Teaching abroad can be a transformative experience for educators. From student teaching abroad to getting a job at an international school, there are more opportunities than ever to become a teacher in a foreign country. Below is a comprehensive resource on the ins and outs of teaching abroad designed to help you get a clearer picture of the market for educators internationally.
Why Teach Abroad?
For everybody who travels, going to another country is an amazing opportunity. You get to experience other cultures, explore exciting places and escape from the normalcy of everyday life. But for teachers, teaching in another country is an educational experience in and of itself. It gives them the chance to learn more about education, to see how students in other countries learn, to explore different methods and gain teaching experience most educators don’t have. Something people often assume about those who go abroad before starting their “real jobs” is that they’re wasting their time, that they’re evading responsibility by going off on some silly adventure. That’s simply not true.
Teachers in other countries are earning a living educating students while they explore. But they’re still teaching. They’re still making a difference. A lot of teachers even fall so in love with their new country that they decide to stay there permanently.
The first step is deciding where you want to teach. Which country has always fascinated you? What have you always wanted to see? These answers are as personal to you as your reason for teaching, but it’s important to know exactly where you want to go, otherwise, you could potentially have an unhappy experience. Research the culture of the country, the climate, the political atmosphere. No matter how exotic a place may look, the most important thing is that it’s safe. The U.S. Department of State has some great advice about health issues, safety issues, and even current travel warnings for certain countries. Once you know where you want to teach, you need to see what that country offers for American teachers. GoAbroad.com and Teachaway.com are excellent tools for this.
There are two general routes open to you:
1. Apply to a teaching program.
Teaching programs are ideally suited for recent graduates looking for experience before becoming teachers. Most programs are for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and countries are actively seeking native English speakers who are young, talented, mobile and eager to teach. While every program is different, most run for one year and offer a monthly salary, some benefits, housing accommodations, travel assistance and vacation time.
2. Apply directly to teaching jobs that are not through a program.
When doing this, you need to pay closer attention to the requirements of that country. Most jobs are by contract (usually a year), salaried and many still provide the amenities that teaching programs offer, such as housing, airfare, vacation and benefits. You apply to these jobs as you would any job in the United States. GoAbroad and Teachaway have online job boards for teachers in other countries, and the Department of State has contact information for international schools. There are also sites dedicated to posting international teaching jobs, like The International Educator, and sites that are specific to certain countries, like worknplay.co.kr, a site that posts teaching jobs in Korea.
Once you’ve secured your teaching position, be it through a program or job listing, you need to get the proper authorization to travel abroad. Because you’re going to be working in another country, you don’t just need a passport but also a visa. This can be a complicated process, and every country has its own guidelines for issuing visas, so pay close attention every step of the way. Observe all important deadlines, gather the proper documentation and fill out every form that is required.
Some countries, particularly in South America and Africa, require immunizations and vaccinations before they issue a visa. All will require you to set up a meeting at their embassy in the United States. The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs offers country-specific information for Americans traveling abroad.
The subjects taught in schools in other countries are as varied as in the United States, and what you teach will depend on your job. You may apply to international teaching jobs based on your subject of interest or you may be asked by your employer to teach a certain subject. The subjects in high demand vary by country, but one thing is almost universally true: English is always in high demand.
English is often called the “global language,” and it is one of the most valuable and influential languages in the world. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is the most common area teachers abroad go into. Native speakers of English are the most sought after for TESOL programs, though your country of origin may play a factor in your desirability. Many countries in Europe prefer British English, so you’ll be competing for TESOL jobs with teachers from the United Kingdom. This isn’t always the case, just something to keep in mind. Regardless, if you’re a native speaker of English, you have already fulfilled one of the fundamental requirements for most TESOL programs in other countries.
You can have a successful teaching experience virtually anywhere. A lot of what will factor into your decision is the country’s demand for teachers, the opportunities they make available and the benefits they offer. Asian countries are usually the most popular among American teachers because they pay the most. Korea, for example, often pays for travel expenses, makes accommodations for housing and pays the equivalent of $2,000–$3,000 per month. The cost of living is also affordable, so your salary goes farther. A place like Japan, on the other hand, pays a comparable salary, but the cost of living is much higher.
Again, consult with the Department of State to learn about any safety issues, and for some people who are a little weary of the culture shock, teaching in a developed nation may be less jarring than teaching in a developing nation.
Teaching in China
China is currently in the process of nationalizing its Nine-Year Compulsory Education Program, which entails providing nine years of government-funded schooling to each child starting at the age of 6. Considering that the average schooling of Chinese adults currently stands at 6.4 years, this is will be a considerable improvement. Additionally, while literacy rates have increased in past years, China still ranks 92nd out of 160 countries in terms of literacy with a rate of only 86%. While many schools in China continue to emphasize rote memorization, the Chinese Ministry of Education has begun to spread the use of group-learning teaching techniques that focus on communication and comprehension skills through the class as a whole.
