University graduates are increasingly turning to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) as a career because they cannot find good jobs at home.
Moving abroad to teach English has become the only viable option for many graduates, according to The TEFL Academy, a Sussex-based international business that trains more than 6,000 TEFL students a year, two-thirds of them graduates.
Director Rhyan O’Sullivan said: “We have seen a 30 percent increase in applications from graduates over the past 12 months. There is a whole generation of people coming out of university with no career path. For a lot of them, doing a TEFL course is their only hope of getting a decent job. It’s sad that graduates struggle to get jobs in the UK, but taking the TEFL course gives them hope and makes them instantly employable.
“There is an incredible amount of work in TEFL. The British Council estimates there are one-and-a-half billion people worldwide wanting to learn English. That’s one in seven people on the planet. In China alone, there are 400 million people learning English right now and many millions more in south-east Asia and South America. If you learn TEFL, you’re guaranteed a job!”
Liam Riley, 26, graduated from university with first class honours in English and Creative Writing.
He said: “I found it very hard to get work. I was looking for anything in the media but ended up working as a freelance journalist for a magazine in Liverpool. I also worked part-time in a bar to make ends meet. It was tough. I was on minimum wage and living hand to mouth.”
Liam decided to take a TEFL course because it was his “best chance of getting work”. “I thought that if I did TEFL abroad for a year, I would be more employable when I came back,” he said. “I took a weekend course followed by 100 hours of online tuition. The course was comprehensive and prepared me very well for work as a TEFL teacher.”
He quickly landed a job as a TEFL teacher in Suzhov, near Shanghai, China. “I wasn’t able save up any money back home, so I thought I’d come out to China where I could secure a job and save money,” said Liam. “You can save here because the price difference compared with the UK is astronomical. In China, I get paid between £1,000 and £1,100 a month and can live off around £500.”
Moreover, he finds his job more fulfilling than his UK work was. “I really enjoy the work here. It’s brilliant!” said Liam. “It is so different from back home. I have been promoted in my job already. I was a basic teacher at Jenny’s Palace English Teaching Centre. Now I am Assistant to the Head teacher.
“It’s fantastic. It takes some time to get used to! I am fortunate where I live. You have the comfort of a large ex-pat community and can explore the old-style China. I’m very lucky!”
Craig Crowther, 25, who graduated in 2013 with upper-second class honours in media and politics, said: “I got it into my head that I wanted to do TEFL. Employment circumstances in Britain were not great. They are not good now but they were even worse back then. I did not want to have no job after I graduated.”
He says the TEFL course he took gave him the “basic tools and techniques to fall back on until I could build my own portfolio of skills and abilities”.
“It gives you the confidence to feel you can do it,” said Craig. “I went off to Shanghai in China for six months. I also went to Bangkok for a year. I was teaching three-year-olds to 14-year-olds. We played a lot of games!”
Craig said: “You get a split of people in TEFL - one demographic who are doing it for the travel and experience, and one demographic who can make a career out of it. China was interesting from a cultural perspective but wasn’t a place I wanted to stay forever.
“I have friends who are teaching at universities as a result of doing TEFL – one at the University of Munich and another at the University of Istanbul. Often people end up with a successful academic career out of it.”
Craig is now working in a new media job in Berlin. He found it through contacts he made while teaching English in Bangkok. He said: “Even if you do not want to teach forever, it provides connections and opportunities.”
Margarita Ruszkowska – currently teaching in Vietnam – found she could only get dead-end jobs when she lived in Brighton, East Sussex.
She said: “I became bored because you can’t progress or learn if the company does not want to invest in you. I decided to quit my job and realised that I wanted to travel more. I signed up for a TEFL course in January 2015.”
Margarita’s dream came true remarkably quickly. She took a weekend TEFL course and decided to complete the online part of the course while travelling in south-east Asia.
She said: “It was a good course, covering the basic methods of teaching. I loved it! For me it was the solution. You have a year to complete the course online but I really cracked on with it. I completed my online assignments by the end of May while still travelling – and got a distinction!”
“I was in Vietnam when I finished the course,” added Margarita. “I met people who were teaching there and they helped me get in contact with the schools. I went back to the UK to pack up my things and returned to Vietnam to work. “There are plenty of jobs – they are desperate for English teachers. I have ended up working in four or five schools, including a couple of secondary schools, a kindergarten and a Korean school where I teach English to mothers. You get paid from 15 to 25 dollars an hour, although I spend quite a lot of time riding between jobs on my scooter. It is very different from the UK where it is hard to get good jobs.
“It’s tough to get decent jobs in the south of England. Brighton is challenging for jobs, especially decent ones in which you can progress in your career.”
She said her current life is a huge improvement on being jobless for five months in Brighton in 2011, working on minimum wage in a call centre and taking other dead-end jobs.
Margarita added that TEFL is a great way into work but she stressed that candidates needed to be genuinely interested in teaching English as a foreign language.
“I hope they take the job seriously,” she said. “It is interesting work and you gain life experience. I love working with children. I could probably teach TEFL anywhere now.”
This article appears courtesy of The TEFL Academy.