Teaching ESL in India: What You Need To Know

As a practically native-English-speaking country, India may not be on top of your “teach English in…” list. Paid opportunities are rare, but you can teach English in India as a volunteer, too. Read this guide and learn the basics for ESL teachers in India.

ESL tutors seeking teaching opportunities in Asia prefer teaching in countries like Japan, China, or Vietnam, but seldom look for jobs in India. Why is it so?

The answer’s simple. They find it hard to get a job there. The opportunities in other Asian countries are plenty, as globalization and world trade have made English a compulsory language for communication. Unlike before the 2000’s when only the native language was prioritized, English has now become a necessity.

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In India, English has always been a prominent part of the curriculum and was popularized by the British colonization. As a result, there are numerous English teachers with a strong command over the language, and who are highly qualified to teach even international students.

The Indian schools might as well hire local teachers for a pay package that we sometimes don’t find lucrative and worth all the paperwork.

Teaching English  in India -  The Country Guide

Basic requirements to teach English in India

A TEFL certificate is a mandatory requirement and a globally accepted qualification for ESL teachers looking for an opportunity to teach English abroad.

Now, that doesn’t entitle you to ready employment. As mentioned earlier, there are a limited number of International Schools who can afford a foreign teacher. A TESOL certification is another added requirement to get you noticed by employers. You also need to show some prior teaching experience.

How to get a visa for teaching English in India

Visiting India on a tourist visa entitles you to stay there for 6 months but doesn’t allow you to take up jobs. However, you can still take up voluntary work at Non-Profit Organizations and schools. I visited India on a tourist visa and while I was there, I did some voluntary teaching work for a month at an NGO that educates underprivileged children.

English teachers looking for an employment opportunity need to apply for an Indian Employment Visa. The application can be completed at a local embassy or consulate office.

The best places to teach English in India

English teachers are sought after by international schools in the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Kolkata. It’s these schools you must primarily focus on for getting a definite yes.

To name a few, there’s

  • The British School, New Delhi
  • The International School, Bangalore
  • Daly College, Indore
  • India International School, Bangalore
  • Chettinad Lincoln International School, Tamilnadu

My work at the NGO brought me a full-time job opportunity at an International School in Mumbai as they liked my teaching methods. I had to turn it down due to visa restrictions (sob!).

How to get a teaching job in India

If you haven’t been to India before for work, or don’t have prior contacts with employers there, not to worry. As a first-timer, you can visit these websites to find the most appropriate job opportunities to apply for.

Visit the individual school websites and the careers section to upload your resumes. You can also alternatively apply for ESL tutoring opportunities with big organizations like The Chopras who train students for TOEFL, IELTS, GMAT, etc. You’ll find many good coaching centers on Google search that will be interested in hiring you. Work up your resumes before applying.

Salaries and living costs in India

The pay scale offered to ESL teachers may not sound very impressive as it ranges between $6,000 – $12,000 (sometimes $15,000) per year, but the good news is that it’s enough to provide you with a decent lifestyle.

Trust me. If you’ve lived in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago or L.A., you’ll find that a similar lifestyle in India is surprisingly cheap. As per the CNN report of 2016, the top most expensive cities in India don’t even make the top 100 in the world.

Special characteristics of Indian students

Indian students are totally different in the way they communicate with a teacher or even among themselves. It’ll take some time for someone new to understand their learning methods.

India is a mix of cultural diversity and when I say this, it applies to every age group. The students vary in their behavior and attitude depending on which part of the country they come from.

I was only accustomed to the”general” Indian accent (thanks to the TV shows and Stand Up acts I watch often) till I got there, but I noticed that there are different variations. It varies according to the local language they speak.

Students in the cities are more proficient and have a good grasp of grammar and diction, but it’s the students from smaller towns who need your help the most. They are prone to discrimination and don’t open up a lot. You must track them down in your class and put in some extra effort to make them feel comfortable.

Many times, I’ve noticed that even the students who are good at grammar and can write in English fairly well (correct English) struggle when it comes to speaking in English. You need to work on their speech as well.

My ESL teaching methods in the Indian classroom

Indian students have a very different approach to studying. I noticed that they were learning paragraphs word for word (which they’d later forget) without trying to understand the concept. I was shocked by their method but apparently, that’s what got them the marks.

I decided to help them not just remember the important concepts but also understand them really well. I taught them the method of studying with flashcards and introduced them to Cram.

They were hesitant at first to change their approach, but in about a week’s time, they loved it. Since I was just volunteering there, I don’t know how it turned out after I left, but it did help them.

So once you’re there, try to make things easier for them. I mean, who doesn’t love the easy stuff, right?

Things to watch out for

India has quickly developed as the IT hub with most of the work being outsourced to them. This has made the population quite comfortable towards western culture. You won’t find it difficult to get along with the city crowd, but there is always a concern for safety.

You must always surround yourself with people you know and be cautious when dealing with strangers. There are many who take simple friendly gestures as a sign of flirtation and interest. So be careful with your approach.

Download the local mobile apps relevant to the city (for example, there’s the m-indicator app for Mumbai) to avoid getting lost when you’re alone. Keep yourself safe as there’s a lot to enjoy out there.

Can you really teach English India?

India is still a preferred choice for many because of its welcome attitude towards visitors (especially from the US) and western culture and an affordable lifestyle as compared to other Asian countries.

If you are a teacher who is passionate to teach in India and work with Indian students, you must accept the fact that although a paid opportunity in India is initially hard to come by, you can always take up volunteering work at NGOs and schools. You’ll soon be recognized for your good work, and quickly build a good profile.

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