Teaching abroad can be a rewarding, eye-opening, fun experience. It is also challenging and frustrating at times. Anyone considering teaching abroad should, when thinking about which programs to apply to, or even when mulling over a job offer, learn as much as possible before making a final decision.
Below is basic information geared toward those considering a teaching job, but much of the advice, particularly with regard to finances, is applicable to any job abroad.
Basic and Practical Information: Financial Considerations
Many teaching jobs don’t pay that well. With some, especially where a subject or language is in-demand, the pay may be very good. But living abroad is a major financial adjustment, especially if the currency is different than at home. Here is a list of questions that teachers should know the answers to before taking a job abroad:
How much will the job pay per month? Is it sufficient for the cost of living in that particular town or city?
How much will taxes take out of a paycheck?
Is health insurance provided? If not, how much will it cost? Is it deducted from paychecks? What is the extent of the coverage?
What is the teaching pay scale based on in that particular country? Is it credentials such as a degree? Is it a gradual increase based on the number of years worked? Or, is it on merit, i.e. how well the students do in the course?
Classroom Experience Considerations
Teaching abroad, needless to say, is different than teaching at home for several reasons. There are many issues to think about in this regard:
What is the teaching culture like in the country? Teaching methods could be very different than in the home country. This is where it’s vital to talk to other teachers who spent time in that country.
What will the age group of the students be? Will the prospective teacher be comfortable working with that age group? If teaching English or another language, what will the language ability range be of that age group?
How many students in the class? Are classes on the larger side compared to home, or much smaller? How many teachers in a classroom at once?
What sorts of resources does the school provide teachers and classrooms, and what must the teachers provide themselves?
Academic Standards in the Foreign Country
While some of this information can be obtained after taking a teaching job abroad, it’s definitely good to know the answers to most of these questions beforehand:
Must teachers adhere to specific academic guidelines? As an example, some countries have a major series of subject tests at the end of high school, and students spend much of the final year preparing for those tests. In Austria, for instance, students take the Matura, which involves tests and projects that are a culmination of the student’s high school-level education. Passing this test means being able to attend university. Teachers at that level, therefore, must be familiar with at least the basic premises of the test.
What is the academic background of most teachers in the country? Do most have advanced degrees? Will those coming from other countries be expected to pass a certain test, take an additional course, or begin a training program upon arrival?
What are the major education laws in that country? Was there any recent legislation passed that affected the academic system? Staying current with the country’s education policy is a good idea.
Knowing about everything from finances to academic standards is important when thinking about teaching abroad. Making an informed decision about a teaching job offer can make for a much smoother transition upon arrival in the foreign country.