Teaching Abroad

This month Alceis wanted to have a look at the situation of expatriate teachers. We often meet expatriates teachers in France, in our middle schools and high schools. However, they are also very numerous in French alliances, organisations, institutes, universities, bilingual high schools or embassies around the world. Why do they leave France? How did they manage to integrate? What qualifications did they need to go? Here they tell us everything.

Why do teachers leave ?

To be pragmatic, we can decide to leave for the salary. PetitJournal.com, which covers local and international current events for French expatriates and Francophones, underlines in one of its articles that in France, "a teacher earns at least €24.595 gross a year, which is more or less as much as a teacher in Italy or Cyprus, but much less than his German neighbour (€44.860 ranking 2nd  for earnings) or English (€30.646 ranking 8th). France ranks at a mere twelfth place in terms of remuneration."

We also leave because of an emotional attachment to the host country. It is the case for Mélanie, a 29-year-old Belgian woman. After working as a teacher in Belgium for two years, she decided to join her English partner to teach in London, where salaries are much higher than in France.

Christel also seized this opportunity at the beginning of her career: "I followed my husband in his professional transfer. I worked in communication and was not able to practise my profession abroad. I decided to take a qualification and totally change profession in order to gain greater flexibility"

For those who have dual nationality, the choice to leave can also seem an obvious one. Christian, a French-Spanish professor teaches Spanish literature in Spain: "I did not really choose this country. I have always spent time there regularly since my childhood. As I wanted to teach, I did not think of returning to France. "

Financial, emotional factors, identity and belonging … Most of the expatriate teachers we spoke to also left to dive into a new culture and into a new way of teaching, so as to renew or question their method.  However, beyond the financial and cultural aspects, the demand is there and is on the increase. To Mélanie, "Integration was relatively easy in the professional framework because native teachers are rare and much in demand. As a result, schools do their best to keep us "happy" ". Indeed, an increase in bilingual programs in worldwide schools has resulted in more and more job opportunities.

What do you need to make the leap ?

Although you have mastered your mother tongue, that won’t be enough to teach the meanderings of French grammar to speakers of another language. This is where the DAEFLE comes in. The diploma of capacity to teach French as a foreign language is one of the possible solutions for teaching abroad. This diploma can be obtained through a classic university program (Bachelor or Master’s degree,) through short courses lasting five months, and also via online programs (MOOCs) the CNED (National Center for Distance Learning) and its partnership with the French Alliance (see the FLE site for more details). Once you have earned the diploma, you can choose for instance to become an independent teacher with self-employed status to offer your services in all sorts of structures, with more flexibility.

Outside teaching French, becoming the holder of a teaching post abroad depends on highly varied factors. Christian experienced this when he decided to leave France to teach Spanish literature in Spain: "It is much more difficult to have a fixed place as a teacher in Spain because exams are organised in independent communities and because the posts are limited there is little mobility: when a teacher has a place, he keeps it... In France, the transfer system seems wholesome to me, it allows the teacher and the establishment to renew their posts."

You have a last option if you wish to go and teach abroad: French Teaching Assistantships. Details of the post and the conditions of application are explained on the CIEP website or the International Center of Educational Studies affiliated  with the Department of Education. It’s a great option if you are between 20 and 30 years old and want to find out what foreign education looks like. It also offers the opportunity not to directly commit yourself to a permanent post. This option requires you to be registered at a French university, to have studied at least one degree year in the English language and to have B1 level in the target language. (See other conditions on the CIEP site)

To teach abroad, above all, is a culture shock.

Before leaving, you have to expect some surprises. The organization of establishments can vary a lot according to different countries. A postholder in Spain, Christian notes that "in terms of administration, the teacher’s responsibility is higher in Spain than in France: you have to do more educational research and take an active part in the life of the establishment. However, the difference is becoming less prominent as they are demanding this more and more in France too." Mélanie, based in England, arrives at the same conclusion: "The administrative side of the teacher’s role is much bigger (analysis of data, forms) but the difference in salary means that it is really worth it even if expectations and pressure are heavier too."

Contact with children can itself be a surprise: according to Mélanie, a teacher of  pupils from 5-18 years old: "The big difference between Belgium and England is the behavior and the discipline. English pupils have more lfreedom (getting up in class, speaking) and the relationship with the teacher is less formal".  A teacher of pupils in Spanish middle and high schools, Christian points out that "Teachers and pupils are closer, there is not the same barrier and dialogue is much more present than in France"

This barrier is the very marked hierarchy between a pupil and a teacher, something maintained in France. French teachers have become used to this dynamic and try to maintain it. Certain countries have favored more flexible relational methods to guide pupils rather than to direct them. This dynamic is sometimes reproduced within the teaching staff as Christian notes it through the Spanish example: "Colleagues are more cohesive and the hierarchy is much less marked."

This relevant method has already been observed in Northern European countries such as Finland, where education is doing very well according to a famous PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report. Finnish pupils are ranked 5th out of 70 countries for their command of science, understanding and mathematics (Singapore ranked first, followed by Japan and Estonia).

Whatever your profile, you already have one of the qualities needed to be a French teacher in abundance: you have mastered the French language. With nothing more than a teaching certificate to obtain and a plane ticket to buy you could be off on a teaching adventure! Teaching anything other than your mother tongue puts you in direct competition with the teachers in your destination country, and you’ll need to prove your worth to be taken on. But after all, it’s worth it: Isn’t teaching considered by many to be the most beautiful profession in the world?

"To teach is to make it so that every lesson sounds the hour of awakening."

Daniel Pennac, School Blues, 2007