Teaching abroad is a goal for many people, whether they have a degree in education or not. Volunteering in as a teacher or teaching assistant for a short amount of time is an excellent way to test if a career in teaching is a good fit for you without committing to the investment of a TEFL certificate or working abroad full time. Volunteer teaching abroad gives individuals specific classroom experience even before a practicum or student teaching placement is possible, and adds a competitive edge to any education student’s resume.
Why Volunteer to Teach Abroad
Volunteer teaching abroad is a wise choice for anyone who wants to teach abroad long term in the future. While countries and placements vary, the responsibilities and tasks for international teaching are similar in every location. You will most likely be helping with both planning and leading lessons, and your enthusiasm will bring a new energy to the classroom. Through working with local students and teachers, you will learn a great deal about the local culture as well as classroom management in new settings.
By volunteering as a teacher abroad you can get experience with a certain amount of responsibility and influence in the classroom that you wouldn’t necessarily have through the same position in your home country. Even as a teaching assistant, you may be in charge of multiple lessons each week as well as grading assignments and more long term unit coordination. You may also have the chance to start a club or activity group for students that will allow them to explore subjects outside of the classroom. If you are able to commit to a minimum of a few weeks of volunteering abroad, teaching is the best way to have a bigger impact on the students and school where you are placed.
In general, the main regions for teaching placements abroad are in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, however, you are likely to find a placement anywhere in the world.
Ecuador is a smart choice for those interested in working on their Spanish language skills, since the Spanish spoken in Ecuador is well-pronounced and easy to understand. Ecuador has an open and welcoming culture, which helps teachers feel involved in the community and get to know the teachers and students easily. Most opportunities for volunteer teaching in Ecuador are centered on teaching English.
The Philippines is an ideal place for volunteer teaching abroad. Many people in the Philippines speak English, so lessons in the arts, healthcare, and technology are still successful even if you do not speak the local language. There are still some opportunities to teach English in rural areas of the country, where schools primarily utilize local dialects.
South Africa offers a wide variety of teaching placements and the choice to volunteer in South Africa as a teacher is a wise one. You can work with children or adults, either at a school or in a community. Volunteers in South Africa may also work at neighborhood centers or in rural villages doing special lessons or workshops.
Costa Rica provides volunteer teachers the chance to work in a geographically smaller nation. Similar to Ecuador, many teaching positions in Costa Rica are in teaching English. With a relaxed and open attitude, the pura vida lifestyle of Costa Rica is a good fit for someone who wants to volunteer but also have time to slow down.
China is a great location to become a volunteer teacher for anyone who is interested in a future teaching career in China. Teaching in China gives you a front seat into Chinese culture and people, which is invaluable experience when trying to develop a career in China. Most teaching placements in China are as English teachers, and China is one country where you may be able to earn money even for a shorter term placement due to the high value the nation puts on education.
Most placements volunteer teaching abroad are a minimum of one week in length. Depending on your personal preferences, you may find yourself teaching in a variety of settings. Some individuals may choose shorter program lengths where they are placed in community centers or other drop-in style instruction locations. The longer you can commit to a program, the more you will get out of it.
Teaching English: This is by far the most popular type of volunteer teaching placement because of the demand around the world. Most nations realize the importance of teaching English, however the lack of resources for education means that the quality of instruction can suffer. As a native English speaker your skills are of high importance (even if you’ve never had any formal teacher training).
The Arts: Dance, music, theater, and visual arts can be incredible tools for processing and expressing creativity. Since resources are usually put toward core subjects rather than the arts, these subjects are sometimes not a part of the day to day instruction for most students. By giving youth the time and space to be creative, you can enrich their lives in a way that might not occur without international volunteers.
Healthcare: Accurate and comprehensive health education is something you may take for granted depending on where you grew up. In most parts of the world, it can still be a challenge to get information because of cultural differences or geographical location - most rural areas do not have any access to proper health education. The importance of education surrounding diseases, sexual health, and hygiene is a worldwide necessity.
Technology: Teaching computer literacy to both children and adults is another powerful way to make a difference. While lack of access to technology is certainly an issue in some communities, there can also be a huge barrier to using it because of the learning curve. You can help children have more resources for completing their schoolwork and assist local adults in becoming proficient with various technological softwares and programs that can make their businesses more successful.
Volunteering abroad as a teacher provides many personal and professional benefits, even for those who are not planning to go into a career in education. By spending time instructing youth or adults, you will gain insight into how people from a foreign culture approach a problem or discussion, increasing your own problem-solving skills. The ability to teach different subjects outside of English makes volunteer teaching an even more valuable addition for individuals outside the field of education. Teaching abroad also shows a commitment to educating others and a desire to expand knowledge of your specific subject area.