Turkey is a gateway country between two very different cultures - that of Europe and that of the Middle East. The contrast with the ancient and the very new is also very much apparent, and to be savoured. The hustle and bustle of the great ancient cities is offset by a peaceful, magnificent and very long coastline; the former of which has, of late, attracted the curious in increasing numbers, and the latter of which has provided a great boom in tourism during the last two decades. Turkish hospitality is legendary, as is the cuisine.
The population of sixty-eight millions fits into a landmass of three hundred thousand square miles. Languages in use include Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Laz, and English is now fairly widely spoken, particularly in the tourist areas and the big cities. Islam is the religious faith professed nationally.
The rapidly expanding tourist industry, and pending membership of the EU has seen a massive increase in the number of TESOL teaching opportunities available. There is a broad market including high schools, private high schools, universities, and private language institutes. It’s really very easy to get a job; however, the art lies in finding the right job with the right sort of employer.
One can find work simply with a TESOL qualification; however, this is not sufficient to comply with the regulations required to get a work permit. In order to teach in a high school, private high school, or a university you must have a degree in English and a TESOL certificate. This is so that these institutions can satisfy the requirements of the Department of Education, and employ you legally. Increasingly, universities are looking for candidates with a doctorate or some other higher degree, and some high schools are requesting a PGCE.
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, with more experience, will have many years experience studying English.
Students tend to be highly motivated due to the gains to be made, both in tourism and trade, from being fluent in English. Indeed, many universities use English as the medium of instruction. Hence, for many, irrespective of age group, English is a must, not a maybe.
Visas and Regulations
Tourist visas are normally good for three months, and may be renewed by a cross-boarder trip to Cyprus or Greece. The penalty for overstaying your visa is of the order of $ 250, so this is something to be careful of.
For those wishing to work above board, one’s visa must be processed in your country of origin. So even if you get a job on the spot, you will have to return home to put your papers in order.
One’s employer must obtain permission to employ you from Ministry of Education, and the Undersecretariat for the Treasury. At this stage teachers are required to submit notarised translations of their educational certificates. Only those with an undergraduate degree in English and a TESOL certificate need apply. Once these have been submitted it takes about four weeks to process. After this, in your country of origin, you must submit to the Turkish Consulate your contract of employment, papers from the ministries, and a form that needs to be filled out. This usually takes about six weeks to process.
As a part of your contract you should normally expect to have any visa costs reimbursed, accommodation provided, and airfares covered. You should also beware that you allotted annual vacation should not be eroded by Islamic holidays, i.e. that Ramadan, usually three days, does not take a bite out of your vacation entitlement.
Whilst Ankara is the capital, Istanbul is the heart and soul of Turkey. Founded by the Roman Emperor, Constantine, it became the capital of the Eastern Empire until it was sacked by the Turks in the fifteenth century. Constantinople, Byzantium, Istanbul, all the same city, straddling the Bosporus, it’s skyline dotted with minarets and Roman ruins, one of history’s great, great cities.
Because of its Greco Roman heritage, it is hard even for the disinterested sun seeker not to be stricken by the magnificent ruins all along the Mediterranean coast. Nevertheless, this can be set a side, and a good time can be had up and down the coast, the epicentre of which is Bodrum. The coast has everything you would expect from a major tourist destination.
Getting a Job
The advantage of getting on the ground is of course, that you can check out your employer, your accommodations, class sizes, and facilities and materials. As ever, in the TESOL world, there are a few cowboys about, and you won’t want to find yourself stuck with them for a long period of time.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors - hence, again, the need for those translated documents. Local telephone directories detail universities, schools and language institutes, etc, which are often only too willing to interview candidates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organised 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.