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South Asia contains a contrasting array of different countries and different cultures. The incredibly wealthy state of Brunei stands in stark contrast to the poverty of Bangladesh and Pakistan. India, Sri Lanka and Nepal offer stunning natural beauty unsurpassed in the region.
In all of these countries English is the de facto second language, and in countries like India it is the medium of instruction in many schools.
Again contrast is the keynote here. Brunei requires that prospective teachers wishing to teach in state or private schools have a TESOL certificate, a PGCE and an undergraduate degree, and two years’ teaching experience. With all of the other countries a TESOL certificate alone will do fine.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching those who work in business or tourism, less so those doing it just for fun. In India, for example, good English is a status symbol, and marks out one class from another. This ‘needs-driven’ market makes for sharp, well-motivated students. Don’t expect to find people dozing at the back of the class. Commensurately, these people are paying for the privilege, and will expect a respectable, well-turned out, professional teacher. Another thing to be aware of is that many students will have been studying English for a number of years, and may have considerable awareness of grammar, such as tenses. Be on your metal, and prepare well. You don’t want to have your knowledge of tenses tested by your students, who learned them all by heart before they were ten! One often finds a disparity between knowledge and oral and written dexterity. For example, students may be quite unused to hearing English spoken by a native speaker. Conversely, some, from experience in the tourist industry, speak and comprehend with great dexterity, but perform poorly in writing.
Because of the huge variety of standards in education you can expect a commensurately varied student body. Some will have very little experience; however, others, privately educated, will have many years experience in studying English.
Most teachers report that students in this region are a joy to teach and that there is great enthusiasm for learning English.
It is best to check with the consulate in your country of origin, in order to verify what your visa entitlements are. In many of the countries detailed here, people do work on tourist visas; however, this will not wash in places such as Brunei, and in some countries runs the risk of deportation and fines.
Think about also what you have to do to renew your visa. All the way back home, or does a cross-border trip do nicely? How many times can you renew your tourist visa, and how do you get a work permit?
A modicum of preparation prior to setting out will pay dividends. Think of not one country, but the sub continent of South Asia. You may come to value mobility once you hit this part of the world. Hence, it is a very good idea to contact all of the Asian embassies your country of origin, enquiring about teaching and visas, and see what you get back. You will find that you have a nice big file folder of leads and information, but will vary from country of origin to country of origin, Asian embassy to Asian embassy. Also, prior to setting out, it is important to have originals and copies of the certificates that you hold.
There are avenues that can be utilized to gain a placement prior to setting out. Princeton (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Stanford (email@example.com) Universities run volunteer programs in various countries, a component of which is TESOL teaching. Stanford’s program, for example, is open to graduates and graduating seniors, and charges a fee of $1,975 for one year, and $975 for two. This covers the cost of flights, training, visas and insurance.
In Brunei the suitably qualified should contact CfBT (www.cfbt.com) who place teachers in the country. In Nepal Educate the Children (www.etc-nepal.org) provides placements for the suitably qualified. In Bangladesh and Pakistan it is a good idea to contact the British Council, who have their own teaching program. In Sri Lanka, again, the British Council is a good contact and should be able to offer advice on teaching in the country.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors - hence, the need for those certificates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organized and enthusiastic teachers are in short supply. If they like you they will most certainly find some teaching for you!
Hence, one of the best and most realistic propositions is to build a working life based around constructing a portfolio a few hours here and a few hours there, bearing mind that revenue from ‘privates’ can double a teacher’s income, one should always be on the lookout for private students, whatever one’s employment or visa status. The market for those wanting private tuition or conversation practice is huge, and potentially very lucrative, therefore, not be neglected. Give yourself time to build a portfolio of work. This is best safeguard to both your income, and employment status.
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