Singapore is one of the world’s most exotic destinations for teaching English abroad. With its tropical climate, pulsing modernity, mouth-watering food and fascinating heritage, Singapore is sure to offer you a wonderful teach abroad experience.
As the only country in the world to propel itself from Third World to First World status within the same generation, Singapore is one of the world’s most dynamic and progressive nations. Singapore is also incredibly efficient, clean and safe, so you can be sure to have a smooth-sailing teach abroad experience.
Although all teachers in Singapore have been educated in English, foreign native English-speaking teachers are still welcome as the Ministry of Educations seeks to expose students to foreigners, learn new methods, and obtain an outsider’s perspective. English is the working language, so there is a consistently high demand for English speaking teachers – good news for you!
In most teaching establishments, your work schedule will be around 20-25 hours per week plus extra prep time. Below are further details on different types of teaching jobs:
Private Language Academies/Schools:
There is less job security in commercial language centers as there have been cases of these centers dismissing teachers at a moment’s notice if they are dissatisfied with the teachers’ work. Terms and conditions are also less favorable than in international schools and government departments of education, where a contract of employment will be established.
Teachers in commercial language centers (such as The British Council) often work for several of these institutions at any one time in order to make a decent living, and you will not be paid for holidays as this when these institutions are busiest. However, these institutions will accept TEFL or TESOL certificates in addition to your native speaker status. Applications are accepted all year round, and more information can be found at each of their websites.
To teach in an international school, you will need a college or university degree in English Language or Literature as well as a post-graduate diploma in education or similar. Having a Masters would allow you to stand out, but it is not necessary. Competition for these jobs is high and the salary is also higher than in public schools/language centers. Many applicants will be as highly qualified as you are, so previous experience is what will set you apart. A quick Google search will give you a listing of the many international schools and opportunities in Singapore. Examples of such schools are the Singapore American School, Overseas Family School and Canadian International School.
To teach in a public school, you will likely apply through the Ministry of Education or you can speak directly to the school itself. Applying through the Ministry of Education will give you a lower salary than in international schools, but with excellent terms and conditions. This includes a basic salary, medical insurance, return flights and a generous housing allowance. Once again, competition is stiff, so you can consider applying directly to schools as well, which may offer free accommodation and medical insurance.
Private English tutors are common in Singapore, although students are already able to learn English through their schools. Information on the market rate for tuition fees is difficult to find, but is likely to not be as high as that of private language schools. The perks of being a private tutor however, is that this can be your part-time job!
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
English is widespread in Singapore and there is a high demand for qualified English speaking teachers. As such, you will be able to find English teaching jobs throughout the year. Interviews are also conducted well in advance both over the phone and via email, so you can rest assured that you can avoid a job-hunting frenzy upon arriving in Singapore. The island is small with an efficient transportation system, so geographic mobility will not be a problem!
English teachers need to have a bachelor’s degree to teach in Singapore, and TEFL certification is required. However, qualifications are highly emphasized in Singapore, so the more qualifications and certifications you have, the better. Most international schools and governments require you to sign a two-year contract. Breaking the contract will have financial penalties, and if you are leaving a government position for a private one, the government department responsible for issuing the visa for your next position may not be sympathetic.
Salary & Cost of Living:
The average monthly salary of USD $2400-3000 will enable you to lead a comfortable lifestyle, with the possibility of saving up to USD $500 above the cost of living. You will find that the pay in Singapore is higher than in other countries, although the cost of living is higher as well, at USD $2100-2500.
As with all countries however, there are numerous ways to cut costs by living the local lifestyle. Eat out at local hawker centers (where you can find the cheapest and ironically, the best food for only USD $2-3) and take public transportation (super efficient, no worries about getting to work late!) over buying a car.
Additionally, your employer will assist you in finding accommodation. The high standards of excellence that Singapore holds to will ensure that you have a seamless and organized teach abroad experience.
Classroom & Work Culture:
One of the most important things to keep in mind when interacting with Singaporeans is that Singapore is an extremely diverse and cosmopolitan country. There are many races in Singapore, with the 4 main racial groups (in order of dominance) are Chinese, Malays, Indians and Caucasians. Each of these racial groups have their own traditions and cultural norms, so you must be careful to treat each individual appropriately.
Hierarchy is important in Singaporean society and introductions are always done in order of age or status. Always be respectful and courteous, and remember that personal relationships are the cornerstone of all business relationships.
You may find Singaporeans to be relatively soft-spoken – indeed, a calm demeanor is superior to a more aggressive style. Hierarchy of a teacher-student relationship is apparent in most classrooms, and students will be obedient and follow classroom regulations (such as raising one’s hand before speaking).
Ethnic Chinese shake hands, regardless of gender, although women extend their hand first. Ethnic Malay men shake hands, however, ethinc Malay women do not traditionally shake hands since Muslim men do not touch women in public. Ethnic Indians shake hands with members of the same sex, and if being introduced to someone of the opposite gender, nodding the head and smiling is sufficient.
Do note that younger Chinese, Malays and Indians may be less traditional so these rules vary from individual to individual. The safest thing to do is to always be wary and observant of those around you. By noticing what the safest norm is, you can be culturally sensitive and avoid any awkward situations.