And then I realized adventure was the best way to learn – Anonymous
When I started my teaching career in India, teaching in a different country was one of my goals. I had just completed around six months of my teaching career and I wanted to accelerate and diversify my career graph by taking this leap.
In my opinion if one is planning to work in the K-12 segment, then one should have the nerves to be adventurous. Teaching overseas for a period of minimum two years can really open a plethora of opportunities both abroad and in the home market also, as it is a clear indicator to potential employers that you have developed excellent cross-cultural communication and adaptation skills and you are cross – culturally sensitive.
Before analysing the advantages and challenges of teaching abroad, let me present my viewpoint on the demand of Indian teachers abroad and the prerequisites to teach abroad in some of the most prominent destinations of the world.
India has become one of the most fertile zones as supplier of trained school teachers to developed countries. In fact GEMS Education, the company that I worked for in Dubai which is the largest operator of K-12 schools in the world, conducts teacher recruitment drive in major cities of India at least twice a year to cater to its Indian curriculum schools in U.A.E. This is just one example and there are many agencies hiring Indian teachers for South East Asia, Australia and U.S.A.
The global labour market has witnessed a fundamental transformation. Earlier the demand was for Indian software engineers, doctors and business managers but after the dotcom bubble burst we are witnessing openings for grey collar overseas job opportunities like teachers, nurses and chefs.
This can be attributed to the tilting of axis from supply-determined migration to one that is now determined by demand. This means that we have moved from being a job-seeking economy to one that is being driven by demand in developed nations for services and migrant workers from developing countries.
Hence we see a relaxation of rules in acquiring Permanent residency for countries like Canada, Australia and obtaining a company sponsored work visa in U.A.E is not so challenging. Naturally there is a mushrooming growth of educational institutes and schools in developed countries represented by a huge influx of migrant population which helped companies like GEMS Education to majorly flourish in the Gulf.
In America, the teacher shortage has become acute due to a number of factors, like retirement of many baby boomer teachers and the higher standards of teaching expected from teachers under the federal legislation known as No Child Left Behind Act.
The greatest demand is for math, special education and science teachers. This has resulted in a pandemonium to recruit teachers from developing nations to fill the growing number of vacancies in public or charter schools in U.S.A. Apart from India, the Philippines and the Caribbean, both of which have large English-speaking populations, are major recruitment centres.
According to a paper published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the world requires to recruit 25.8 million teachers to provide every child with a primary education by 2030 or be prepared that 33 countries won’t have enough teachers to provide every child with a primary education.
Therefore, irrespective of the economic turmoil, the education sector will require the best and the brightest of the brains and India with its surplus working age population is considered as the potential haven for overseas recruitment.
Qualification required to teach abroad depends on the curriculum that one wants to teach. For example, to teach in an Indian curriculum school like C.B.S.E or I.C.S.E board, a Bachelor’s in Education degree would suffice. Gulf and South – East Asian countries have a lot of Indian curriculum schools catering to the Indian diaspora.
However, if one wants to teach in an international curriculum school a professional qualification is required. The most sought after qualification happens to be PGCE (Postgraduate certificate in education) offered by U.K universities. PGCE is the teaching qualification that 80% British overseas schools look forward to, including teacher recruitment agencies that conduct job fairs in major cities of the world.
This course is offered by Keele University every year in Bangkok and by Nottingham University in Bangkok, which happens to be the nearest Indian centre to pursue this course as no branch of UK University in India offers this course.
Schools in USA have different requirements state-wise; therefore a British or an Indian qualification will not suffice unless if someone gets a teaching job offer in U.S.A and then the American school will have to register for an M.Ed in U.S.A which is a very long process.
For an American qualification, Framingham State University conducts summer programme in Bangkok and the course which is offered is M.Ed International teaching and M.Ed TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
However the courses mentioned above are expensive but it’s worth a one-time self-investment on education. The best international schools, offering the most competitive expatriate packages, prefer candidates having at least two years of domestic teaching experience along with PGCE.
Some of the leading recruiting agencies for international teachers are Search Associates, Carney and Sandoe associates for U.S schools, TIE online, Teacher Placement Group (TPG which places Indian teachers in state schools of U.S.A) etc.
Another common route to teach abroad is to teach English as a foreign language (EFL). This is mostly preferred by graduates fresh out of college without any professional teaching experience. Although it’s possible to find EFL teaching jobs without any experience or qualifications, the majority of language schools require a university degree in any subject and a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certificate.
There are lots of online TEFL certification courses but the most official happens to be CELTA (Certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages) which is a 120 hour training course offered by British Council .
Apart from the recruiting agencies one can keep checking for vacancies on the school website and directly apply and wait for the outcome. I feel networking matters a lot and who knows a LinkedIn contact could be a prospective employer.
