Teaching in Latin America

For those considering teaching overseas, Simon Dweck, International Recruitment Manager at Capita Education Resourcing looks at the exciting opportunities to be found in Latin America.

Brazil school bus

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To gain experience of a variety of geographies, climates and cultures, you would be hard pressed to top Latin America. The region is deeply rooted in millennia of cultures and activities can be as diverse as skiing in Argentina to spending the day at the Rio Carnival.  For those considering teaching abroad, the continent offers a myriad of exciting opportunities to utilise your experience whilst satisfying the ambition to travel.  So how is it different to teaching in the UK, what should you consider before making the big move, and what qualifications will you need?A number of countries on the continent have focused on building a larger global presence in recent years and, as a result, are now looking to cultivate skills that can help them to thrive in the worldwide economy. This has meant that there’s an ever-increasing demand for teachers from outside the continent to develop truly global skill sets in youngsters.However, in order to teach in this part of the world, professionals will need to prove they can reach the minimum requirements set out by government and education providers. For example, at the very least, prospective teachers will need to have a relevant teaching degree as well as some understanding of the country and culture they’ll be moving to.In some cases, particularly when joining international schools, teachers may also need a minimum of two years’ experience. They’ll also be expected to have some knowledge of the local language (Spanish generally or Portuguese in Brazil) more so than in other places of the world, such as Eastern Asia where English is more widely spoken in schools.Another factor for professionals to research is the curriculum, as there’s a variation in the syllabus that’s utilised by many schools on the continent. Most international or British schools will favour International Baccalaureate and Diploma programmes but will generally offer iGCSEs as well as bilingual programmes where students can also pass local exams. In terms of qualifications, teachers that have experience of the International Baccalaureate will be looked upon particularly favourably as this is generally seen as an advantage for most schools because of the more holistic competencies it develops.So what other aspects should teachers contemplate? Firstly, the pay is generally more than substantial and, depending on the chosen country, could potentially provide a comfortable lifestyle due to the lower cost of living compared to the UK. Average starting teacher salaries range from $25,000-$45,000 (approximately, £15,000-£27,000) and will often include pension payments and end of contract bonuses. This sort of salary can provide a very comfortable lifestyle in the majority of countries on the continent; however, professionals who are sending money home or paying off a debt or a mortgage may find it more challenging.In many cases, the school may even pay for teacher accommodation, although this is by no means a guarantee. It’s more common that the institution will provide some form of basic medical insurance as well as return tickets to your home country at the end of your contract.  In some instances, British schools will also provide free or heavily subsidised education rates for up to two children. If you are married, many schools will also help partners of teachers find employment should they wish to, although it is advisable that they work in teaching. If this isn’t the case, it’s recommended to take some form of TEFL course before leaving as this provides the best foundation for securing a role on the continent.There are also other local cultural complexities to be aware of. For example in many Latin American countries it can be very difficult to pay in larger bills despite the fact that cash machines only dispense money in large denominations. This means you often have to make a purchase simply to be able to make another one. You will also generally have to pay to use public bathrooms, something that’s rarely the case in the UK and streets are often named after dates, which can be confusing to some. Prospective candidates should also consider aspects such as regional accents or dialects that may impact your understanding of the language.  In many Latin countries, it’s also commonplace to eat much later than in the UK and some countries on the continent will also have a mid-afternoon siesta, generally at the time when British students would be returning from a lunch break.But, the Latin American continent also provides plenty of potential for a variety of travelling opportunities across a range of cultures and climates with easy and affordable access to other regions. As the cost of internal travel is much lower than in the UK, it’s more than possible to take a weekend break to a neighbouring country.  

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