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Volunteer Teaching Abroad

TEFL opportunities around the world

If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in teaching, volunteer teaching abroad can be a brilliant starting point. The most common way to do it is teaching English as a foreign language – usually abbreviated to TEFL. You’ll get classroom experience with numerous different age groups, learn different teaching techniques, and gain invaluable experience to put on your CV when you return.

Even if you are often restricted to teaching English, there are numerous different kinds of placements in countries all over the world. You might teach in developing communities in Africa, where learning English can be a great path out of poverty, or teach the next generation of business tycoons in China. This variety of options means you can choose a placement to suit both your career and your travel goals! You might even choose to transition volunteer TEFL work into a career in TEFL!

Below are some frequently asked questions about volunteer teaching abroad to see if it’s the right move for you.

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How do I choose the right volunteer teaching placement?

It really depends on what you hope you to get out of teaching abroad. While any volunteer teaching is likely to boost your career prospects, different placements can suit different ambitions. The best way to choose the right placement for you, and to make sure you will be prepared for the work involved, is to take into account your skills, interests, and career aspirations. If the experience won’t be useful for your future career, you may not be motivated to see your placement through to its end.

So if you’re interested in teaching at a primary level, you can find a volunteer teaching placement that pairs you with younger children, for example. Always read carefully what any volunteer teaching placement involves and includes so you can have all the information you need to decide if it’s right for you.

Where should I do volunteer teaching?

As above, this can depend a great deal on what you want to get out of your time spent volunteering. If you are taking the first step on the road to a teaching career, you might choose to teach somewhere like China or Japan, where standards are often considered to be higher and you might have the opportunity to make strong contacts within the industry. If you are more concerned with really making a difference to the lives of disadvantaged people, you could consider teaching in developing communities in Africa. You might experience more challenging conditions, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have made a real difference to disadvantaged lives.

You should also consider your wider travel plans. Although you will spend a lot of time teaching, your time off is your own. Choosing a destination you are keen to see as a visitor can make balancing your workload feel that much easier.

Should I volunteer or get a paid teaching job?

As above, this depends to some extent on your reasons for pursuing this line of work. Many of these roles require volunteers instead of paid teachers because they are in communities that can’t afford to pay a wage. If you are most interested in making a difference in developing communities and improving the prospects of disadvantaged children, volunteering work instead of paid work can be a route to achieving that. If you are more interested in improving your career prospects by getting some experience under your belt, getting paid at the same time might make more sense for you. Think carefully before you commit to anything.

Do I need qualifications to be a volunteer teacher?

Many volunteer teaching positions will require you to hold a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) qualification before you can start. This is something that can usually be earned in a weekend-long course back home, and is a valuable qualification to hold in general if you are interested in a teaching career in future. It is also used by many placements as a gauge of how seriously you are likely to take the work. However, it is possible to find volunteer placements that will not require you to have a TEFL or other teaching qualification.

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