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Potential opportunity for EFL teachers

Fewer UK schoolteachers are heading abroad to work in British Curriculum international schools, a new study by the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) has shown. As schools overseas look for new sources of teaching staff, they are focusing on retaining existing staff, recruiting locals and retraining teachers from outside the UK to deal with a British curriculum. 

But how about retraining EFL teachers?

The international school sector may already be as large as the private language school market and larger in terms of fee income. According to COBIS, there are around 13,000 English-medium international schools around the world and nearly half follow a British curriculum. Some 6 million full-time students are enrolled in the sector, the majority being local children for whom English is a second language. The sector employs more than 560,000 teaching staff and generates over US$50 billion per year in school fees. 

Yet in a COBIS survey of 1,600 schools this year, 91% of school leaders said they are finding recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ challenging, with 40% reporting a lower volume of applications for each post compared to two years ago, and only 19% saying they are always able to recruit candidates that meet their expectations.

In the past few years the sector has developed British-style international Initial Teacher Training qualifications, often known as iPGCEs, in order to train up teachers who live locally, some of whom will have been EFL teachers already working in the schools as English language teaching assistants. 

Traditionally, EFL teachers have switched into the international school market by getting jobs in bilingual schools in countries such as China, where native-speaker teachers with a CELTA are permitted to teach classes in the subject of their first degree and then self-fund their way through an iPGCE or switching to an employer who will pay for it before making the move to a British Curriculum school. 

When recruiting staff without Qualified Teacher Status, international schools tend to prefer those who have settled locally, not only because they are more likely to retain them after they have put them through training, but because they don’t need to pay for their accommodation or flights back home, although they are normally paid the same salary as their expat colleagues. Besides, iPGCEs are not generally accepted by mainstream schools in the UK. 

The good news, however, is that unlike many EFL schools, international schools do not discriminate against non-native speakers. In fact, COBIS seemed taken aback when we asked them about NNESTs. “There are lots of fantastic teachers in the sector for whom English may not be their first language,” a COBIS spokesperson told the Gazette.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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