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If ostentation wasn’t regarded by the Dutch as undignified, the Netherlands would loudly boast a strong liberal culture, combined with a great art history. It is a small, flat country, and bike is the only way to travel. For some a strong draw will be the museums and art galleries. For others the flower-filled fields, windmills and canals paint a pretty enough picture all by themselves.
The principal language is Dutch, with Frisian also spoken in some areas. The population is a little over 16 million and the climate is temperate. There is a high degree of English competence in the cities. So much so that it was once mooted that English become the official language of Dutch universities. This proved a bridge too far for Dutch liberalism, and the idea was thrown out.
With such a high degree of English language competence only the most highly-qualified and experienced teachers can expect to find work. Highly-qualified teachers, with extensive experience of government or business are sought after, however, it is expected that they will at least have a working knowledge of Dutch. More a venue for the career teacher, who wants to make the most out of life by making the Netherlands their home, than it is a stop off for the ‘traveller’ teacher.
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private school must expect to have a degree, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and a TESOL qualification. As with most teaching opportunities in Belgium, a couple of years of language teaching experience is often a pre-requisite, but not always.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching specialised governmental or business students. Enthusiasm for English amongst the general population is very high, and the competence matches this.
In the main you will find yourself teaching students who have many years experience of English. Hence, expect intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students should be expected. Whilst it is exhilarating and rewarding to teach such students, it is important to prepare your classes well and make sure you are clear about the areas you are teaching - particularly with grammar. You don’t want to find yourself being corrected about tenses by your students!
Most state schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the Belgian consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange programme.
One of the complications is the reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU. High schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions, they are generally not willing to take on anybody who is ineligible.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’. Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organise a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.
Amsterdam is a huge draw, thanks to its culture and nightlife. As the capital it also is home to the largest number of language institutes. Nevertheless, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Haarlem have long histories stretching back to medieval times, and much in the way of culture to commend them.
When trying to get work in advance it is useful to contact the British Council in Amsterdam. They keep a list of language schools, both private and state. In addition to that the on-line Yellow Pages provides a list of language schools. VNT, the Dutch Association of Language Institutes is worth contacting on www.wpleidingnet.com. Also it may be useful to contact the British Language Training Centre.
In addition to this there is telephone tuition, and there may be the opportunity to place ads for conversation. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is a venue best suited to the specialist rather than the traveller stopping off.
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