Teacher Exchange Programs: What They Are & How You Can Do One

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If you’re a licensed teacher at home, have you ever dreamed of switching things up The Holiday style and teaching abroad in another country? Have you ever wanted to teach in another English speaking country like Ireland or New Zealand? Maybe you’ve always wanted to go further afield and challenge yourself by going on teaching exchange programs in countries where English isn’t even the native language. You brave soldier, you!

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Don’t want to give up a year? Consider summer teacher exchange programs!

The good news is that you can, with teaching exchange programs. Share teaching ideas and tips with teachers abroad and learn something new from them too. Also, unlike ESL teaching positions, the fantastic thing about these programs is that you get to trade places with another teacher abroad for a certain time while receiving your home salary. Bonus: Your job’s still safe at home at the end of the program. 

What are teacher exchange programs?

In essence, a teacher exchange means that you swap jobs (and even your house or apartment) with another teacher in another part of the world for a specific time period. You get to learn how teachers teach and students learn in other locations across the globe. You can teach abroad for as little as two weeks to as long as a full academic year. Also, instead of spending your vacay solely on Netflix and chill, why not travel meaningfully and sign up for summer teacher exchange programs?

For some teachers tired of the routine at their home schools, an international teacher exchange is just what they need to get motivated and back on track. At the end of the program, teachers return to their schools and share what they’ve learned with their colleagues and classrooms, making for a more internationally focused and fulfilling teaching career. 

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Who can do them?

Unlike TEFL jobs, these programs aren’t for amateurs. The majority of teaching exchange programs are only open to qualified and experienced elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. There are also a few opportunities open to eligible preschool teachers and university lecturers. 

You must have enough full-time professional teaching experience. Sorry newbies but get some teaching notches on that belt and then we’ll talk. Most importantly, you have to be a properly qualified teacher in your home country. Depending on where you’re from, that could mean at minimum, a B. Ed, a teacher’s license from your home state, or a bachelors and PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). 

Man working with a woman at a desk

New classrooms = new adventures = new insights!

How do requirements vary for different nationalities?

It’s a sad reality but if you’re trying to find the right teacher exchange program, note that it all depends on where you come from in the world. 

If you’re a teacher from the US 🇺🇸 , you should be able to tick any/all of the following typical boxes:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Be fluent in English
  • Be employed full-time in the US/US territory
  • Have taught for at least 5 years
  • Be able to show an exemplary teaching record/accomplishments

If you’re a Canadian🇨🇦 teaching professional, here are some requirements you may have to meet:

  • A minimum of five years’ teaching experience
  • Be an exemplary teacher
  • Be approved by your principal, school board, or other superior
  • Be a full-time teacher with a permanent contract
  • Meet the criteria of the exchange country you want to apply to

If you’re an Australian🇦🇺 educator, here's what's required to participate in summer teacher exchange programs and other similar programs:

  • Be a permanent and full time teacher with the Australian Department Of Education
  • Have at least five years’ teaching experience
  • Be endorsed by your principal or other superior
  • Be willing to write a research paper on the experience
  • Be willing to teach with the Department after the exchange

If you’re a British🇬🇧 teacher, here are some things you need to have:

  • A minimum of five years’ teaching experience
  • A QTS/B. Ed/degree plus PGCE certificate
  • Excellent professional record with references
  • Commitment to the full period of the exchange and to returning to the UK

If you're a teaching from none of the above countries🌏, check off these requirements to participate in teacher exchange programs:

If you’re an international teacher from none of the countries listed above, you may find that there aren’t hundreds of teacher exchange programs open to you. However, don’t lose hope just yet. There are many programs you may be eligible for in the US and other countries. All you need is to meet the criteria. This isn’t an exhaustive list but many program providers are looking for whether: 

  • You’re a qualified teacher in your country of nationality/residence
  • You have worked as a full-time teacher there in the last 12 months
  • You have at least a bachelor's degree in education or the subject you’d like to teach
  • You have at least two years’ teaching or related professional experience
  • You have a good reputation/character
  • You have leadership skills and a professional development track record
  • You can communicate proficiently in English 
Kids playing with chalk

Invisible Children runs excellent teaching exchange programs worth considering.

