Teaching English in Asia – Requirements and Qualifications

IMG_5635              Native English speakers probing the global job market may well consider teaching English in Asia, given the largely underserviced demand for ESL/EFL (English as a second language/English as a foreign language) teachers in the region. The requirements for embarking on this lucrative career varies per country, and being prepared about legal, diplomatic, and academic documentation will save the would-be language educator substantial time, effort, and money.

Teaching English in Asia have had a long history, with several independent states such as Singapore, Malaysia, India, and the Philippines being former colonies of either the US or the United Kingdom. While the linguistic roots of English may have been planted in these locations, the pivotal surge in regional demand may have only been experienced as recently as a decade ago when it became clear that this century will be dominated–at least economically–by Asian countries.

degreeIn the North East, the industrially advanced economies of Japan and South Korea are already key global players in the automotive, engineering and electronics industries, having introduced mega brands such as Honda, Canon, Samsung and Hyundai to the world market. Meantime, two other Asian economies have been inducted to the phenomenal BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) group, considered by economists as the next global superpowers that are slated to eclipse the national outputs of today’s richest nations in North America and Western Europe. Combined, ASEAN countries are also developing rapidly and their roles in regional and global trade and security will be critical and impossible to ignore. That Asia will eventually lead this century in many aspects of global development is now accepted by most analysts.

However, as the role of English as the lingua franca of globalization is all but formalized, Asian nations recognize that to perform their inevitable roles as global leaders, their people need to learn how toPassports meaningfully participate in global discourses. That, of course, leads to the steep uptrend in the demand for English teachers in the region.

For native English speakers reeling from the serious recession at the home front, this demand is an opportunity not only to remain financially buoyed over the crisis but also to explore the natural landscapes and rich cultural traditions of different Asian countries.

Requirements and qualifications differ across countries and the type of employment being offered. In many Asian cities, demand for formal language educators is in high gear among schools, universities, and language-learning companies. There is also a substantial demand for private tutors of individual learners (from kids and adolescents to executives) as well as corporate trainers. University diplomas, training certificates, teaching experience, and health/security clearances issued by home nations are some of the typical documents required by most employers. However, depending on the job arrangement, some employers may not even require a college diploma. In fact, many young English-speaking backpackers eventually end up teaching their language in cities such as Seoul, Ho Chih Minh and Kuala Lumpur.

Based on ads posted online as well as consular statements, the following are some of the required documents native English speakers need to comply with if they intend to work in different Asian countries.

Brunei
Requirements for teaching in formal schools:

  • University degree from an English-speaking country (one major employer prefers graduates of English, Linguistics, or Humanities and should be from the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa)
  • At least any of the following: Bachelors degree in Education (B Ed), Diploma in Education (Dip Ed), Diploma in Teaching, or Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • Minimum of three years relevant teaching experience, preferably with primary and secondary learners.
  • Primary teachers should be under 52 years old at start of contract.
  • Secondary teachers should have at least 1 year experience with teaching EFL or ESL and should be under 55 years old at the start of contract

China
General Requirements for EFL teachers

  • Chinese work visa (Z-visa)
  • University degree from an English-speaking country
  • At least two years work experience
  • Residence permit (foreign teachers should obtain this within 30 days of entry into China)

Note: To obtain a Z-visa, Americans need to forward their valid US passport, a visa notification issued by the Chinese government, locally obtained clearance for HIV, TB, and drugs, and other documents. Meantime, government certifications on health and teaching expertise are some of the main documents that should be secured when requesting a Residence Permit.

Japan
General Requirements for EFL/ESL teachers

  • Japanese visa (Tourist or Work)
  • University degree from an English-speaking country (the Japanese government seldom grants a Work Visa to persons without a university degree)

Optional documents that may help

  • TEFL Certification for non-formal teachers

Note: To obtain a Work visa you need to furnish documents that certify the activity, duration, position, and salary arrangements in addition to your diploma. Additional requirements include the Financial Statements of the employer.

Requirements differ depending on the nature of employment (high school teacher, university teacher, conversation school teacher, business English teacher). For example, some conversation schools do not require TEFL while universities require a post-graduate degree from English teachers.

Indonesia
General requirements

  • Teaching Visa
  • Native English Speaker
  • Citizens of UK, US, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand
  • University degree
  • TEFL Certification (most large scale employers require this from their teachers)

Note: Indonesia is restricting the number of backpackers deciding to start a teaching career in the archipelago. To do that, teaching visas now require TEFL certification.

Malaysia
General requirements

  • Employment Pass
  • University degree
  • Accredited TESOL Certification (most large scale employers require this from their teachers)
  • At least 2 years teaching experience

Requirements to get Employment Pass:

  • Resume with photo
  • Passport
  • Marriage Certificate if applicable
  • Birth certificates of accompanying children if applicable
  • Two-passport sized photos of employee and accompanying family members
  • Appropriate application forms

Note: Malaysian employers generally prefer applicants between 26 and 50 years old and shun applicants with previous employment in Israel.

South Korea
General requirements

  • Valid passport from English speaking countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland)
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university (hardcopy of notarized/authenticated diploma required)
  • Transcripts of school records
  • Criminal record checks (FBI clearance in case of the US. In addition, all applicants except those holding Canadian visas are required to secure an Apostille Certification)

Optional Requirements

  • Resume
  • Recommendation letters
  • Teaching Certifications and/or Proof of Full Time Teaching Experience
  • ESL (TEFL, TESOL, TESL, CELTA, etc) Certifications

Thailand
General requirements

  • Native English speaker
  • Valid passport from English speaking countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland)
  • Bachelor’s degree or better from a university

Optional documents/Local preferences

  • Preferably Caucasian (white-skinned)
  • Preferably under 40 years old but not required
  • Preferably female but not required
  • TEFL certification such as CELTA
  • Relevant teaching experience

Note: There are teaching job opportunities for both trained and untrained native English speakers in Thailand. In fact, many native speakers are being employed to teach with just tourist visas and no university degrees. However, decent jobs require the aforementioned qualifications. Meantime, formal teaching jobs in schools and universities now also require foreign teachers to take and pass certification tests. Called the “Rules for Procedures and Testing and Evaluation of Knowledge of Foreigners in Applying for License to Practice the Teaching Profession,” this mandate was issued by the Teacher’s Council of Thailand. In essence, the law requires all formal teachers to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Education. Those who don’t need to pass the Professional Knowledge Tests.

By Michael G. Hines
About the Author
Michael G. Hines is an educator living in Thailand and the Founder of?Icon Group:
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