Neither my fiancé, nor I had planned on becoming teachers. We both completed our Bachelor of Arts degrees at university, but unpredictable occurrences led both of us to teaching at demanding secondary schools in South Africa.
Having travelled and lived abroad a number of times since I was a teenager, travel was both a passion and a priority to me, but the limited South African teacher salary made this a challenge.
Two months after our engagement, we were craving a life we couldn’t experience as teachers living in South Africa, and this inspired us to seek out opportunities to teach in South East Asia.
Requirements to Teach Abroad in Malaysia:
- University degree in Education OR
- University degree and Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
- Experience in education will count in your favour
To be employed at an international school, you will require an undergraduate degree or certificate in education, or the equivalent in another field with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
I completed my BA degree in Journalism, majoring in English and Public Relations before moving to Los Angeles to work as an Au Pair for a year. When I returned home, I was employed by a secondary school while I completed my PGCE. These qualifications have made me eligible to not only teach English as a First Language, but also allow me to teach other subjects too (based on my experience).
While obtaining a TEFL certificate will allow you to teach English as a Foreign Language abroad, completing a PGCE will enhance your applications and allow a larger range of schools to consider you for employment.
It is important to note that, where TEFL courses can be completed over a short period of time and are often significantly cheaper, PGCEs (or equivalent certificates) are often completed over the course of a year and may be more expensive based on the institution chosen.
Though this may delay some of your plans, it will be to your benefit to complete this form of qualification should you hope to be employed by an international school.
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International Schools in Malaysia
International schools in Malaysia vary significantly based on their founders or the companies which own and/or fund them. Being aware of this before you begin job hunting can assist you with what to expect and how to approach negotiations for potential jobs.
Some of the more popular and sought-after schools will have higher salaries, but will also have increased demands and working hours. Similarly, other schools may base the offered salaries and benefits on the expectations or delegation of responsibility.
Most international schools offer a full-time curriculum which takes place during the school day, followed by CCA (Co-Curricular Activities) or ECA (Extra Curricular Activities) taking place after lessons. You can expect that your responsibilities will include the running of at least one or two CCA’s, but this will be determined by the contract offered to you.
Due to our experience in South Africa, we taught a number of subjects across 4 year-groups, ran two CCA’s and participated in several events which took place after hours.
A majority of international schools in Malaysia follow the Cambridge Curriculum (some follow the International Baccalaureate or IB) therefore the syllabus and schools’ calendars will resemble those of schools in the UK, consisting of a trimester academic year and a lengthy holiday in the July/August months.
From our experience, many international schools in Malaysia offer relatively similar packages to expatriate teachers. It is common to receive a good salary based on your qualification and experience, as well as a contribution to your living expenses and some form of medical coverage.
Other benefits schools may offer include a laptop, relocation fees and annual return flights to your home country. These do, however, vary from school to school, and it is something which you should be prepared to discuss with your potential employer based on your needs.
In most cases, international schools have reliable facilities, good students and worthwhile benefits.
How to Find a Job at an International School in Malaysia
There are a couple of options available to securing a job for yourself at an international school in Malaysia. The recruitment ‘season’ tends to run between January and April as the academic year ends in July. But, do not wait specifically for these months to look for jobs. Jobs will be available year-round based on the resignations of current employees. In fact, we applied for and were offered our current job in May.
We received this offer after contacting the HR/recruitment department of several schools in areas where we were interested in living. Many international schools will have a ‘job opportunities’ section on their website, and it is worth monitoring these while you are searching for jobs.
Another very reliable option is to use recruitment websites like TES.com. This website allows you the opportunity to upload detailed information about everything you have to offer as a teacher (from subjects studied to personality strengths), and this will allow companies and schools to find you.
More importantly, TES.com also allows schools the opportunity to post vacancies, and teachers are able to apply via the website.
My fiancé and I have had several interviews based on positions advertised on this website by top schools in Malaysia and I highly recommend that this be your starting point in the search for positions at international schools around the world.
Alternatively, a website which provides detailed information about schools is Teacher Horizons. If you create a teacher profile, you will be able to view information regarding salaries, benefits, working hours and campus facilities.
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Living in Malaysia
Moving to Malaysia is one of the best decisions we have made. We have been given the opportunity to earn a comfortable salary, allowing us to save money, improve our quality of living and fulfill our desire to travel. Though our international travel plans have been severally affected by the pandemic, we had already visited Thailand and Singapore in the first few months of living here before the outbreak of Covid-19.
Malaysia also surprised us with the diversity of experiences which it offers. Visiting a modern city like Kuala Lumpur provides world-class shopping, entertainment, restaurants and cafés etc., but venturing out from this hub will expose you to several of the incredible benefits to living in South East Asia. Islands like the popular Langkawi offer tropical beach getaways, while towns like Malacca and Georgetown, Penang will provide historical and cultural experiences which you will not experience anywhere else in the world. The country even has several stunning National Parks which include the tropical rain forests of Sabah and Sarawak to the south east of Singapore.
Teaching in Malaysia has given us the opportunity to create the life we have wanted to live for years. We prioritised improving our quality of life while also saving enough to travel, and we did not need to make major sacrifices to do this as we had to do while living in South Africa.
If, however, your goal is to work abroad for a short period of time and save as much money as possible, you are able to do this successfully while still being able to experience what this unique country has to offer.
Though several other Asian countries have earned popular reputations for teaching abroad, Malaysia should be high on your list of countries to consider. Here you will be able to experience both world-class modern amenities, as well as the cultural attractions for which South East Asia has become so renowned.