This oil-rich country is seen as more socially liberal than other Gulf states, but what gainful employment can it offer English teachers? Olga Kravchenko investigates
Bahrain, an oil-rich collection of 33 islands, has become a modern state and home to expensive malls and hotels. Known as a more ‘relaxed’ Arabic country, the kingdom has gained popularity among many expatriates from around the world attracted by its salaries and beautiful coasts.
It is now a popular social and shopping destination, just a bridge away from the surrounding Gulf states that impose strict Islamic laws on their non-Muslim citizens. This small island nation may be a good choice for English teachers who want to start their journey in the Middle East – but you must be prepared to spend your life in air-conditioned buildings as the boiling heat all year round hardly allows for outdoor activities.
What is life like in Bahrain?
Bahrain is seen as more socially liberal than neighbouring Arab countries – however, female teachers will be required to dress modestly. But it is totally acceptable to wear bikinis and swimsuits while visiting beaches and resorts. Unlike other Gulf states, alcohol is legal, although usually unavailable during Ramadan. Despite the well-paid jobs, you can easily find yourself blowing your income all at once, especially when shopping at the commercial centres of Manama or enjoying the nightlife. Dining out is not very expensive compared to drinking, and you will be spoilt for choice between Western fast food, street stalls, high-end restaurants and markets.
Are there any risks visitors should be aware of?
Official advice from the UK Foreign Office says that street ‘demonstrations and protests take place regularly and can turn violent.’ It warns the terror threat level is high, as it is in most of the region.
How widespread is English in Bahrain?
Although Bahrain’s official language is Arabic, English is widely spoken and there is a high demand for English teachers. English is the commonly used language between locals and expatriates, and staff in service industries and hospitals must know how to speak English.
What scope is there for developing your career?
Bahrain may give you plenty of opportunities in British and international schools or universities. There are many private language schools, catering mainly for the needs of expatriates wanting to improve their English. Since students normally attend classes after work, teaching hours may be late and long. Some foreign international language schools such as Berlitz (which has branches in Bahrain) often provide additional training for their staff to learn the particular teaching methods of that language school. Be prepared for a lot of admin work, as some schools are obsessed with it.
Are there any well-known English language centres in Bahrain?
The British Council offers jobs both for EFL teachers and for more senior jobs with managerial responsibilities. Besides a compulsory minimum of two years’ teaching experience, a recognised qualification such as an RSA diploma or PGCE in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (Tefl) is essential.
Does Bahrain offer any opportunities for private tutoring?
Teachers may supplement their incomes by helping students prepare for exams or brush up on their skills after they’ve failed. This work is seasonal and largely advertised in local newspapers or by word of mouth.
Where are the best places to find teaching jobs?
Because of its high demand and popularity, the job market in Bahrain is quite competitive. Jobs for English teachers are highly concentrated in and around Manama, the capital city of Bahrain. However, some work is also available in other towns. The best way to find work would be contacting schools directly and, if you’re already in Bahrain, going door-to-door with your CV. Getting as much information about the school before signing a contract is highly recommended as some of them have a poor reputation. Hiring for teaching jobs in Bahrain takes place throughout the year. Term dates in Bahraini schools generally coincide with those in the UK, with the academic year starting in September and lasting until early summer.
What do you need to be accepted for the job?
The requirements may vary slightly but schools usually require a minimum of a university degree (BA) and a Tefl certification such as Celta, plus at least one year’s teaching experience. Though experienced licensed teachers are preferred, practice shows that exceptions can be made. Since most teachers are hired in advance from their home countries, applicants are most likely to go through the process of interviewing and procuring a visa, which may take between one and three months.
The costs of visas are usually covered by the employing school, and to receive the visa, teachers should expect to pass medical tests – and in many cases academic transcripts and a criminal background check may also be necessary.
Qualified English teachers in Bahrain can realistically expect to make $1,500 – $2,500 tax free a month (that equals 565-950 Bahraini dinars). It is easy to save while living in Bahrain as salary packages include generous benefits such as shared furnished accommodation – including bills – flight allowance and health insurance for you and your dependants. A decent gym and swimming pool as well as a roof terrace are sometimes provided with your accommodation.
The typical prices are:
- a cup of coffee 0.60 BHD
- a beer 1.20 BHD
- a cinema ticket 2.50 BHD
- a meal in an average restaurant 9 BHD
- a month’s rent 360 BHD for a two-bedroom apartment
Agencies to contact who recruit teachers in the Middle East:
- International Teacher Plus: www.internationalteachersplus.com
- TIC Recruitment: www.ticrecruitment.com
- Teach Away: www.teachaway.com
- Eteach international : www.eteachinternational.com
- For more practical information on the Middle East try the Go Overseas website: www.gooverseas.com