So you want to Teach English in India?
Most Asian countries have many opportunities to teach English, China, Korea, Japan and Thailand are well known for their demand for English teachers and decent rates of pay and teaching English in Asia is one of the most popular ways that travelers work abroad. For more tips on teaching in Asia check out the interview I recently did with Alice about how she works her way around the world as an English teacher.
India, however, is very different, there are not so many opportunities to teach English in India as the rest of Asia, probably because English is actually one of the official languages of India and already widely spoken meaning that the demand for English teachers from overseas is not nearly as strong as it is in the rest of Asia. Also, most teaching English in India opportunities are unpaid and voluntary positions.
Still, India is the arguably the most fascinating place to travel in on this planet and teaching English in India offers a unique and unforgettable opportunity to delve right into the heart of this amazing country and make a difference, and yes, there are ways you can get paid to teach English in India!
How to teach English in India and get paid for it.
I interviewed Sarah, a secondary school teacher from York, England, who is teaching English in India with The British Council.
Sarah is taking a few months off teaching in the UK to travel and her first stop was India where she has been doing a placement in a school for a couple of months to see what education is like in a different country, and Sarah hopes the experience will reinvigorate her enthusiasm for teaching in general! You can keep up to date with her adventures and contact Sarah on her blog www.dibleyinindia.blogspot.com
Sarah, I’m excited to hear that you found a paid position to teach English in India! Please tell me a bit more about how you got the job?
I’m working for the British Council on a Teaching Placement assisting in an Indian school. It’s part of their Generation UK-INDIA program. The placements were advertised on the British council website at the beginning of 2015. I had to complete an application form, and was then invited for a interview morning.
Before the interview I was given two tasks to prepare. I had to write a lesson plan based on an aspect of British culture, they provided a series of photos, I had to pick one and write the lesson using that as a theme. For the second task was given a list of scenarios based on the difference between Indian and British culture and was asked how I would deal with those situations . On the day of the interview there was a group task working on a presentation about introducing British culture into an Indian school, then a 20 minute individual interview, including both of the prepared tasks.
The school I’m working at is in Palam Vihar, a rural suburb of Gurgaon in Haryana. It’s close to Delhi but has a big migrant population from poorer states such as Bihar and Utter Pradesh. It is part of an NGO called Literacy India which was set up to educate under privileged children, and is involved in a lot of community projects empowering women, educating about health issues, and giving vocational training so families can better support themselves.
I’m doing a variety of different tasks in the school, and I think a lot of the schools are prepared to tailor your placement around your interests and specialisms. I’m assisting in Class 4 (age 9&10) every morning for 2 hours, when they work on English discussion, guided reading, grammar and written English. I have a small group of class 2 children who I see on a daily basis to work on English pronunciation. They are a lower level than the rest of their class as they entered the school late in the year, so need additional help.
The school I work in is part of an NGO so they receive a lot of sponsorship and funding from outside agencies. To help in gaining this funding I have been interviewing some of the students about, school and their home and family life to create profiles used on the website to generate further funding.
To teach English in India I needed to pay for my flights in India, employment visa (about £300) and insurance and a placement fee of £200. But the school covered all the costs of my accommodation and meals and I also received a monthly contribution towards my living costs. The amount varies depending on qualifications and experience but is between 15,000 – 35,000 INR per month (that’s £150-£350/month which goes a long way in India!)
Sounds like a great opportunity! What do you like the best about teaching English in India?
The best bit about working is developing relationships with the students. Every morning I walk in to a chorus of smiling faces shouting ‘Good morning ma’am, how are you?’ and then receive hand shakes and high fives from most of the children in the play ground. The children I’m teaching find it hard to understand my accent quite often, but their attempts to repeat words and pronounce things correctly often end up in giggles and fits of laughter from all of us!
The staff have shown a genuine interest in what I’m doing here and try and help at any opportunity. They bring extra food in from home so I can try all the different delicacies, and I get lots of invites to go and meet people’s families. It’s a very hospitable place.
