Teach English in El Salvador

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El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America but also the most densely populated. With its tropical climate and beautiful scenery, El Salvador is the ideal destination for teachers interested in nature as the country is rich in endangered species and wildlife. El Salvador also lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which may or may not be a deterrent from living in the country.

Although it is a country still under development, increasing industrialization means that English is rapidly growing as a business language and in importance in El Salvador.

El Salvador is also a popular tourist destination, which is another reason why it is important for citizens to become bilingual (the official language is Castilian). What this means is that the demand for English teachers is growing, and job opportunities are available!

Photo credit: Romero Trust.

In most teaching establishments, your work schedule will be around 33-34 hours per week. Information on teaching jobs in El Salvador is difficult to find, however, here are some areas where work opportunities are available:

Private Language Academies/Schools:

There are many private schools in El Salvador, such as Colegio Externado San Jose and Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad. The more expensive private schools are bilingual and English is taught as a subject. Private schools that employ foreign teachers usually provide them with housing, and some teachers live inside the school campus.

International Schools:

English is taught in private international schools such as the Escuela Americana (United States), Liceo Frances (France), Escuela Alemana (Germany) and Academia Britanica Cuscatleca (United Kingdom). Salaries for import teachers are an average of USD $1115 each month. Teachers hired in El Salvador are paid according to a salary schedule which takes into consideration training, degrees, language proficiency, certification, etc. Housing and transportation are usually not included.

Public Schools:

Majority of El Salvador’s population are unable to afford private schools and have to attend public schools, where a very elementary level of English is taught. Many of these schools have volunteer programs for English teachers instead.

Private Lessons:

Private English lessons can be taught after school, on the weekends, and even in the summer. Although this may seem to limit the amount of time that you can tutor students it actually gives you a good amount of flexibility with your work hours. Not every student that you will tutor will be in the K-12 grade range.

For example, you may have a college student who is struggling with certain aspects of the English language, or a graduate who is required to have a certain background in English. The going rate for private English tutors in Central America is anywhere from $20-75 per hour depending on the level of teaching. Elementary and secondary schools should be lesser than those of collegiate level but it is left up to the tutor to decide.

When and Where to Look for Jobs:

Most teach English jobs are located in and around El Salvador’s capita, San Salvador. As such, most work opportunities would be concentrated within this area. Jobs are advertised all year round, so be sure to keep a lookout for advertisements online and also to contact schools themselves.

Qualifications:

A law introduced in 1995 aims to improve the quality of education by rewarding teachers who pursue advanced degrees and demonstrate excellence in the classroom. According to this law, pay increases for teachers are to be earned as a result of their credentials and performance rather than length of tenure in the school system. Most schools favour teachers with a Bachelor’s Degree in the U.S. (or an equivalent degree in another country), a Licenciatura in El Salvador (or an equivalent degree in another country), and have completed a teacher education program.

Salary & Cost of Living:

Teachers in El Salvador work under difficult circumstances and receive very low pay, necessitating many to take on additional assignments in private schools or to teach more than one shift at their home schools. As a result, some teachers may be in the classroom for up to 12 hours per day from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. The mean monthly salary for teachers in 2002 was approximately US$380.

One good thing about El Salvador is that it has adopted the US dollar as its own currency! This makes it easier for you to live in the country and of course, to have a more decent paycheck. Cost of living in El Salvador is much lower than in USA. However, to be sure that you are significantly reducing your costs in El Salvador compared to back home in America, you must be prepared to adapt to the local lifestyle. Buying lots of produce from local markets or eating out at local restaurants and stands will significantly reduce your food bills (the average meal costs under USD $3!).

Housing costs vary greatly depending on proximity to the city, but will still be lower than in USA. In the wealthy areas of San Salvador, rent is around USD $500 monthly for a nice apartment and prices drop quickly outside these wealthy zones, to around USD $350 per month for a nice 3 bedroom home. Gas and electricity are three times more expensive than in the US however. Bottomline: shake off all preconceived notions of life in Central America and forget your Americanized ways of living, and you will reap significant savings.

Classroom & Work Culture:

According to Salvadoran students and their parents, teachers hold among the highest positions possible in a community. Neither children nor parents are likely to challenge a teacher’s decision. The relationship between teacher and student is similar to that in North America. At the beginning, interactions tend to be more formal, but later, depending on the teacher, the relationship may become friendlier, yet still be respectful.

In terms of strictness, however, Salvadoran teachers are considered to be less lenient than U.S. teachers in the event of misbehavior and more serious in their expectations of students. Teachers expect students to be attentive and quiet during the lesson. Students are seated in rows rather than in clusters or pairs in order to discourage socializing during class.

Traditional teaching practices still prevail in El Salvador, meaning that teachers tend to be authoritarian and discourage active student participation. The teacher has full control over the content, pace, and structure of the class. One of the most common teaching strategies in El Salvador is dictation. Teachers read from a text while students record the lecture verbatim in their copybooks, or teachers write notes on the blackboard for students to copy.

Some private schools require teachers to wear uniforms. At a private religious school for girls, for example, the teachers may wear ankle- length skirts and high-collared blouses. Younger teachers today can wear their regular street clothes to class. Their attire may include jeans.

Salvadorans are taught that it is impolite to point one’s finger at another person. In the case of summoning a friend, they stretch out the right arm with the palm down and wiggle their fingers. Being on time for a meeting or for class may not seem to be a serious commitment to a Salvadoran. Students are rarely absent from class, however, unless they have a very good reason.

People in positions of authority expect others to address them by title alone—e.g., Profesor/a for teachers at all levels of education. Salvadorans may simply nod or shake hands when they meet but may grasp the other’s hand less firmly and hold on to it longer than their North American counterparts. A man must wait for a woman to initiate a handshake.

Contributed by Liying Tan

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