Despite its small size, the diverse cultures and geographies of Suriname make it a unique and extraordinary destination for teaching abroad. On the one hand, Suriname is a modern, bustling city with a vibrant culture and nightlife in the capital, Paramaribo. But a bit south of the city you can find untamed jungles and wildlife ripe for exploring on your days off work.
The vast majority of schools instruct classes in Dutch, since Suriname was a Dutch colony until it gained independence in 1975. The current state of schools is quite poor. There is a drastic difference in quality of schools, with the urban areas having decent access to infrastructure, supplies, etc. while the interior regions have less of such resources. Teachers often do not show up to classes and the number of teachers is dwindling.
In an attempt to remedy all these educational issues, Suriname has introduced development plans, some of which will add English instruction to curriculums. However, in public schools, English classes are not all that common, making the number of positions for English teachers lower than one might find in other countries.Photo credit: Daveness_98
Public Schools: Some, though a minority, of the public schools teach students English. Courses in English become more common as students progress, but often only begin once a student reaches university level. Many of these government-funded schools are run by churches (Protestant and Roman Catholic), and are more likely to teach English.
Private and International Schools: There are a few private schools, often for expat children and very wealthy children. Many of these are also run by religious organizations, and some by private organizations.
Companies: Since Suriname’s economy and trading partners are more and more requiring that the Surinamese speak English, companies will sometimes hire private teachers to come into their office and give the employees language lessons.
Where and When to Look for Jobs:
The school year starts in October, so the best time to look for jobs is just before in September. However, there do tend to be vacancies year round, as well.
Though TEFL certification is not entirely necessary to teach English in Suriname, being certified will make you a more desirable candidate and give you leverage in salary and benefit negotiations.
Salary and Cost of Living:
Suriname is one of the pricier countries in Latin America, though cost of living is still less than in the U.S. The price of goods is about 77% of the price in America. A 3 bedroom in the city center will run you about $750 and a 1 bedroom about $300 per month. Utilities and internet cost a bit over $100 a month and for groceries you can expect to spend about $150.
Though salary increases have been made in response to lots of protests against the exceptionally low teacher pay in Suriname, pay is still very low. It is hard to give an exact figure, so talk to the particular school you are working with to find more specific salary information.
Classroom & Work Culture:
The Surinamese school year goes from October 1 to mid August and is separated into three terms. The typical school hours are from 7a.m. to 1p.m. There are 5 levels of education: pre-primary, primary, secondary junior level, secondary senior level, and tertiary.
- Student-Teacher Relations: Students can occasionally be rebellious and think that they do not have to listen to the teacher’s authority, but many show respect for the teacher, too (as is the case in many places).
- Dress Code: Dress is casual (but not sloppy! You still need to be presentable!), especially when the weather gets particularly hot. For business meetings, people wear business casual clothes.
- Greetings: Regular greetings are usually informal and often only verbal. A warmer greeting involves three cheek kisses on alternating cheeks.