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TEFL to international school - PGCEi in China or back home for PGCE

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by matthewsc430, May 31, 2018.

  1. matthewsc430

    matthewsc430 New commenter

    I've been browsing these forums (which are phenomenally useful, and I'm very glad to have discovered them) but I've been unable to find any information that relates to this particular issue.

    I came to China to teach ESL after completing an MA in Literature in the UK. My plan was to get some overseas experience and think about PhD research proposals before going into academia. The academic route in the humanities, having researched quite extensively, seems like a huge investment with little certainty. I have, however, begun to enjoy teaching and have started to see it as a viable and rewarding career. I've worked a few jobs here, and have almost two years of experience. I've taught kindergarten to adults, including a semester at an international elementary school (a good one with embassy connections, but mostly non-native students) and short courses in American History and Literature. I'm currently teaching middle school-age students at a private language centre. I find the teaching aspect of the job interesting, but the training centre business culture is quite grating, for reasons that probably don't require too much elaboration here.

    My plan is to get into international high school teaching (English Language and Literature) as a career. I have been offered jobs at low-level "international" schools in China that I have turned down due to location issues or contract date overlaps, so I know that I can find work teaching either literature or a mixture of English language and literature (or, in reality, ESL with a literature flavour) at that kind of place when my current contract ends early next year. I applied for these jobs outside of normal hiring periods, so I'm sure there will be more options if I apply for August intake rather mid-way through the year.

    So, the short-term goal is to move out of ESL into subject teaching, albeit at the very low end of the international school scale.

    The middle-term goal is to become properly certified and find employment in more middle-tier schools. My understanding of the tier system is incipient, but I mean schools that are not just cash-cows, have a decent educational culture, reasonable salary, teaching isn't overly stymied by language barriers, require qualified teachers and won't use foreign teachers for PR at every opportunity. So, basically, teaching without some of the shoddinessexcessive commerciality that all too often comes with ESL/very low-end international schools.

    The long-term goal is to work at as good a school as I can. I want to keep developing and improving, and move onto better jobs whenever necessary.

    I'm unsure as to whether it would be best to do the PGCEi through Nottingham Uni at Shanghai, and do a (very) entry-level international school gig in China at the same time, or go back to the UK for one year to do a PGCE.

    I have seen that some unis in the UK offer a 1 year PGCE that also comes with QTS. I was under the impression that an additional placement year is needed for QTS, but this doesn't seem to be the case.

    The tuition fees (and loss of income) initially put me off going back to do a PGCE, but I have seen that English teachers can get a £15000 bursary, and I could apply for a maintenance loan to cover the tuition fees, so I wouldn't need to use up my savings to do the course. This makes it a lot more viable.

    When I was looking into PhD funding a while ago, it seemed like I'd need to be actually living in the UK to apply. I haven't seen anything similar in relation to PGCE bursaries, and I hope this isn't the case. It's important that I can apply for the course and qualify for funding from overseas.

    I have a BA in English/American Literature (2:1), MA Literature, Culture and Modernity (Distinction), 26 years old.

    I have a Chinese spouse but she is happy to relocate to the UK for the duration of my PGCE. She is interested in doing graduate study abroad and has considered doing a masters in the UK. We could make sure our study time/location are compatible, and she would have a student visa, so there would be no need to jump through any onerous immigration hoops proving income and whatnot.

    In the short to medium term, I would be looking for work in China or Hong Kong. Japan and South-East Asia are also okay if the package can support us comfortably. We don't plan to have kids, but if that changes, we would probably choose to take a pay cut to be in Western or Northern Europe.

    Apologies for the long and tedious autobiography. Hopefully this gives you some idea of where I'm at and what my goals are.

    Would a PGCEi be okay to get a foot in the door? Would not having QTS affect me from the start? Would not having QTS not matter so much for the first few years, but create a ceiling in my career later (keeping the very good schools off-limits)

    It's easier for us to just stay in China, we have a good network of friends and contacts, and a comfortable life.

    But we're not averse to going to the UK for a year or so. It's just not a place I would want to teach in as a career, as I'm sure many here understand.

    Basically, I'm looking to avoid inconvenience in the short-term, and equally, to avoid limiting my options in the long-term.

    So, what do you recommend for someone planning to make a career of teaching: The PGCEi or going back to do the PGCE?