Are these program esteemed?

Teacher exchange programs, including summer teacher exchange programs, are highly recommended. One reason why they’re held in such high regard is that they mainly are administered by government organizations and departments of education. Also, several of these programs are highly competitive and selective, only choosing the best of the best.  After returning from an exchange program, you may find yourself in running for better positions including curriculum development or head of department gigs.

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8 recommended teacher exchange programs

Ready to dive right into the world of teacher exchange programs? Here are a few recommended programs to get your juices flowing!

1. Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program

This teacher exchange program is sponsored by the US Department of State. It’s a combo of a teacher exchange and study abroad experience where US teachers work abroad and international teachers work in the US. Candidates team teach, observe classes, run workshops, review courses, and work on a long term project. 

2. J-1 Teacher Exchange Program

This program is perfect for non-US citizens with teaching experience who want to learn about and teach abroad in US classrooms for up to 3 years. While there, they can better understand the American education system and share their culture with US students and teachers. 

3. American Cultural Exchange Program

This non-profit NGO offers a teacher exchange program that invites non-US teachers to work in the States. They can learn more about the American way when it comes to education and share their own teaching skills, culture, and knowledge in return. 

4. Invisible Children

Thinking about summer teacher exchange programs in Uganda and North America? This program provider allows American and Canadian educators to team-teach in Africa for six weeks in summer. It also lets Ugandan teachers visit North American schools the following winter. 

5. International Teacher Exchange Services (ITES)

ITES is a sponsor organization of the US Department of State’s Exchange Visitor program. It sponsors international educators to teach abroad in US schools and share their teaching tips and home culture.  

6. Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (CEEF)

This program provider allows Canadian teachers to exchange their teaching positions with educators in another country or Canadian province. This teacher exchange program lasts one year.

7. Commonwealth Teacher Exchange Programme (CTEP)

This teacher exchange, which has been running for 100 years, allows UK professionals to work abroad in Canada, Australia, or other countries and for non-UK teachers to work in the UK. It’s managed by a charity, the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council. 

8. Independent Education Union of Australia (IEU) 

If you’re an Australian teacher and a member of IEU, you’re eligible to sign up for its teaching exchange programs in countries like the UK and Canada. Note: you need at least 5 years’ teaching experience. 

So, should you do a teacher exchange program, or just teach abroad?

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Quick! Class is starting!

Let’s get one thing straight: teacher exchange programs are for the pros. Many of these programs require you to have substantial teaching experience under your belt, recommendations from your superiors, and a proven track record of excellence as a teacher. If you are selected for any of these programs, it’s usually a feather in the cap of your teaching career and can help you progress speedily to more senior positions.

These programs are also highly recommended for teachers who want a behind-the-scenes look into what the public education system is like in another country. Unlike generic teach abroad programs, you won't find yourself teaching in for-profit language schools or private institutions. In other words, signing up for these programs in a good gauge for how public education is run somewhere else. 

Not only that, but these teaching exchange programs ensure continuity. Unlike ESL teachers who may just teach abroad for a while or never even come back, these programs ensure that educators return to their home countries and schools to share what they've learned: a win/win for teachers and home schools. 

Additional resources

Ready to make the switcheroo? Here are some more resources to help you along!

If you choose to accept your mission, teacher exchange programs, including summer teacher exchange programs, are well worth the effort. Take it from veteran sensei, Yoda:  “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

scene from a classroom

What will your international classroom look like? We can’t wait for you to find out.

Get out there & educate the masses!

If this program sounds right up your alley, consider all your options and choose your program carefully. Remember not all programs are the same and will differ according to your nationality and the program’s needs. Whatever you choose, you’ll be well on your way to real grassroots international exchange and learn a thing or two about the teaching game from your international peers. 

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