked in most of these locations. My opinions are based on anecdotal accounts from friends and colleagues I have worked with and regular information from a wide variety of discussion boards and other online sources.

1. South Korea
South Korea in 2008 is what Japan was to English teaching in the 1980's. Plenty of well paid jobs, accommodation provided by employers, opportunity to save a bundle and local night-life and restaurants to keep you busy. OK, the analogy isn't perfect but when all the categories are tallied up, the land of kimchi weighs in with a solid score of 62 out of 80. Tales of dodgy employers and recent hassles over background checks brought the score down slightly.

2. China
Such a big place that any tale you could spin about working conditions, housing or relations with employers would be true somewhere in the country. Overall, there are so many positive teaching stories coming out of the world's most populous and economically surging nation, that it had to come in at number two. The size makes it hard to arrive at an acceptable number for many of the criteria but at the same time serves as a positive. For example, free-time considerations. If it's boring and conservative in one place there are a thousand better locations in the same country. 60 points.

3. Japan
Not the place it used to be in terms of potential for savings and availability of jobs but still a location that most teachers rave about for total experience. In comparison to most Asian countries, the red tape here isn't as involved or likely to leave you shaking your head due to its sheer idiocy. Salaries over the past 10 years seem to be stagnant at best or even declining in real terms and together with the high cost of living, the financial cushion necessary for some in those early "getting set up" months may be a bit off-putting. Still a great choice for many. 59 points.

4. Mexico
This might strike some people as an odd pick for fourth in the world. However, I base the ranking on a few different aspects. Climate, relative ease of travel to and from the country (especially for Canadians and Americans) and a fairly welcoming and lively culture. Oh, and the jobs and wages seem to be improving with time as well. There are a pretty good range of varying experiences available, from the big city job postings to the more rural and "authentic" opportunities many are looking for. 53 points.

5. Taiwan
Decent wages and relative ease in getting sorted out regarding visas are offset somewhat by fewer options for spending free time. Smaller and less intimidating for some newbies, the lack of distractions may in fact be a bonus for those who want to get their head around the teaching game before moving on to greener pastures. 50 points.

6. United Arab Emirates
The Middle East isn't for everyone but when all factors are weighed, the UAE is probably one of the more moderate locations while still providing very good salaries and possibilities for doing activities in your free time. Another plus is that work for females isn't as restricted as in some other parts of the region. But it is harder to break into than Asian countries and the best employers will normally require you to hold a Master's degree. 48 points.

7. Thailand
Many would rank Thailand higher, especially for novices who want to get that first teaching job under their belts. Some teachers are literally hired right off the streets here with no prior experience and that is also appealing to first-timers. Because of my intimate familiarity with this country I can't place it any higher in the list, however. Stagnant wages in 80% of the industry, unscrupulous employers, increasing paper-work hassles and the fact that arranged accommodation is almost non-existent here all bring down the total. On the up side, good infrastructure compared to the general region, great travel options, fantastic cuisine and numerous choices for spending your time and money make Thailand a logical choice for many. 45 points.

8. Vietnam
Quite a few teachers who have worked in both Thailand and Vietnam rate the latter as better in many categories. I'm guessing that that opinion may have a lot to do with simply being part of something that fewer have discovered. Still, wages can be higher and there are fewer foreigners, which appeals to some people. 42 points.

9. Saudi Arabia
Reputations often die hard, especially in the TEFL game. Long known as the country with the highest salaries for TEFLers anywhere in the world, the title may still hold but with fewer job options and less wage discrepancy compared to some other locations. A wave of terrorist attacks in the early oughties sent many people packing and with them at least some of the underground partying scene that served as an antidote for the hardships of life in the most conservative country in the Middle East. Word is that things have started to pick up again on that front (partying, not terrorist attacks.) A rare few opportunities in SA for women. For those teachers who do head there, some can't handle the restrictions on public entertainment, gender segregation and the strong contrast to western countries. For others it seems to have a calming effect and they stay for years on end. An MA is still almost essential for the best jobs. 38 points.

10. Czech Republic
The lone European country I have included on the list. The main reason there are no other entries is that most EU nations specifically want those already allowed by law to be employed there. In western European countries, this seems to be a fairly strict requirement. However, it appears as though there is at least some leeway in the Czech Republic for non-Europeans to teach English. The number of jobs is only moderate though and there are certainly few tales of teachers making big money. My bias here is that I spent a considerable amount of time there many years ago and it is simply an incredible location full of history, hospitality and great beer. 32 points.

And those are the top 10 countries in the world for teaching English.

As you can see, there are a disproportionate number of Asian countries. This is in line with the stated aim of the list, which is to give those first entering the English teaching industry an idea of the best places to begin their careers. With all factors considered, I believe that Asia still offers some of the most favourable conditions for those starting out.

There are of course gems in every country where TEFLing has some kind of foothold. And many may strongly disagree with a lot of what I have written here. Please feel free to add to or criticize anything already mentioned.

Above all, good luck in your job search and may your choice result in a positive and rewarding experience.