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India has long captured Western imagination since its days as a crossroads for trade on the Silk Road. Exotic food, spices, and fabric brought from India became precious luxury items. Under the East India Trade Company, India became a commonwealth of the British Empire, which increased the need for the local inhabitants to learn English for business purposes. Books from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, to Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy told the stories of young British people living abroad in India, and the recent film "Slumdog Millionaire" took Western viewers on a wild romp through India on a young man's quest for love and a better life.
Even in the ultra-modern cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore, modern architecture and technology exists side-by-side ancient temples to gods such as Kali and Ganesh and rugged, colorful street markets. In terms of geography, India is just as diverse, from the Himalayan Mountains to the Thar Desert.
India crams so much diversity in what has become the world's largest subcontinent. While still a developing country that strives to catch up to the United States, Europe, and Asia in many ways, India has a booming world economy, and possesses an incredibly rich history and culture, as well as a willingness to embrace a position on the world stage. India remains a nexus point for religion, where four of the world's major religions- Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism- were founded, as well as for information technology and a thriving movie industry called Bollywood. English is the country's second official language, after Hindi.
Because of this, India has become a popular solution for American information technology companies and customer service providers to outsource labor. While English may be the language of choice for businesses, the funding to provide conversational English in schools is lacking. If a prospective English teacher is patient, it is certainly possible to find paid and unpaid opportunities to teach English in India.
Because of the low demand, there can be a great deal of competition for the few positions that are out there. It is recommended to obtain a TEFL certification in order to better distinguish you from other competitors. BridgeAbroad offers an excellent online program, and other good programs can be found through International TEFL Academy.
For teachers that have their license, especially those from Britain, Australia, and Canada, there are several international schools to consider, such as The International School Bangalore or The British School in New Delhi.
There are also plenty of unpaid, volunteer positions available, especially if a teacher is working in the rural areas. These can offer many rewarding experiences, not just to teach, but to work on other projects, such as working in an orphanage or providing support for a women's group. For a fee, Global Crossroad provides opportunities for individuals to come to India and other countries, live with host families, and provide their time and skills to others in need.
As previously stated, finding a paid English teaching position in India is very difficult. Most Indian schools lack the funding to hire native English teachers, so conversational English in schools is lacking. Also, because English is the second official language of India, there are plenty of locals who can teach English. However, English is the language of business, and for the customer service representatives and information technology specialists who are outsourced by American companies, help from a native English speaker will be very valuable. Quite a few English teachers are able to find jobs working with call centers. The idea is to help the call center employees develop an American accent while talking on the phone.
Jobs can be found in the modern cities of New Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, and Mumbai, as well as out in the rural areas, even close to the Himalayas. It is recommended to come with a job offer already, since that will make applying for a visa and a resident permit much easier, although it certainly is possible to interview for a job in India. Some great online resources that one can use to look for jobs include The Times of India and The Telegraph. These are English-language newspapers that contain excellent classified sections for jobs and apartments. The application process usually consists of the teacher submitting a resume or CV, and the prospective employer following up with a phone interview. Teaching contracts can last from 6 months to 1 year.
The capital city New Delhi has a population of about 20 million. Mumbai, once known as Bombay, exceeds it with a total metropolitan population of 20.5 million. However, while Mumbai has a thriving expatriate population, more of the teaching opportunities are advertised for New Delhi, Bangalore, Calcutta, and other cities.
Most of the time, the employer will sponsor a visa for the English teacher. The teacher will need an employment contract as part of the required documentation, as well as a valid passport for up to six months and two passport photos. Travisa has wonderful resources and information about the visa process for India, as well as information about immunizations and country profiles.
India is a place where an English teacher will make enough to live fairly comfortably, but perhaps not save a great deal of money. The TEFL/TESL market is not very strong, compared to other Asian countries, and the majority of English teaching positions are unpaid and volunteer. However, most volunteer programs do provide accommodation, meals, support, and activities for their volunteers.
As for the paid positions, a teacher can expect to make as low as US $144, and as high as US $900 per month, perhaps even more if they negotiate with their employer. That is enough money to pay the living expenses and maybe travel around India. However, be warned: as is true in other countries, the cost of living increases the closer to the city you live. Mumbai, for example, is very expensive; its property values are rated the fourth most expensive in the world! However, it is possible to find good-quality living spaces without the nosebleed rent. Some rentals in New Delhi can go for as much as US $175-300 a month. A teacher can also negotiate apartment space or an allowance from their employer as well. Food and medical care are also very reasonable, especially if the teacher chooses to go vegetarian! Teachers may want to visit Expat Arrivals, a wonderful resource with local, current information provided by expats for expats, with many country guides included.
The classroom structure appears to be similar to any Western classroom. Teachers can expect to work 20-40 hours a week, with class sizes ranging from 20 up to 60, depending on where they work. Some teachers may like the fact that it is very likely that their co-workers and their students already possess a decent command of English, which will make explanations, lectures, and conversation run smoother!
Don't forgot that because of Indian religious traditions, style of dress needs to be more conservative. Like in the United States, Indians greet each other with a handshake. Teachers may be asked to wash their hands before they eat, and feet are considered the most unclean parts of the body.
Whitney Zahar is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and has always longed to travel, write, and make a difference in the world. She got her chance in 2009, when she started teaching English in South Korea. Currently, she lives in Taiwan, where she still teaches, as well as participates in freelance fiction and ESL writing projects, and raises a beautiful active son named Preston. Follow her on Twitter at @WhitneyZahar.
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