|“Oneika Answers” is a new feature on the blog where I respond to readers’ burning questions about travel, expat life, teaching… and anything else you’d like to know! If you’d like to take part, email me with the subject line “Oneika Answers” at oneika [at] oneika-the-traveller [dot] com!
This week, I answer the oft-asked question about teaching abroad:
Hello Oneika, I would like to teach and a friend suggested doing a MA TESOL. I have been doing my research (ok, Dave’s ESL Cafe) and I find that TESOL is not an in demand teaching subject. Any suggestions on teaching subjects that are good to be certified in?Also, did you have to have two years teaching experience before being hired? Oneika, point me in the direction that will lead to all travel roads.
Happy new year!
Ok, so it’s important to make the distinction between teaching ESL abroad and teaching in international schools. Teaching ESL internationally means that you are going to be teaching English as a Foreign Language to children who do not speak English as a mother tongue or fluently. It involves teaching vocabulary, grammar, language acquisition, etc. Basically, teaching ESL primarily means exclusively teaching English language to non-native English speakers. To teach ESL in most countries you will need to have some sort of certification, whether it be an MA in TESOL or a diploma in CELTA or TESL or TEFL.Teaching in an international school is different: international schools are NOT English Language schools, but schools very much like elementary and secondary schools in the US or Canada where are FULL curriculum of subjects (like Math, Science, History) are taught. Perhaps the best definition I’ve seen for international schools is the following:
“These schools, known as international schools, use various curricula such as the US, UK, Canadian, Australian and International Baccalaureate and teach all subjects in English. Whilst some of the pupils may not be native English speakers, they are still expected to learn all or most subjects such as Maths, Science, Geography, Art and Physical Education, in English… They require approximately the same qualifications you would need to teach at home [in the US or Canada] in a state-funded school.” via Expat Focus
I teach high school French and English literature in an international school in London and obtained certification to teach grades 4-12 in Canada. I have three degrees: a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in French Literature with a minor in English Lit (B.A.) a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary/Secondary Education (B.Ed), as well as a Master’s in French Education (M.Ed). (Read more about my road to teaching and and long-term travel here!)
I made a video a couple of years ago about teaching ESL vs. teaching in an international school, check it out:
So! Explanation out of the way, your question was what teaching subjects are good to get certified in. If you’re looking to go the international school route, high school Math and Science teachers always seem to be in high demand! Elementary generalists and English lit teachers sometimes struggle to find jobs even though there are tons of positions- competition for plum posts in international schools is FIERCE, simply because there are soooo many elementary and English teachers out there. That said, if you hate/are bad at Math and Science, you’d be better served by getting certified in a subject that you would enjoy teaching.
As for the two years of experience- a lot of international schools require it but many are willing to hire new graduates. I got an international school position in Mexico right after graduating.
Anyone out there considering teaching abroad? Or alternatively, have you already taught abroad?