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Government English Teaching Programs Abroad

Alternatives to Privately-Run TEFL Jobs Can be a Great Option

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Teaching English has become a common job for many college graduates, regardless of his or her major. In the U.S., Teach for America visits countless universities each year to recruit graduating students, and many of them end up teaching ESL in underprivileged schools throughout the country.

But teaching English can open up doors well beyond the 50 U.S. states, for example. Now more than ever, aspiring teachers do not need to venture out on their own to find a job in a foreign country. Recognizing how important it is that their inhabitants learn English, numerous governments all over the globe have implemented programs designed to bring native English speakers to their local classrooms. Here are the details on a few of these initiatives, and how you as a prospective English teacher can take part:

France: The Teaching Assistant Program in France

A program which is an initiative of the French Ministry of Education of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Every year, about 1,500 U.S. citizens and permanent residents between 20 and 35 are recruited to teach English in public schools all over France and in the overseas departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion.

The length of the program is 7 months, and the students from 20-35 are eligible. Teaching assistants receive a net monthly salary of approximately €810, which is enough to cover the normal expenses of a French student. You can check out the details for the yearly recruitment on the Teaching Assistant Program in France website. A useful detailed report on the program is also available on our website.

Spain: English Language Assistant in Spain at the Programa de Bilingüe de la UCETAM

Spain invests in the education of its teens. The UCETAM program offers stipends for graduates of North American universities in order to allow them to participate as auxiliares de conversación — teaching assistants — in selected schools around Madrid. Being an auxiliar involves working 16 hours/week, for a stipend of around 1,000 Euros.

Without question, Madrid is an expensive city and a 1,000 Euros might be difficult to live on, but given that you teach only 16 hours, it is still a pretty good deal. Since the school day ends in the afternoon, it is always possible to teach additional classes in the evening, and many auxiliares do so. Expect to earn about 20 Euros/hour for a private class.

UCETAM visits U.S. universities each spring to recruit candidates and you may find more information on being an English Language Assistant in Spain. Recruiting is done during the spring for a school year that runs from October to June. You receive regular and paid vacation, which in Spain includes not only winter and Easter break but countless puentes — long weekends, literally meaning bridges, throughout the year.

For those who cannot commit an entire year and still want to teach English in Spain, it is worth mentioning the following non-government program: Pueblo Inglés. The programs recruits volunteers to spend a short amount of time, usually a week, in a secluded place speaking only English to Spaniards. It is an intense schedule that runs from morning to evening filled with activities, but meals and accommodations (3-4 star hotels) are included. You will also get to see a town or village in Spain that you might otherwise not have visited. Application details can be found on their respective websites. A useful detailed report on the teacher assistant program is also available on our website.

Japan: The Jet Programme

The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) supervises the JET Programme along with local government organizations; the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA); and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).

There are three ways in which to participate:

  • Assistant Language teacher: The most similar to the joint initiative  discussed above.

  • Coordinator for International Relations: Requires fluency in Japanese as you will work alongside government officials.

  • Sports Exchange Advisors: Involves making extensive use of sports as a universal language to communicate between cultures.

Placements are usually for a year, and may be in locations throughout Japan, though mostly in rural areas. Application details can be found on the wevbsite. A useful detailed report on the Jet teacher assistant program is also available on our website.

Government Program vs. TEFL?

You may be asking yourself: what is the difference between going abroad via a government program and getting a relatively inexpensive TEFL degree?

Here is a chart which summarizes some of the differences:


Government program


What does it involve?

Usually, a teaching assistant position at a public school for the entire year.

A certificate (obtained either online or in-person) that will allow you to teach at institutes, as well as offer private lessons.

Where do you teach?

Public schools. Can be complemented with private classes

You choose. Institution, school, and/or private classes

Who finds the placement?

You apply and the program finds you a placement. Usually you can put down a preference, which you may or may not get.

You choose, but you also have more responsibility for finding the placement. The TEFL school may be able to assist you.

What about work permits?

Taken care of by the program.

You are in charge. Many teachers also get paid in cash “under the table,” especially for private classes.

Which is better for my resume?

This depends; a government program can give you more prestige, but you can present your TEFL teaching experience just as effectively in your resume.

Which will offer an easier expatriate life?

Hard to say, as it always depends on what you seek as well. If you are teaching on a government program, you will have a support network for that specific time. In the case of working in TEFL, you are relying more on yourself (and a bit on the TEFL school) to make connections.

A summary

Overall, the government program provides you with a lot of support, while the TEFL requires a bit more initiative on your part. There are also TEFL programs which find you a placement, but those are usually a lot more expensive. On the whole, if you feel confident and independent, go for a TEFL, if you want a steady schedule and a support network, try the government initiative.

The Ins and Outs of Teaching English Through a Government Initiative

Do not expect to…

  • make a lot of money. On the contrary, going to teach English abroad is more about your experience in the foreign country than making a significant salary. Though you can expect to earn more in Asia than in Europe, always be prepared to shell out a bit of your own cash. This is especially the case in the beginning, since programs often expect you to pay and then they give you the stipend at the end. Government programs generally want to make sure you stay.

  • get your first location of choice. Many people going to Chile ask to work in Santiago, Valparaiso, or Viña del Mar. But there are only a limited number of teaching positions available in each location, so you must be open. Be especially prepared to go to a rural area; this is usually where English teachers are most lacking.

  • work with your age group of choice. Again, working with some age groups may be more popular than with others, so you need to be open. If you really do not feel comfortable with the age group to which you are assigned, you may be able to switch, but do not count on it. The most important thing is to give it your best shot.

Do expect to…

  • get to know a foreign culture. Though you will be teaching English, you are also going to a different country and will soon become acquainted with its customs if you are open to them. Immersing yourself in a distant lifestyle can be challenging at first, but it can also be the most rewarding aspect of your time abroad. It is not a coincidence that many teachers stay beyond their initial year, reapply, or even find a different job in their host country.

  • have fun. Enjoy your time with everyone around you, the children, your host family, and all the other locals. Learn about their traditions and tell them about your own. You will see how important cross-cultural interaction is and come back with skills which will last a lifetime.

  • make a difference! Many times, the children you are teaching will look up to a foreigner as an idol. On the one hand, this becomes a great responsibility, on the other, it is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in another person’s life. The best thing about these government initiatives is that you can walk away knowing that they are sustainable. Since you are usually recruited as a teaching assistant, not as a full-time teacher, the kids will still have someone there for them the following year. And the teacher, too, is bound to learn from your input. In the end, it’s a win-win for all, and you will be proud to have participated.
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