Published 28th December 2020
Moving abroad takes courage, especially moving to a country where you are unfamiliar with the language or culture. In this article, we will discuss governmental teaching programmes which will help you step into the world of TEFL for the first time.
These programmes have many benefits to them, such as additional training before you begin your job, free accommodation or an accommodation stipend and a flight refund.
Before you begin, think about which country fits your needs the most, as you will be living and working in these countries for up to a year. Let’s take a look at the different governmental teaching programmes available:
EPIK stands for ‘English Programme in Korea’ and is the South Korean Government’s English teaching programme based on improving the South Korean public-school system through internationalisation. Applications for the EPIK programme open at two periods throughout the year: February for the fall term and August for the Spring term, with deadlines being at the end of November for the Spring term and at the end of May for the Autumn term.
How to apply?
You can apply either directly to the Ministry of Education or through a recruiter. If you decide to apply through a recruiter, there is a list of recruiters approved by the Korean Ministry of Education on the EPIK website, and you should only apply through these recruiters. At no point should you pay a recruiter as they get paid by the Ministry of Education for their services.
To begin your application, you need to go onto the EPIK web portal and register. The application is split into several sections: Background Information, Health Self Declaration, Personal Essays, and Lesson Plan. The background information and health self-declaration are self-explanatory, but personal essays and lesson plans may take a bit more time to complete.
Personal essay tips
Answer both why you want to teach EFL AND why you want to teach in Korea
When writing this part, think about the different elements of EFL and how this may connect to your degree or your previous employment history. Why have you decided to jump from your previous expertise, if you have, to EFL? If your studies have been in EFL or teaching, why did you decide to study this in the first place? For the second part of the question, think about the South Korean educational system, or maybe the ideology that surrounds education in South Korea and how this connects to your own.
Please explain your teaching philosophy
When thinking of your teaching philosophy, think about key elements that you rely on when teaching. Is this fun? Respect? Communication? Use these as the basis for this essay and expand upon them and explain why they are important.
Share your thoughts on encountering cultural differences
When sharing your thoughts, think about what cultural differences mean to you and how you react to them. Have you been anywhere where you have experienced cultural differences, and what are they? Ensure that you relate this back to South Korea- talk about what parts of Korean culture excite you and how you will use your colleagues, fellow staff members, and students to experience this.
Your lesson plan is your time to shine but remember that EPIK will look for both quality and quantity; make sure that you hit the word counts, but also make your lesson plan unique.
Before you start your lesson plan, make sure that you research the South Korean educational system as each level (e.g. Elementary, Middle, and High) will have specific focuses. For example, High Schoolers will be going into either higher education or employment, whilst Elementary School students will be focusing on the basics.
Your lesson plan should not focus on grammar, but rather a conversation. You need to make sure that your students are being taught something that they will primarily need to use in English, for example, being in an airport or going on holiday.
As for every teaching programme, EPIK will require a notarised and apostilled copy of your degree and teaching qualification, as well as a notarised and apostilled original CBC. One thing that is different is that EPIK may require an apostilled copy of your birth certificate or some other way to identify where you were born. This is because, if you were born in Korea and under a certain age, you would be liable for conscription. More information about the EPIK programme can be found here: EPIK (English Programme In Korea)
2. JET Programme
The JET programme is run by the Japanese government as a way to increase educational internationalisation. There are three distinct strands that you can apply for through the JET programme: Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), Coordinator of International Relations (CIR), and Sports Exchange Advisor (SEA). Whilst you only must have a high level of English proficiency for the ALT strand, you will also need a high level of proficiency in Japanese for the CIR and SEA positions.
If you are looking at the JET Programme from a TEFL point of view, you are most likely going to be applying for the ALT position. As the name implies, you will be assisting a Japanese teacher of English in their teaching duties.
How to apply
Due to the circumstances of 2020, JET applications have moved fully online for the 2020/21 application cycle. This is compared to previous years where you would have you send your application and documents to your local Japanese embassy for processing. Please note that each country has its own JET website, so requirements may change from country to country.
To start the process, you need to complete an online application form; the form will ask you for background information such as educational history and employment history, but also any coaching or teaching roles and any intercultural experiences. In these additional parts, it is important to sell your experiences and to say what you have learnt, even if you have only been to Spain for a family holiday. JET will be looking at how you can apply what you have learnt to their programme, but also to make sure that you are open to new cultures and experiences.
The final part of the application, which is the most important, is the personal statement. Unlike EPIK, you do not have to complete a lesson plan here, but you must convey why you JET should pick you. Dependant on the role that you are applying for, you may need to complete a slightly different personal statement. As most people will apply for the ALT position, I will be discussing this.
Things to consider for your personal statement:
Do your background research on the JET programme and think about what parts are most appealing to you- is it the fact that you can help students improve their skills, or is it the fact that you get to experience a new educational system?
Think about what skills you can bring to your new community: are you experienced in the world of EFL? If so, tell them what skills you can bring from that. If not, think about what skills you can bring from other areas of work and life.
When talking about culture, think about your first day in the country you want to give as an example. Did you struggle to understand the language or culture? Was it hard getting used to a new way of living? If you have not had experiences of new cultures, think about previous work or life experiences where you might have had to compromise or a change of view. Was this at work, at university, or somewhere else?
