Gone are the days when any person who spoke English could drop in and immediately be hired to work as a language instructor at different educational facilities in Colombia. When you plan to teach in Colombia, you will need to undergo a lengthy application process to obtain a work visa. Some institutions are willing to hire foreigners and help them with the application process for work visas while others will not. The good news is that by law, all Colombian children must learn a second language. Most schools teach English as this second language, but others teach German, French, Hebrew, or a native language.
Before traveling to Colombia, you need to be sure you have a valid visa and a work permit. Work permits are issued only with a contract from an employer. Some employers participate in job fairs in the United States, but most do not. So if you are interested in working in Colombia, the best way to learn about individual schools, universities, and institutions is to Google them. Read the information on the website and then try to find someone who knows the city and/or the school. Ask the teachers in your university language department or school about the institutions you are interested in. Their advice can be invaluable.
When Googling bilingual schools in Colombia, do a general search and then decide which climate suits you best. The weather varies tremendously in Colombia, so you can probably find a bilingual school where the weather is agreeable to you. Cosmopolitan Bogota and Medellin (clothing and fashion industries) have cool climates, Cali (industrial) is warm to hot, and Barranquilla (shipping) is on the Caribbean coast. There are smaller cities, but with far fewer bilingual schools.
After deciding on the climate, look at the home page of different bilingual schools. Some schools are orientated towards the U.S. educational system, and some are orientated towards a British system. In general, schools will hire people with either orientation because of the limited number of foreign language instructors available. The British Council is an important resource for United Kingdom teachers.
Next, contact the principal or rector for the steps needed to proceed with the application process. This is usually a lengthy process, so begin your paperwork at least one year before expecting to be hired. In some schools, the school year will begin in August/September (Calendar B) and finish in June and in others in January/February (Calendar A) and end in November. Even in the same city or region, the calendar may be different.
Many universities also hire foreigners for their language programs. Some will work with you and help with the paperwork, and others will not. Contact each university individually for their specific hiring procedures. In many universities, the instructors are part-time and receive no benefits, such as medical insurance, when hired.
If you decide you need more freedom to pursue personal interests, try contacting the Colombo Americana’s in the major cities. They are institutes formerly associated with the USIA. They teach English to all who wish to learn. Teens, and business people are their main clients, but children are included in special Saturday and vacation programs. Frequently, teachers can make contacts for private clients through these institutes.
With an exotic culture, varied weather and a plethora of teaching opportunities, it’s no wonder why seasoned ESL teachers are making the move to teach English in Colombia.
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Story by ESL Herald. Visit ESLHerald.com for more information on teaching English in Colombia.