Founded in 2003, the British School of Beijing employs the English National Curriculum, the standard curriculum developed by the British Government which emphasizes rigorous training for teachers, a reliable system of assessment, and a rich and varied supply of resources. The British School of Beijing has two campuses, with excellent facilities including two full size gyms, areas for football, tennis and basketball, an indoor heated swimming pool, and more. These resources all contribute to a well-rounded educational experience for students and an exceptional work environment for teachers.
The International School of Beijing is one of the first international schools in China. From early childhood through high school, the school employs a standards-based curriculum in which educators to set attainable goals for students to reach as benchmarks in their education. These standards ensure that the progress of all students is measured equally. Applicants for teaching positions at the International School of Beijing must have a Bachelor’s degree, hold accredited teacher certification and proof of at least two years of teaching experience.
Yew Chung was founded in 1932, but only became an international school in 1988. It encourages students to study in various languages and in various arts to complement their core academic work. Throughout all levels of learning, students are introduced to both English and Chinese language and culture.
The Japanese public school system employs over a million teachers to educate 14 million students, with an additional 6 million students and 600,000 faculty involved in education in the private sector. Teachers in Japan must 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. Currently, the ministry is developing a lifelong learning program to educate citizens of all ages.
The Fukuoka International school was founded in 1972 and follows the IB curriculum, consisting of three separate programs of study based on the student’s level of education: The Primary Years Program, the Middle Years Program and the Diploma Program (which prepares students for examinations that lead to higher education). Foreign teachers hired by the school have travel expenses covered and receive allowances for as housing, shipping and even furniture.
The Yoyogi International School employs a curriculum that is influenced by the IB program, the English National Curriculum and educational standards of the United States Department of Education. The school is known for its high standards of teaching. Teachers adopt a thematic approach that establishes the foundation for lifelong learning through a structured inquiry into multiple academic disciplines. To teach at Yoyogi International School, or any school in the Council of International Schools, you must currently hold your teacher certification, and you must have at least two years experience teaching in your certified field. Teachers are also required to be currently teaching.
The Osaka International School and its sister school, Senri International School, were founded together to merge the “best of Japanese and non-Japanese educational ideas, systems and techniques into two schools which share a building, programs, curricula, philosophies, experiences and dreams.” Both schools boast a 97% success rate for the IB diploma program, and are home to renowned programs in athletics and music.
After initial reforms in the 20th century, the South Korean Ministry of Education has continued to benefit from the South Korean government’s increased focus on education. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea ranks high in most measures of national education, including second in the world in mathematics and first in the world in reading.
Teachers in South Korea must be certified by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Human Resource Development. Prospective teachers may undergo training at universities or colleges of education with approved teacher education programs, and certified educators must participate teacher training and continuing education activities.
If actively exploring opportunities to teach abroad in Korea, Adventure Teaching could prove to be a valuable resource. They will help you throughout the entire process from identifying, applying and ultimately accepting a new position with a Korean educational employer.
Founded in 1999, the Korea International School is an elite K-12 school with a new $45 million campus near Seoul. Prospective students must have at least one non-Korean parent and must have lived overseas for at least three years.
This school offers its students a challenging American curriculum and boasts state-of-the-art facilities that include five computer labs, two libraries, several science laboratories, two gymnasiums, a five-lane indoor pool and a spacious auditorium. The minimum requirements for teaching at Seoul International School are a valid teaching certification, two years full-time teaching experience, knowledge of American curriculum, experience working in a multicultural or international school setting, and willingness to work in co-curricular activities. In addition, teachers are expected to have a positive attitude toward their profession, serve as a role model, and conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism.
Founded by missionaries in 1958, the Taejon Christian International School is now a K-12 school with roughly 600 students. Located near the Daedeok-Science Town, a major center for scientific research in Korea, the school’s facilities include a state-of-the-art high school building, a separate elementary school building, an early learning center, an auditorium, and three computer labs. Taejon’s curriculum follows all three phases of the IB model and also incorporates elements of Christian education.
The current system of education in Germany spouted from the unification of the Free Republic of Germany in 1990. As part of the effort to foster unity between the formerly divided country, the government sought to create comparable education opportunities throughout the various states. The federal government helps each state undertake nationwide projects, such as the current efforts to move towards an output-oriented system of education, such as the establishment of national education standards.
Teacher training and certification varies for each state. Preparation programs are aimed at preparing educators to work with specific age groups and in specific subjects. Most states require prospective teachers to successfully complete a teacher training program at an approved institution of higher education. Learn more at the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education.
Founded in 1960, the John F. Kennedy School is unique in that it provides free bilingual education to over 1,700 students in grades K-12. The school integrates German and American instruction, and the curriculum is centered on the needs of individual students. American applicants to teaching positions at John F. Kennedy School must have three years of recent full-time teaching experience in a U.S. public School, and hold both a Bachelor’s degree and teacher certification from their state. To teach beyond grade 6, educators must have a Master’s degree in their field of instruction.
The United Arab Emirates is currently undergoing one of the largest education reforms in the world, with an increased focus in hiring English-medium teachers for public schools in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Also referred to as the New School Model, this reform is based on a student-centred learning approach, where students learn in a resource and technology-rich environment, within modern teaching facilities.