    Thanks for making it this far! Any and all advice is hugely appreciated.
  2. Ne11y

    Ne11y Occasional commenter

    PGCEs come with QTS: in order to teach in an English state school, you need to pass an NTQ year. You could do a PGCE and then leave: it makes no difference technically. So you don't need to worry about the NTQ year in that regard.

    I can't comment on the PGCEi but I am sure others will chip in.

    In the better schools you are likely to be up against applicants with UK teaching experience which may put you at a disadvantage, especially if you start looking outside your current area (where you have connections/knowledge) and at the rest of the world.

    I think that is a big consideration. If you're planning to travel, you will need to look good on paper. Some schools may disregard your application purely on the basis of qualifications without looking at your experience.

    Don't forget that there are schemes like SCITT which allow you to work while teaching in the UK - not a great salary, but better than nothing. It's not just about the PGCE anymore. Plus that will get you a whole year within a UK school, which could boost your credentials.

    Good luck, it's a tough decision but it sounds like you are planning well!
  3. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    Go back and do the PGCE properly. If you can bare it, stay a second year and do your NQT year in the UK too.
    sparklesparkle and matthewsc430 like this.
  4. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    I would disagree - I would stay in China and do the PGCEi. Once you have the qualification you can work your way up the schools in a far more amenable situation. I know folks who have gone that route and they are getting offers in good schools now.

    Your choice is two difficult/challenging years in the UK to get PGCE/QTS and NQT or two years working in lower level international schools while you do your time to get a qualification and experience but in the meantime, you are in a place you want to be and you are earning money. You may also choose to go the International (general) School route rather than the British International school route. Yes, some schools will favour UK experience over international experience - others specifically want international experience.

    Not sure, but don't Sunderland do one that has a route to QTS as an add on? Someone will be along who knows about this...
  5. Capricorn2412

    Capricorn2412 New commenter

    Do the PGCEi and if you are concerned about QTS, then you could head back to the UK and take the AO QTS route or go through one of the companies that specialise in supporting overseas teachers gain QTS via AO over the summer holidays by arranging the placement in the UK. You could also apply for QTLS which would legally allow you to teach in English schools but may not be easily recognizable. At the end of the day, there seem to be two views to this - a PGCE as a stand-alone teaching qualification or the view that without QTS you are not a proper teacher. Though if you have EFL experience, a good degree, followed by international school experience, that in itself should be valuable.
  6. HeroForTheDay

    HeroForTheDay New commenter

    If you can stomach the trip back to the UK I'd go for it. However, as someone who went the same way into teaching that you did,; and is currently enrolled on the PGCEi with Nottingham, let me give you some of my experience and see if it helps you come to a decision.

    I've been abroad now for 8 years; went the TEFL/ESL > Science class teacher in Thailand for 3 years route, then, with a little luck (as my friend had moved their and recommended me to join). moved to a newly Established International School where I taught (and continue to teach) Global Perspectives, which is based on my degree, Since then, I have moved to a mid level International School in KL who were less interested in my lack of 'Qualifications' and more interested in my experience, which by that point was 5 years. So in answer to your question as to whether not having a teaching degree is a hindrance, in the short term, no. Many low/mid tier International Schools will take you based on your degree alone, especially in Asia, where the requirements to teach your subject are less stringent and your experience + degree will suffice. A lack of QTS/PGCE will cause problems if you wish to move to somewhere like the Middle East, Hong Kong (who reject the online PGCEi) and the 'top tier' schools who wish to employ British National School experienced teachers with a PGCE and QTS. Also, as mentioned above, your PGCEi does not grant QTS which makes moving back to the UK to work difficult. So the main question for you is whether you see yourself moving back to the UK to teach or not?

    The main reason I have taken the PGCEi is so that in the future I too can move up the 'tier' ladder, or score a gig in somewhere that requires a teaching qualification (such as Bali). If I wanted, I could quite easily live and work in Asia just based on my experience and degree alone. If you intend to set up in China (or Asia in general), the majority of International Schools will take you based on Experience + degree and then the PGCEi as an added extra.

    Be warned though, if you do wish to earn QTS/QTLS abroad, the PGCEi only awards you 60 credits, and the QTLS route would require you to earn another 60 credits somewhere else. Therefore, the AO route would seem the least taxing in terms of time, but would require you to move back to the UK for 12 weeks to complete the training, and has no bursary AFAIK.

