Teaching abroad: What are your prospects in 2023?

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Published on 2023-02-03 at 12:00 by Ameerah Arjanee
Teachers must take many things into consideration when moving abroad. Are there enough vacancies in education abroad? Should they apply to public or private schools? How can they get their degree and teaching license recognized in another country? In 2023, it's more complicated than before to get employed as a foreign teacher in Gulf countries and in China. Meanwhile, many European countries are in dire need of expat teachers.

Gulf countries and China are less open to expat teachers than in the past

In the past, expats could easily have lucrative and fulfilling teaching careers in the international schools of China and various Gulf countries. China also had a booming ESL (English as a Second Language) industry for private tutors, who could join with just an undergraduate degree in any field. However, job nationalization in the Gulf and a crackdown on private tutoring in China have changed the situation.

In the wake of the pandemic, the governments of Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are all boosting their efforts to nationalize their workforce. They want to reduce their high dependency on expat labor and decrease unemployment among locals. Unfortunately for expat teachers, the “Kuwaitization” drive in Kuwait is targeting them directly. 

Gulf News reported in early January 2023 that 200 heads of department had been demoted so that there could be more Kuwaiti citizens in supervisory positions. These former heads of department will not lose their normal teaching jobs, but their salary and career prospects will be reduced. The authorities have justified this move by saying that many Kuwaiti teachers had passed promotion interviews years ago but were still waiting for senior vacancies, many of which were already filled by expats.

While demoted heads of departments will not become unemployed, sadly, some regular teachers will indeed have their contracts terminated. In August 2023, at the end of the academic year, nearly 2,000 foreign teachers will be replaced by Kuwaitis, said the Minister of Education, Dr. Hamad Al-Adwani, in December 2022.

China is another country where the prospects of foreign teachers are diminishing. In 2021 and 2022, the Chinese government cracked down on for-profit tutoring in a bid to promote equality in education. Previously, even expats in their early 20s and with no background in education could easily snatch a job tutoring English in China, especially if they were from an English-speaking country. However, as the industry has been made illegal and the only legal teaching jobs are now in schools and in institutions registered as non-profits, there are fewer prospects for less experienced expat teachers in China.

Many European countries are in desperate need of teachers

If you are looking for many vacancies in the education sector, Europe is the region to turn to. Germany, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy and Portugal are all suffering from worrying teacher shortages. Euronews reports that, by the end of this decade, there will be an estimated 4,000 unfilled teaching positions in France, 25,000 in Germany and 30,000 in Portugal.

In Germany, each of the 16 federal states has its own rules for hiring teachers. "I Am Expat" reported in early January that the state of Berlin has decided to simplify the hiring process for expat teachers. It should be noted that there are currently 1000 unfilled teacher vacancies only in Berlin. This state will ease the bureaucratic procedure for getting one's foreign degrees and teaching license recognized in order for expats to be able to join Berlin's schools more quickly. 

Is it possible to become a teacher in Germany without prior teaching experience? Yes, in some federal states, it is. Through the “Quereinsteiger” (“career jumper”) route, expats can get practical training in a real school setting in order to become qualified teachers. Of course, they also need to read, speak and write German at an intermediate level (B1) at the very least. 

The UK also made reforms in 2022 to attract more expat teachers. It's been suffering from a shortage of overseas teachers since Brexit, says the magazine Schools Week. The QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) process in the UK has an Assessment Only pathway that allows teachers trained abroad to work in British schools. It's a short, 12-week program that includes the submission of a portfolio, oral and written exams, and being observed teaching in a host school. This route is only for qualified and experienced teachers – others need to take a longer teacher training course.

Previously, teachers with qualifications from only 8 regions were allowed to apply to the fast-tracked QTS Assessment Only pathway: Australia, Canada, the European Economic Area, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Switzerland, Ukraine and the US. However, since the latest reforms, teachers trained in the following Commonwealth countries can also apply: Ghana, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Experienced teachers from these Asian and African countries can move to the UK in 2023 if they can teach math, science or languages to 11-16-year-olds.