When talking about teaching, think about past teaching experiences, whether this is in a classroom or online, and what elements worked the best. Do you have a specific philosophy that you teach, and do these elements fit this. If you don’t have much teaching experience, think about when you were back in school and what things you enjoyed the most. Was it interactive lessons or activities? Was it group work or individual work? As this is such a big class, how would you go with organising them? Make sure that you are imaginative with this!
After you have finished your application, you need to make sure that you have your additional documents ready, but what do you need? For the initial application, you would need the following: a statement from your doctor (if necessary), your academic transcript from your university or college, proof of your degree, proof of nationality, and two letters of reference. If you are applying for the ALT position, you would need your TEFL certificate. If you are applying for the CIR or SEA positions, you would need certificates of proficiency in Japanese as well.
You would need to upload your documents, as PDFs, to the online application portal. Make sure that documents with multiple pages are saved as one file before they are uploaded.
Once you have uploaded everything, just sit back, and relax! You will be notified if you have an interview soon.
3. FET- Foreign English Teachers in Taiwan
The ‘FET’ government teaching programme is probably not as well-known as JET and EPIK but has amazing benefits to match. The only hurdle that you may encounter is that FET requires you to have a teaching license from your own country to work with them.
How to apply:
The application process takes a similar route to EPIK and JET, in which you would apply using an application form on the FET website. Applications close at the end of April, with interviews taking place in May. If you are accepted, you will be notified by June.
The application is a simple affair and requires you to fill out your education and background history, as well as writing a personal essay around the following: your reasoning for your application, the objectives you wish to complete during your time in Taiwan, and how you would use that experience when you return home.
You will require quite a handful of documents for this application, including the following:
– A health check report from a local hospital or clinic,
– School transcripts (if you have graduated within the last two years)
– Your CV/resume
Contracts run for eleven months and can be extended if an agreement is reached between the relevant bodies. At the time of writing this article, there is no indication of when applications will open for the 2021/22 academic year.
Getting your documents approved for travel
In this section, we will be talking about the joys of getting your documents approved so that you can get your visa and travel. The information in this section will vary country-to-country a bit and should only act as a guide.
Documents required can depend on the country and can differ between government teaching programmes, but they will ask for three key pieces of documentation: your degree certificate (if the country you are going to requires a degree), your TEFL certificate, and also a criminal background check (CBC) from your home country.
To get a CBC, you need to go to the relevant body within your country to do so. The list below will help you:
England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service on Gov.uk
Scotland – Disclosure Scotland
Northern Ireland – Disclosures Northern Ireland
USA – FBI
Canada – Royal Canadian Mounted Police
New Zealand – Ministry of Justice
Australia – Australian Federal Police
South Africa – South African Police Service
The Republic of Ireland – National Police and Security Service
You can apply for your CBC online in a lot of these countries, however, if you need to apply for a CBC in the Republic of Ireland, you first need to go to your local Garda station to get permission. To see how to get a CBC in your country, just search ‘Criminal background check’ and add your country name.
It is worth noting that CBCs for visa purposes will only be valid for six months. If it has been six months or longer since you got your CBC, you will need to get a new one ordered.
So, you have all your documentation ready, now what? Now, we send them to the solicitors…and some other places as well. Getting your documents approved can be confusing as there are so many different and conflicting terms, but just follow the process below and all will be revealed:
1. Solicitor certification/ Notarisation
For your documents to be valid and accepted in your destination country, they first need to be certified (also known as being notarised) by a specialist solicitor called a notary public. A notary public has permission and training to certify your documents; any solicitor who is not a registered notary public will not be able to perform this service for you.
The notary public will inspect the documents that you sent and contact the relevant bodies, such as your university or TEFL provider, to confirm that the documents you have sent are real. Once they have done this, they will stamp the document, sign it, and then emboss it with a special seal that states their name and other information.
It is recommended that you use copies of your degree certificate and a TEFL certificate for this process, but your original criminal background check.
2. Getting your documents apostilled/legalised
The second section of this process is getting your document apostilled by your home country’s foreign office. In the UK, for example, you would have to send your documents to the Legalisation Office of the FCDO (formally known as the FCO) for this to happen.
The Legalisation Office will ‘legalise’ or confirm that the stamp, signature, or seal is real and is from a registered public official, such as a notary public in step one. Once they have confirmed this, they will place a small piece of paper on the back of your document called an apostille. This apostille confirms that the document is a certified original or copy has been authenticated by your home country.
3. Attestation/ Embassy authentication
If your destination country has not signed the Hague Convention of 1961, then they will most likely require you to get your documents legalised further, also known as attestation or embassy authentication. To get your documents attested, you will need to send them to the embassy of your destination country in your home country, and they will either stamp or seal them so that they can be used.
If you do not want to do all this individually, you can get your notary public to do all three steps for you. Most companies will do this for a fixed price per country per document and will save you the hassle of having to send them to different governmental bodies. They will be more expensive than doing it individually on your own, however.
If you have any other tips or tricks, or even have experiences of the programmes above, feel free to tell us in the comments section!