Teachers wishing to teach in the UAE must have a Bachelor’s degree, a teaching license and at least two years of teaching experience to qualify. Teaching contracts offer return airfare, accommodation, health insurance, and visa sponsorship for the teacher and up to three dependents. To learn more about teaching in the UAE, visit the Teach Away website.
Over 90% of school-aged children in the UK attend public schools. These schools are governed primarily by the National Curriculum, which was introduced in 1992 and is followed in all public schools for students ages 5-16. The National Curriculum is divided into four Key Stages; the first two correspond with primary education, and the second two control the curriculum for 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). In order to achieve QTS, prospective teachers must complete Initial Teacher Training (ITT) specific to the age level they wish to teach. Prospective secondary school teachers must complete ITT specific to the subject they wish to teach.
ACS runs three different schools at Cobham, Egham and Willingdon for student ages 2 to 18. ACS schools follow both IB and Advanced Placement curricula. The Advanced Placement curriculum followed by ACS schools is the same followed here in the United States, which was developed by the College Board to expose motivated secondary school students to college level academic material.
The Southbank International Schools were founded with three principles: that it would be democratic, that it would use London as its classroom and that the curriculum would be individualized. Today, the school maintains campuses in Hampstead, Kensington and Westminster.
The American School in England is a leading co-educational university and college preparatory school. The school has over 750 students from 40 different nations, 160 of whom are boarding students. The curriculum is a composite of IB and Advanced Placement curricula, and the school is broken into the Lower School (nursery school to grade 4), the Middle School (5th to 8th grade) and the Upper School (high school). Each of the school’s divisions has developed its own learning environment specific to the different age groups’ various needs and extra attention is paid to the students’ campus life outside the classroom. The majority of the American School’s roughly 100 faculty members are from the United States. Teachers interested in working at the American School in England should have at least three years full-time teaching experience. Preference in hiring is given to educators holding an advanced degree, or those with experience teaching IB or AP courses.
Many students on track to becoming educators are hesitant to take advantage of student teaching abroad opportunities and, as a result, miss out on an amazing experience. The common fears are that credits from an international program won’t transfer over or that the experience of being abroad would be distracting and it would be easy to fall behind. But if you’ve got an urge to travel, you should look into student teaching abroad.
Student teaching is a key component of all teacher certification programs. Most certification programs arrange these teaching opportunities at a school in the surrounding area, but some programs also allow you to travel abroad. Student teaching abroad programs are available in hundreds of countries all over the world, which make it a great way to study abroad and still complete your teaching credential on time.
Teaching abroad is an amazing experience. Not only do you get to travel and learn about other cultures, but you get to learn a great deal about yourself and your teaching abilities. It takes a lot to reach students across cultures and the experience is highly rewarding. Teachers who taught abroad while they were students often feel reaffirmed of their abilities. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad, here are four helpful tips to get you started:
1. Meet with your college advisor.
If you can, start planning during your sophomore year or the first semester of your junior year to make sure that you’re ahead of schedule in terms of required classes and credits. You don’t want to be stuck choosing a program based on filling your credit requirements. Most likely you will teach abroad during the first or second semester of your senior year. If you are obtaining your Master’s in Teaching through an accelerated program, you may be able to teach abroad after graduation.
2. Stop by the International or Study Abroad Department.
At many colleges and universities, student teaching abroad programs are placed under the International or Study Abroad Departments, so schedule a meeting with someone in the office or drop by the office to pick up some literature. Many colleges also outline their offerings online or by hosting Study Abroad presentations on campus. If you discover that your college or university doesn’t offer a student teaching abroad option, you may be able to participate in an exchange or partnership with another college. To find out more, just contact the program coordinator. There are also several third-party student teaching and teaching abroad organizations, such as COST, which may help you.
3. Choose your destination wisely and prepare yourself.
The greatest experience comes from stepping outside one’s own comfort zone and adapting to new cultures and places but remember: You are expected to be a professional and held to the same–if not higher–standard, as you would be as a student teacher at home. When choosing a destination for student teaching abroad, consider the language barrier as well as major cultural and educational differences. What is customary dress and behavior for teachers? Will you be expected to teach in American or UK English? Would you prefer to stay with a host family or live on your own? Are the dietary and religious customs compatible with your own?
4. Raise funds.
If you do your student teaching abroad through your college or university, the experience itself is often covered through your standard tuition — but travel expenses and room & board are not. This adds up quickly! You’ll eventually learn to live within your means, but it’s wise to have some money saved up for when you first arrive. Also, before you commit to teaching abroad, you’ll likely need to raise funds for airfare, living expenses, travel documents and, of course, spending money. Grant money may be available from your college or through the Department of Education, so be sure to reach out.
As you watch your classmates make plans to travel the world, consider packing your own bags too! Students in every corner of the globe are waiting for many in schools with teacher shortages. And when you complete your student teaching abroad and obtain your teacher certification, there’s always a school at home looking for a globally minded teacher to hire.