Standing at 1400 meters, Kathmandu is a mystical city for all backpackers and lovers of Himalayan traditions and culture. From crowded markets to hidden temples in back-streets, Kathmandu is an interesting mix between hectic city life and quiet spiritual places. Having the highest population density in the country, there are needs for both professional and volunteer TEFL holders seeking a little bit of an out-of-the-ordinary teaching experience in Asia. In a country where the literacy rate barely reaches 70 perecent, education is highly-regarded, so there are some great opportunities to make a difference by teaching in Kathmandu.
Teaching Jobs in Kathmandu
A number of institutions and schools offer teaching jobs in Kathmandu, however, aspiring ESL teachers should keep in mind that salaries are not likely to be high and positions are most often available on a voluntary basis. Nevertheless, those who land teaching jobs at private language schools can expect to make a good income. For many, the salary does not stand as the sole motivation for teaching in Nepal, instead opportunities to teach in Kathmandu are balanced with the very low cost of living and wonderful surrounding environment.
Teaching jobs in Kathmandu are most commonly found at international schools and language centres. Some of the more prestigious private schools will require teachers to have one or two years of teaching experience, but will also give teachers the chance to work with students of different grade levels and ages. There are also opportunities to teach in Kathmandu at state-run public schools as well as monasteries.
In Nepal, the school year starts in late April and ends in March. Long periods of interruption are to be expected in Autumn for the Hindu festivals of Dussehra and Diwali. Working hours may vary greatly depending on the school and teachers are often required to work evenings or weekends. The Nepalese approach to education gives an important place to oral participation and kids are used to learning by repeating the teacher’s words. Nepalese students are known for being particularly well-mannered and shy.
Life in Kathmandu
A gateway to some of the world’s most spectacular trekking routes, Kathmandu offers endless opportunities to spend your free time outdoors, with plenty of activities for mountain lovers and adventure seekers. Teaching in Kathmandu can therefore become a lot more than a career-boosting experience in a foreign country, it can also lead you to extend the boundaries of your leisure life.
As a rising travel destination, the city welcomes more and more backpackers each year, who tend to settle down for a while prior to embarking on their trekking journey. This habit makes Kathmandu a very easy place to make friends and meet people from all over the world. The lively district of Thamel is particularly known for its nightlife and animated restaurants. Contact with the locals is also easy and facilitated by the friendly way most Nepalese welcome foreigners. English is widely understood by educated people, especially in tourist areas, which doesn’t hurt either.
In spite of its numerous traffic jams, the city is well-served in term of public transportation and offers multiple choices to get from one point to another, among which buses, taxis, and the traditional rickshaws. There are some great shopping opportunities thanks to the large number of local markets and traditional shops. The city is also culturally attractive and hosts museums, holy sites, and monuments as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With different ethnic groups coexisting on every street corner, the local culture and etiquette can sometimes seem confusing to foreigners. However, locals are usually tolerant toward others as long as they dress and behave in respectful ways. Modesty is key when selecting clothing to where during any teaching job in Nepal.
Salary & Costs
Paid teachers can expect to make an income of $500 to $2000 and above depending on their host school or institution, which is plenty to live on in Kathmandu. The cost of living in Nepal, even in the capital city, is very affordable. For example, meals in inexpensive restaurants cost between $1 and $3, Cokes run between 25 and 50 cents, and jeans tend to be about $20. Groceries are available at very affordable prices, especially in local markets, too. Apartment rentals vary from around $100 to $250 monthly in the city center and from $50 to $125 monthly outside. Lastly, tickets for public transportation are very cheap.
Accommodation & Visas
Different types of living arrangements are available for teachers. Based on personal taste, teachers can choose to stay in a boarding house or rent a room or an apartment while teaching in Kathmandu. Kathmandu hosts many affordable guesthouses and hotels that can provide temporary housing upon arrival for new teachers too. Prospective teachers should also be able to get some assistance from their school in conducting their search for housing.
A work visa is required to teach abroad in Nepal, so your host school or organization will be able to help you obtain the necessary documents to obtain a proper visa. In some cases, volunteer teachers can apply for a tourist visa instead of a work visa and renew it at the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu. Visas for travel or living in Nepal are easy to get, but be sure you apply early as it can take up to several weeks to process. For more information on the visa requirements for your home country, consult the nearest Nepali Embassy.
Benefits & Challenges
Nepal stands among the poorest in the world and is still recovering from ten years of civil war and dictatorships, and the recent earthquake added to these societal difficulties. Access to education in Nepal is a challenge in many respects; the gaps between rural and city areas, boys and girls, are still huge and inequalities remain tremendous. Motivated teachers can make a significant impact on the education system in Nepal, and help children and communities build better, brighter futures. The need for teachers is great and the job market is wide open, especially for those who are willing to become a volunteer teacher.
The experience of teaching in Kathmandu is well worth trying, for both professional and personal reasons. Though challenges may await you around every corner, new opportunities just as many and diverse are waiting for you too!