Sounds lovely! But nothings perfect right? Are there any downsides to teaching English in India?
Downsides are communication issues and a total lack of structure. Having worked in UK schools it was a real shock to encounter the lack of facilities, to see children without teachers if they are off sick, and the assumption that I would turn up to any class and run it without any preparation time.
Communication with a management has also been difficult sometimes, because there are several layers of hierarchy within the NGO with the school just being a small part of that. It feels like the expectation of the directors is very different from the principal of the school, which again is different from the job described by the British Council. However it’s a great lesson in understanding other cultures, and making yourself clear. Persevere with the communication and you’re usually understood at some point. This has been a bit different in my placement, many of the others working for the British Council, and there are about 80 of us, are in regular or private schools and have had one mentor teacher to report to making life a bit easier!
Do you have one standout highlight or biggest achievement from your time teaching English in India?
To help with writing the student profiles one of the other teachers arranged for me and another volunteer to conduct a home visit with one of the students in her class. It was a real eye opener to be welcomed into such humble surroundings, yet treated to feel so important. It gives you a lot of perspective on priorities in our culture! Many of the students and their families have very little, but they would give you anything to make you happy , or to make your life easier. It’s the little things as well, the children have made me so many little arts and crafts and drawings to say thank you for being at their school, it makes me want to stay for longer!
As for favourite destinations, we had 5 days off for Diwali, so did a whistle stop tour of Rajasthan. Udaipur is a must see. I absolutely loved the peaceful laid back lake side culture, and the local museum has a fantastic traditional dance and puppet show.
And what has been the greatest challenge while teaching English in India?
Everyday you come across lots of challenges in a school. The power might not be working, the teachers are off sick so classes are combined, or worse left to their own devices, children who don’t understand a word you’re saying because they’ve never heard a British accent before is exhausting. Facing all that and staying positive is one of the biggest challenges, and if I’m really honest has not always happened. I think I’ve maintained my smile at school about 90% of the time!
What do you wish you had known before you went to teach English in India?
Prior to starting at the school I had only had one Skype interview with one of the directors of the NGO. In hindsight it would have been really useful to speak to some of the teachers and gain a better understanding of curriculum, and the level of the students I would be teaching. You can read all you want to about the Indian education system, but each schoolmistress different, and only the people who work in them can really tell you what the deal is.
And for people visiting Delhi? Do you have any local secrets you can share?
I’m living in Gurgaon, DLF Phase 3. Its on the outskirts of Delhi and is a crazy combination of rural dusty lanes meets Cyber city with all its high rise and global corporations. There is a great little restaurant at the top of the road in S block called Suraj. They do fantastic Tandoori chicken, and their vegetarian Thali is brilliant and only 60p.
Also explore the back streets. There is a great little community temple that is very welcoming. We had an impromptu lesson about Hindu gods, and another friend walked past one day and there was some kind of dance celebration happening. The cafe in the Garden Estate next to Guru Dronacharia metro is a taste of home with fantastic bread, cakes, and they even serve bacon sandwiches, very hard to come by usually!
So, what about your plans for the future?
I’m heading on to Australia and New Zealand for the next part of my trip. I’m looking forward to some clean air, but not looking forward to the prices, and who knows where after that. I have to be back in the UK for a very special family wedding, but coming home from one trip often makes me want to plan for the next.
If you want to read about any of it I have been blogging to keep my family up to date, have a read at www.dibleyinindia.blogspot.com
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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps and teach English in India?
Take a look at the British Council website, they offer a lot of teaching assistant programs in different countries around the world. Start applying and book your trip. My philosophy on working abroad has always been if you really don’t like it you can come home, but you won’t know unless you try.
Crossing roads gets easier, you will get used to people constantly staring at you, and it is fine to say no (to food, to drinks, to people taking your photo ….!)
Thanks so much Sarah, this sounds like an amazing experience! Enjoy the rest of your travels in India and elsewhere.
If you are working abroad and want to be interviewed and featured here contact me!