Also companies like GEMS Education conduct their recruitment drive every year in India as well as U.K to hire teachers for their Indian as well as international curriculum schools. Well crafted curriculum-vitae, cover letter and one’s philosophy of education would give the necessary edge in the interview screening process.
School heads witness a huge volume of candidates during recruitment drives and job fairs conducted by agencies. Hence it is necessary to have a professional resume laced with action words to list out one’s accomplishments and impact under each position rather than just mentioning duties performed.
For example a statement like ‘Tutored an eighth grade student in algebra, using teacher’s curriculum to raise his grade from a C to B+ over the course of a year’ would add more weight to your resume as compared to ‘Tutored an eighth grade student in algebra’.
Overseas teaching is one of the most cost-effective ways to live and travel abroad as apart from salary most schools offer accommodation. Most of the best deals can be found in Asia where cost of living is relatively low. International schools offer 3,000 USD to 5,000 USD per month along with accommodation depending on experience and qualification. South East Asian countries, South Korea and China attract teachers by offering flights and accommodation among other perks.
For even better salaries one can consider countries in the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Doha and Saudi Arabia as these are tax-free countries. Perks not only include joining airfare and visa procurement charges for employee as well as dependents but also annual airfare for family, freight allowance, medical insurance, free or subsidized tuition for kids and accommodation.
Right now Kazakhstan is another sought after destination to teach. With salary equivalent to 4000USD – 5000USD along with annual airfare twice a year , medical insurance ,accommodation along with coverage of utility bill and internet does make it worth working in that country.
Indian curriculum teachers should expect less. For example in Singapore, teachers teaching in Indian curriculum schools earn between 1,500 SGD – 2,000 SGD with no accommodation and company visa as most of the teachers happen to be housewives of Indian expats.
In U.A.E teachers recruited from India can expect a salary range of 4000 AED to 6000AED along with accommodation, work visa for self only and joining airfare. Again the salary and perks depends on the company policies and varies with different schools.
However, an interesting point to note would be that even if an Indian teacher works in an International curriculum school in Gulf, their salary is not equivalent to their European or American counterpart even if they hold the same or better qualification and teaches the same class or holds the same designation.
They are paid as per Indian curriculum schools, might be a bit more, but almost one third of their European counterparts. The same colour of education can be witnessed in India where expat teachers working in India earn more than their Indian counterparts.
Countries like U.S.A have strict federal laws and teachers are paid equally irrespective of their nationalities.
Education system of a country is not only dependent on the country’s historical past but also is influenced by its culture, ideals and values. Hence while educating students one needs to understand the cultural intricacies and respect the cultural norms of the country.
In this section I would like to elaborate some teaching guides for some of the most common international teaching destinations around the world.
With a long drawn tumultuous history of the Korean peninsula, South Korea has evolved to catch up with impressive industrial advancements within 60 years of its sovereign rule thanks to the government’s increased focus on education. This has ensured South Korea to be one of the top ten countries in most measures of national education.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea ranks third in the world in mathematics and science education. There is a huge demand for ESL teachers and it happens to be one of the most preferred destinations for fresh graduates or trained teachers from countries where English is the native language.
Teachers in South Korea must be certified by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Human Resource Development and certified educators must participate in continuous professional development activities.
It would be prudent to respect and align oneself with the constellation of Confucian ideals which is based upon virtue, sincerity, respect and tradition unlike Western philosophy which is based on deductive reasoning.
Hence Korean employers lay emphasis on respecting the umbrella of hierarchy and rarely believe in questioning the logic behind performing a task in a particular manner as they have a deep rooted respect for their culture and responsibilities passed by their ancient culture.
Chinese government follows the Nine-Year Compulsory Education Program, which entails providing nine years of government-funded schooling to each child starting at the age of 6. This has resulted China to be the world’s largest education system.
China has one of the most robust teacher development systems and historically it has been one of the most highly respected professions in Chinese society. As a result of this Chinese students have consistently showed stunning performance on the international PISA exams where they outscore students of all other nations in math, reading, and science which has positioned China as a world education leader also popularly known as “Sputnik Moment,” by American educators.
Again like South Korea there is a great demand for native speakers to teach English in the Land of Confucius.
Teachers in Japan need to undergo training at an accredited university to gain their teaching certificate, but the specific requirements necessary to work as an educator vary by program.
Japanese public school from the elementary to upper secondary level is free. Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology regularly introduces new reforms and initiatives in an effort to provide students with the best possible schooling opportunities.
At present, the ministry is developing a lifelong learning program to educate citizens of all ages by promoting measures to realize education in which schools, families, and local communities cooperate.
