As Myanmar opens up to tourism and multinational business, the number of English language tuition centres has grown significantly over the past couple of years. Myanmar is a very safe place in which to live and there is a good network of English teachers and language centres in both Yangon and Mandalay. Sitting at the crossroads of India, China and Southeast Asian nations, the dazzling culture is a curious blend quite unlike anywhere else. And you haven’t lived unless you’ve been on a train journey across Myanmar – quite probably the bounciest railway carriages in the world! Now is a great time to be there as the nation transforms itself and the number of opportunities within the education sector grows rapidly. Note that most teachers have to enter and exit the country every seven weeks or so to renew their work visa. This usually entails flying to Bangkok and back, at the expense of the language centre or school. Would you complain?
For those with a few years of teaching experience, and a decent TEFL certificate, Saudi Arabia is still the best ESL destination in the world when it comes to salaries. With pleasant accommodation included (for you and your dependents) and high tax-free wages, it is the best place for any experienced teacher looking to put away some savings each month. Indeed, a few years here and you could have a substantial cash deposit for a house back in your home country. The infrastructure is excellent too. So, that’s the good news. The bad news should be pretty well-known to all non-Muslims: a very strict set of right-wing laws that creates a stifling environment in which to live and work. Don’t expect an amazing social life. Whether or not it is worth it depends on your own individual circumstances and aims but it remains the number one ESL teaching destination for salaries alone. Do remember that last bit!
Boasting the finest local cuisine in Southeast Asia – thanks in part to the French influence – and brilliant social scenes with locals, tourists, and English teachers alike, Vietnam must be one of the most fun places in which to teach English as a foreign language. Living costs remain low and demand for tuition remains high. The immense Ho Chi Minh City (as still known as Saigon) is way down south and is the place to be if you enjoy nightlife. Northerly Hanoi is Vietnam’s pleasant capital city of culture, dotted with lakes and sometimes almost chilly during the winter. There are plenty of teaching vacancies in both major cities, plus various opportunities in smaller cities and towns elsewhere in this long, thin nation. Some teachers complain of rudeness and unreliability on the part of some of the local people, and when it comes to road manners (or lack thereof) they are definitely correct! Thankfully, Vietnam actually has proper pavements (sidewalks) on most major roads (compare with the horrid state of affairs in Indonesia, for example!)
Straddling Europe and Asia, and with a seemingly endless supply of teaching vacancies, Turkey is a great place to be if you’re from the UK or Ireland, want to experience a very different culture, but also prefer to be close enough to home that you could go back for the weekend. A great advantage for non-European teachers is that, unlike in most countries in Western Europe, you have exactly the same chance of getting a TEFL job as a teacher from the United Kingdom or Ireland. Salaries are not amazing, for the most part, but the pace of life is relaxed and living costs remain relatively low. Do make sure you do sufficient research when it comes to employers as they vary tremendously in reliability. Once you have made the contacts, you can even consider becoming a self-employed tutor.
In at number one, Malaysia is our top ESL destination pick for 2014. With decent salaries and adequate national infrastructure in most places, the Malaysia experience is somewhere between the intoxicating chaos of neighbouring Indonesia and the safety, efficiency and reliability of Singapore. It may be a majority Muslim country (just about), but Muslim rules only apply to Muslim people, so don’t let this put you off in any way. Some of the best opportunities right now are actually teacher mentoring roles (with salaries between 2,000 and 3000 USD per month) in rural locations in both Western Malaysia (mainland peninsula) and Eastern Malaysia (the northern segment of the fascinating island of Borneo). These are currently advertised on the British Council website and also by other recruiters worldwide. If you have the experience, feel confident enough to help local teachers improve their planning, classroom management, and so on, and can live an hour or two away from a city, then these opportunities are hard to beat at the moment. There are also plenty of other teaching opportunities in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, one of the key transportation hubs in Asia and home to the reliable low-cost airline Air Asia. So enjoying your weekends and holidays is easy (and cheap if you remember to book ahead). There are few more beautiful countries to explore.
So those are our top 5 for 2014. Do you agree? Leave your comments, ideas and experiences below.
Why no mention of Europe and Latin America? In general term it’s very simple. In Europe, TEFL salaries remain low relative to the high living costs. In Latin America, wages remain low, hours are unreliable or split shifts and contracts are elusive. However, these things change. Who knows what our top 5 for 2015 will be?