International Teaching - What Does It Look Like?

This is a guest post by Kristina Appleby, one of the senior recruitment consultants at Education Personnel. To hear more from Kristina, follow her Twitter @EducationKris

Vanuatu, Brunei, Singapore… or for the more adventurous Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or even Kazakhstan. 

Visions of big adventures, exotic foods, strange languages, different customs and excitement come to your mind I am sure, as they do to mine, when I think of these countries. The traditional “OE” is no longer limited to the well-travelled shores of the UK or Australia, and some Kiwis are looking further afield for their working holiday abroad. 

As a teacher the world has opened up, with teachers trained in New Zealand well-regarded and valued at schools all over the world. Often teachers who opt to work abroad embark on more than an OE, they start a lifelong love of international teaching and travel the world for years, many never returning home except during holidays and to visit family and friends. It’s something you will enjoy, or you won’t.

There are two main types of teaching overseas, and in most cases they have very different career paths. 

Teaching roles that require you to have a teaching degree, or post-graduate qualification in education will steer you down the road of international schools, expatriate communities of like-minded teachers, and career progression much the same as if you were at home. We are called on to provide teachers from new graduates, through to learning support and curriculum coordinators and into management roles such a Department Heads and Principals.

Countries such as China, Dubai, Malaysia and Hong Kong have thousands of expatriates from hundreds of different countries living and working together, so having a personality that fits in is essential. It's expected that teachers form a community and get along with one another.  

Often these roles will come with a complete salary package including monthly remuneration (often in USD), accommodation, return flights, work visas, medical, allowances and even schooling for your children. These roles are often appointed for one-year contracts but regularly extend if you are doing a good job. 

These schools usually offer specific international curriculum, and sometimes more than one. If you search international schools, you will find American international schools offering US curriculum (International Baccalaureate, or IB), British international schools (which offer Cambridge curriculum IGCSE and CIE) and even New Zealand international schools offering our very own curriculum. Both IB and IGCSE schools love Kiwi teachers, as our teacher training prepares us to easily adapt to these curricula.

Depending on what curriculum the school follows, you may find that the school year also changes. In New Zealand we run a January to December school year, but countries who follow the Northern Hemisphere systems run a September to July year. This will make a big difference to when you need to apply for roles.

Other teaching roles will see your value as a native speaker of English, and for the better paying roles many require a qualification in teaching English (ESL, TEFL, TOEFL, ESOL). These roles are mostly common in developing countries, or other places where English isn’t spoken as a first language. There are various qualifications to be had, but we find the most asked for and respected one to be the CELTA (University of Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages). With this qualification you can teach English as an additional language to people of all ages, anywhere in the world. This is also offered as a diploma course. The Careers New Zealand website gives some more information on where to start, as well as valuable information on how to start a career in ESOL.

If you are a New Zealand registered primary or secondary school teacher you can apply for a Ministry of Education scholarship to help fund study towards teaching English in schools for speakers of other languages (TESSOL) qualification. There is more information on how this works on the Ministry of Education website

So, now you've worked out that you want to go, what’s next? I’ll start working on another post now, which will inform you about how to find your international teaching job, when the best times are to look for work, what the schools are looking for, and most importantly what to look for when considering applying to and accepting teaching positions abroad.