Kazakhstan the largest of the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union is also the richest country in Central Asia, due to its large oil and natural gas reserves. The president of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has set up the state funded Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools which are intended to change the way education is delivered to gifted and talented secondary school children.
Students are educated in a tri–lingual environment in Kazakh, Russian and English. Besides teaching one’s subject, teachers are also expected to informally mentor local Kazakh teachers and introduce best practice especially with respect to critical thinking.
The Kazakh national curriculum underwent constructive development with support from the University of Cambridge International Examinations with an increasing emphasis on a student-centric, skills-based approach, while retaining the best of the current curriculum.
United Arab Emirates has been witnessing one of the largest education reforms in the world after the production of ‘black gold’ in 1970s. The U.A.E National Agenda 2021, which coincides with the U.A.E’s 50th National Day and launched by the ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, expects U.A.E to be among the top 20 countries in the PISA test.
The PISA score is an indicator that measures the country’s ranking and scores in the PISA exam, which evaluates the reading, mathematics and science skills of 15 year old students and is conducted by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).
To come up to this target the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the educational quality assurance and regulatory authority of the Government of Dubai, conducts annual inspection of private schools and publishes the school’s rating with a detailed report on its website.
Hence new teachers should refer to the KHDA website to research about the school and other necessary details regarding teacher turnover which is a good indicator of the school’s work culture. However in general, startup schools are exempted from KHDA inspections for a period of first three years of its operation.
Most of the school-aged children in the UK attend public schools and follows the National Curriculum of England for students aged 5 – 16 years. The curriculum is divided into four key stages; the first two correspond with primary education and the last two for the curriculum of secondary education.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) oversees the teacher certification process in the United Kingdom. Teachers in the United Kingdom must hold both at least a Bachelor’s degree and must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). QTS is mandatory to teach the state schools which can be achieved by completing PGCE.
After achieving QTS one becomes a newly qualified teacher (NQT) where teachers need to do induction training for 3 terms and their performance is reviewed. On completion of this, QTS is confirmed and teachers become permanent staff.
Apart from schools in U.K, there are a lot of schools offering British curriculum worldwide. To ensure whether such school is an ideal place to teach, one can check the school’s accreditation on its website.
One of the most recognized accreditation sources happens to be COBIS (Council of British International Schools) which provides global quality assurance to its member schools.
If a school has COBIS membership, then it is definitely worth working there as the membership application process is robust where schools are requested to provide comprehensive information about varied aspects like child protection policy, class size, school salary scale, staff qualifications etc.
The education system practiced in U.S.A is almost the same as that of U.K with few differences. The key differences are a shorter academic year as compared to U.K. The control and governance of U.S schools is also different as authority over public (state-funded) school education in the US rests primarily with individual state departments of education.
The school curriculum can vary from state to state and even between school districts within a state as most policies are set at the state and local levels. Although there is no national curriculum, the general content of the high school curriculum across the country is quiet homogeneous.
Due to the absence of a national curriculum, students do not prepare for national examinations such as the GCSEs, AS or A-levels. Rather they work toward completing a high school diploma (the requirements are determined by each state), and are assessed for university entry based on GPA, rigour of classes taken (AP, honours, regular) and admissions tests like SAT and ACT.
Students are continuously assessed throughout the semester in different ways like, essays, quizzes, assignments, classroom participation, projects and attendance. Hence to find information on curricular standards or teacher certification, the state board of education website is the best source of information
Moving half way across the world to work is a thrill in itself. Definitely people will have expectations and one should not expect the comfort and warmth of one’s home country.
My next article would be focusing on the highs and lows of teaching abroad. It is natural to expect that everything will be all right and the only way to ensure what to expect is by doing a thorough research before accepting anything.
Having said this and keeping in mind that overseas teaching has its pros and cons I still feel I took the right decision to leave the security of my native place. If remuneration is the only driving force then I feel it is a very myopic way of looking at such things because there are other fringe benefits that matter a lot.
For me it was only after I abandoned the comforts of familiarity, I simultaneously became a teacher as well as student. I started taking my baby steps which made me cautious and open to new ideas and work style. The feeling of lightness over-weighed the heaviness of success which I had tasted in my home country.
Exposure to so many cultures opens one to alternate values and beliefs in a way that is geographically impossible. For as many places as there are in the world, there are an equal number of lessons a teacher can bring back home. Ultimately, it is the very act of changing your life so drastically, is the recipe for growth. Not always pleasant growth but growth indeed.
For example having worked in U.A.E which follows monarchy system I am now in a better place to critically analyse and debate the pros and cons of living in a democratic country like India as compared to a monarchy system, thus adding one more page of sagacity in the book of my life.
Image credit: Yasmeen Hossain
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