    Hope this has helped. And good luck.

  7. matthewsc430

    matthewsc430 New commenter

    Thank you. There seems to be a strong case for both options. I've read that it's quite difficult to gain acceptance onto one of those QTS assessment courses - something like 4 years of experience at two schools is needed in order to be considered. Is this true? If so, even if I want/require QTS, I might have to wait a while.

    Would you say that certain better schools wouldn't consider an applicant with a PGCEi and no QTS, or experience/good references would be sufficient?

    I know that the qualification is just a way into the profession, and experience is much more decisive in terms of career options. But I'm concerned that, even if I gain the experience, having a less traditional qualification might limit my employability, particularly in the better Asian schools.

    What are your thoughts?
  8. matthewsc430

    matthewsc430 New commenter

    Thanks for the advice. In some ways I would enjoy the opportunity to go back to the UK for a year or two. It would be great to spend some time with friends and family, and it will give my wife an opportunity to meet my family/friends and see the UK. I see your point though, and I'm definitely under no illusions about the difficulty of the PGCE and that first year of teaching.

    The small amount of literature I've taught over here was American high school prep, and I enjoyed it. My academic background is in American as well as English literature. I'm equally happy to teach the IB curriculum, or any other international curriculum. Is QTS only valued among schools that offer a British curriculum?

    My main requirement is that not having a traditional PGCE/QTS might affect me down the line when I'm trying to move from the lower to the better schools. I don't have any plans to work as a teacher in the UK, for what it's worth. Do you think my concern about the lack of UK PGCE/QTS making it harder to get into the good schools is valid?

    I know you pointed out that people have made it into the better schools with the PGCEi, but did they manage it in spite of their qualification, or did the qualification not make a huge difference?
  9. matthewsc430

    matthewsc430 New commenter

    Thanks for the advice. The SCITT idea is very appealing. Do you think SCITT plus one year post-qualification in the UK would open more doors?

    What about international experience? If I'm applying for schools that don't offer a British curriculum (IB, for example, which I've seen advertised quite frequently), would international experience and a PGCEi be just as valuable in other countries?
  10. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    I think the PGCEi could cause some problems when applying to better schools - although the more experience you have the less of an issue it is. Personally, if you were OK with going back to the UK to study and your wife doesn't have any visa issues, then I would suggest this as the better route - it does then offer you the chance to get the full PGCE and full teaching status which would resolve the problem.

    You might want to consider doing the PGCE at one of the Scottish universities. That could then qualify you for a guaranteed year of employment after that which, combined with your experience in China, would probably get you into a lower or lower-middle tier school in SE Asia; alternatively, you would most likely have no problems getting either long-term supply or a full time job in Scotland teaching English, even if it was just for a year.
  11. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    The tuition fee loan, maintenance loan and bursary are only available if you have been resident in the UK for the 3 years prior to the start of the course. You can still claim residence in the UK if your time abroad was temporary (i.e. finite work visas, you kept a bank account in the UK, etc.), but student finance are difficult to deal with, so make sure you have plenty of clear evidence.
  12. sparklesparkle

    sparklesparkle Established commenter

    Who are being VERY fussy at the moment. A friend with a PhD who has a wide range of teaching experience was turned down by two institutions. They are also asking for a B in GCSE maths and experience of volunteering/working in a school.

    There may be restrictions on this if he isn't resident in Scotland. And if he isn't resident prior to the course he'll have to pay fees.

    OP, there seem to be threads about this every week now. I'm astonished that you weren't able to find them.
  13. sparklesparkle

    sparklesparkle Established commenter

    This is what every international teacher is looking for.

    You have clearly spent a very long time thinking about your requirements. What can you offer such a school in return?

    What experience can you offer them? EFL teaching may be useful if you have a CELTA and have gained your experience in an institution which cares about professional development. It sounds like this isn't the case, however. What are your personal attributes? How can you enhance the learning of a child? What can you contribute to a school, either personally or professionally? You don't say where your degrees are from but even if they are from prestigious institutions, this is just a starting point. What kind of extra-curricular activities can you offer? I suggest you start thinking about this if you want to teach in a good school.

