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The things you must consider before teaching abroad

Source: Flickr | Kate Borkowski

Source: Flickr | Kate Borkowski

Teaching abroad is arguably one of the easiest ways to find employment in a new country, especially if you want to teach English as a foreign language, and because you’ll be surrounded with lots of like-minded people it can also be a lot of fun.

However, there is a lot to consider before you take on a role teaching, both from a personal and professional point of view.

Given even neighbouring countries can have wildly varying attitudes towards education itself, required qualifications and even general working etiquette it is important to really think about the following before you decide on your move.

Qualified teachers have more choice and earn more

If you have a PGCE or equivalent qualification you should be able to find a salaried position teaching the subject or year group of your training. However, in more developing nations even if the only qualification you possess is being a native English speaker, you should still find it relatively easy to find an English teaching job either in language centres or as a tutor for about $20 p/h.

Not as well advertised online, the easiest way to find these language centre jobs is to be in the country you want to work or by joining expat Facebook groups. Qualified teacher roles tend to be easier to arrange from home most often via a Skype interview.

However, regardless of where and what you want to teach having an online TEFL as a minimum is advised, as not only will this only help widen your employment choices, but will also help you better undertake the job you’re being paid to do.

Recruitment laws are not all made equal

While a job advert stating a candidate must be white, female and good looking would be archaic and outrageous in the UK, discrimination laws function a little differently abroad.

Obviously if you are looking for a role in more developed nations like Australia, the US and the Republic of Ireland, this should never occur.

But if you’re in SE Asian countries, being refused a job for simply being a bit overweight or not ‘aesthetically pleasing’ enough is not unheard of!

Remember someone is relying on you

Teaching abroad can be a great way to have lots of fun and get away from the cold and dreary climes of the UK. But don’t forget you are also holding someone’s future in your hands.

While you may only be rota-ed on a couple of hours a day, it’s your responsibility as an expat to try and make the country that’s hosting you a better place.

So if you just want to have fun and would rather spend your time at the pool than allocating time for lesson planning and marking it might be worth thinking more about what you’re taking on.

Be prepared for tensions with local staff

One of the best things about taking a job in a new place is gaining insight into international working practices. However, as an expat it is likely you will receive a higher salary and more benefits than your local counterparts which can understandably create tension in the workplace. When you’re interviewing for roles always ask to speak to another teacher who is currently employed to find out more about everyday working life.

Attitudes towards education vary wildly

While we’d hate to stereotype, there really are vast differences in classroom behaviour globally. Most teachers who have worked in the UK will relish working in Asian schools where pupils dominate the top places in good-behaviour leagues.

Others may struggle with the notion in some countries that female education is less important than boys’, or attitudes towards corporal punishment. Again here it’d be worth speaking to someone who has experience working in that country to find out more.

Don’t forget to tell the Student Loans Company

There’s a common misconception that if you move abroad then you don’t need to pay back your student loan. This is not the case.

In fact, no matter where you are, if you are earning more than the threshold allocated to the country you are now earning money in, you’ll have to arrange paying back a sum each month.

If you don’t and the Student Loan Company catches up with you, there could be serious repercussions.

Check about tax before you accept your salary

Some schools will pay you cash in hand in the local currency or US dollars, and some will set you up a bank account. In either scenario tax rates can vary depending on the country you are in and whether the school / learning centre you are working for is international or local.

Some countries like Myanmar have hefty tax rates that are confusing at best, some countries like Bahrain have zero tax so it’s really important to understand what your take home salary will be before you accept.

You’re friends will come and go

The expat teacher cycle is short, with many sticking to a role for a year or two then moving on. However, it’s not all bad; friendships form fast and such is the nature of teaching abroad you are likely to bump into old teacher friends in new destinations.

You’ll find it hard to take a domestic teaching job again

When even the route to work can feel like an adventure and the experiences you have both in and out of your teaching job seeming incomparable to back home, many teachers find it hard to head back to teaching in the UK.