    EFL to classroom teacher is a very common path - I took it myself. The bar for getting an EFL job is very low indeed compared with a decent international school. You need to think about what makes you a better candidate than the many, many others in your position. In your very long post (quite possibly the longest I have seen in 13 years reading this forum) I don't see anything that makes you stand out. And if we don't see it, a school won't see it either. You need to start thinking in terms of the skills and attributes you could offer and develop some new ones if necessary. They want to employ a person, not just a PGCE certificate.
  14. Capricorn2412

    Capricorn2412 New commenter

    I wouldn't say that you need 4 years experience for AO QTS. Yes you need experience in two schools across two age ranges, but it doesn't have to be over 4 years. For QTLS you need to wait until 6 months after receiving your teaching qualification to apply for QTLS.
  15. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    My first IB/US school specifically asked for my QTS certificate. The PGCE wasn't good enough by itself.
  16. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    Any decent school will want you to be qualified, but outside of the British schools they will not care, or even know of what an NQT is, dont get confused between the two.
  17. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    Both were trailing spouses and great teachers, professionals in other fields before doing the iPGCE, so yes, quite likely they got the jobs in spite of their qualifications. Lots of experience and did the teaching qualification because there were more opportunities for teaching than in their previous professions. One started by doing TA work in her kids' school, and got sponsored/supported by a very good British school to do the iPGCE the other did it off her own bat. but as I said, both are now working in very good quality schools, one in the British International system other in a full, what some would call 'elite' tier, IB school - and that is the friend with the supposedly less prestigious background.

    They did both have the advantage, that they weren't getting or asking for full expat packages as trailing spouses - but they are getting same basic salary as the other expats - not local salaries.
  18. nemo.

    nemo. Occasional commenter

    Personally I say it's a no brainer. Go pgce plus one induction year as it make you more valuable and employable. One downside is having to get a visa for a spouse with a xenophobic get rid of all foreigner government - and sometimes spouses get refused even tourist visas even when they have good jobs etc depends on the nutter err I mean embassy official who interviews your wife.

    But a PGCE with QTS is only 9 months long so worst case just do that. You will get funding just dont jump up and down saying you were overseas (I returned from overseas and got full funding). A PGCEi is ok in some situations eg have kids and a job already but need a cert for immi but in most cases go PGCE QTS route. Do it quick so you and your wife can visit Europe before we all get shut out of Europe as little britain post brexit barbarians lol.
    matthewsc430 likes this.
  19. matthewsc430

    matthewsc430 New commenter

    Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, having discussed the issue in more detail, the idea of going to the UK might be more complicated than it initially appeared. There would be considerable expenses for my wife as she would be paying international student fees - so we have agreed that she really needs to have a good reason to do another masters - staying in the UK for a year isn't a good use of such a large amount of money. Also, the British government requires proof of much higher savings than we expected for international students to come and study - and if we go the longer route of officially bringing a spouse into the country to live and work, I would need guaranteed work at over £18500 per year, or £60000 in savings. I'm not saying this is impossible, but we may have to put it off for a few years and then reassess when we are more prepared. Hopefully by that point I'll be in a good position with my job, but the opportunity will still be there to do QTS in 4 or 5 years.

    For now the PGCEi might be the only viable option, at least without considerable financial losses and stress.

    I'll look into the Scottish option when the time comes. Thanks for the advice! Much to consider!

    Thanks, I'll consider your advice. It's good to know that funding is available.

    We might have to put off doing the PGCE or an alternative QTS route in the UK for a few years due to the practicalities and cost of also moving my spouse over and dealing with the immigration stuff. It's definitely something I'm willing to do if necessary, but I'll probably do the PGCEi and gain some experience in China or nearby for a few years. If in a few years (and, based on what I've read here, this is very likely) QTS is needed to move forward and expand my options, we can make the move when we have some savings and experience and more time to plan what my wife can do in the UK.

    Luckily for me I'm eligible for Irish citizenship. I'm going to get the paperwork done quite soon. So travel in Europe won't be too much of a problem. I don't think it'll be too big a problem anyway. It'll be harder to work in the EU for British nationals but I'm sure there will be some kind of visa-free travel arrangement at the very least.

    The government have really made it difficult with the immigration stuff. Hopefully things will go back to how they were, but I don't see it happening any time soon.
  20. matthewsc430

    matthewsc430 New commenter

    Which country was this in?

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