The Educationalist Path Less Taken
May 13, 2007 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Where does my educational experience fit into my future?

I'm 26, head teacher with an international education exchange program, and a former high school social studies teacher. I have a B.A. in Political Science but no real certification, though I do have one masters-level classroom management class under my belt. I want to enroll in a master's program for international education on the Western side of the Asia-Pacific region.

Teaching will be my career. I'm a good at it and want to eventually teach would-be teachers about different education systems around the globe. Ideally, I'd love to find an online program with a reputable university and keep working in China.

That's not likely, so the big question is what kind of jobs can I expect to find if I move to Hong Kong, Australia, or New Zealand to work on a masters? So far the situation looks bleak. An email to NZ immigration led to me being told bluntly that I'm not qualified and everything non-TEFL in HK looks the same way.
posted by trinarian to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a specific reason you want to stay in the Asia-Pacific region while taking this course? Is the idea that you want to get academic perspectives from that region (doubtful, since you're considering online courses), or is just because you want to stay close by? The fact that you are equally willing to live in Hong Kong, Australia, or New Zealand suggests that you're not tied to a specific culture, just the area. Well, you can always go away for your masters and then come back. Plane tickets are getting cheaper by the minute and if you get in the right Master's program you'll be so busy you won't even know where you're living; you can always take trips back during breaks in study.

Also, you don't have to go all the way to the West. There are probably some excellent programs in the Middle East, an area that seems a lot more eager to hire teachers, especially those with established teaching credentials.

If you can swallow your pride and teach TEFL, South Korea apparently pays extremely well, and you could probably come up with an arrangement that allowed you to study on the side. I don't know if South Korea has a good university educational studies, though.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:45 AM on May 13, 2007

Also, if you have zero certification, spend a month getting TEFL certification. As a teacher who plans to travel internationally, having a piece of paper that says you can teach English will be very valuable, on top of whatever practical experience you already have. I believe there are programs in China; CELTA appears to be the most respected option, but my experience with TEFL was incredibly enjoyable and educational (started out with no educational experience at all, now I can write up class plans and do a lesson plan, even on short notice).
posted by Deathalicious at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2007

Response by poster: As stated in the question, I'm currently head teacher of an TEFL company so I'm quite familiar with this market. I've got a TEFL certificate, but I doubt it's usefulness in getting decent education jobs outside of mainland China or the other Asian hotspots for foreign teachers. I'm fairly certain it'll only get me in the door of elementary schools in Hong Kong, for instance, and almost nowhere in an English-speaking country. The answer to the other question is that a girl ties me to the region and, well, I already live here and don't have a mind to go home quite yet.

The question, at it's simplest, is if anyone knows what kind of options my experience will get me in Hong Kong, Australia, or New Zealand were I to enroll in a master's program in one of those locations.
posted by trinarian at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2007

You say you'd like an online program for a master's degree in international education, but what about an, um, offline program? Is there any reason you couldn't just apply to a university in HK, Oz, or NZ as a master's student, acquire a student visa, and work in TEFL part time if your visa allows? And aside from HK, I'm sure the big cities of Australia and Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch have both universities where you could do your degree and schools where people come from abroad to study English.

And I have to agree with deathalicious - the CELTA is really a good idea. You may be certified, but what good is a certification if no one respects it? And to be honest, regardless of the actual characteristics of your school, I'm sure you've realized that there are a lot of cowboy/fly-by-night operations in TEFL in China, so even if you say you're head teacher, a prospective employer might not hire you.

Oh, and what about Singapore?
posted by mdonley at 3:23 PM on May 13, 2007

Here's NZ Immigration's answer to the "can I work while on a student visa?" question, and here are Australia's details on student visas for Master's-by-coursework students.

I can't seem to dig up what HK and Singapore say about students working.
posted by mdonley at 3:33 PM on May 13, 2007

The link from mdonley shows clearly how much you can work in NZ as an international student. Looking at job sites such as or will show you what jobs are available. But yeah, you won't be able to teach at a high school or primary school over here without a teaching qualification and local registration. The Masters degree you're proposing will not qualify you to teach here, so you won't be able to do it after you finish studying either (a teaching diploma can be added on though).

TEFL is different though, if you have the appropriate qualifications/certificates for that then there are a number of language schools here in Auckland (and probably elsewhere) aimed at Asian students coming to NZ where you could most likely get work. The English language school market is shrinking these days in NZ so I don't know what jobs would be like in that area.

Tertiary teaching may also be possible, as you don't need a teaching certificate for that. At the very least it's fairly common for post grad students to demonstrate labs or tutor classes while they study, and being enrolled at a University will help give you contacts to pick up that kind of work. Try emailing the post grad advisers at Unis or polytechs you're interested in attending and asking them about what's possible for you. There will be people used to answering those kinds of questions, both about how you can study here successfully and what you can do with the degree afterwards. Actually this advice probably works no matter what country you choose.

I'm not familiar with their curriculum or if you can study what you want there, but Massey University in NZ has a good extramural program and you should be able to study with them from another country. They have good procedures and processes in place for this stuff so it might be worth checking out.
posted by shelleycat at 4:41 PM on May 13, 2007

On Singapore: As far I as remember, if you're on a student pass the limit was 16 hours work per week during term-time, and 100% during vacations.

(In fact, ICA confirms it.)

A better option, legally speaking, might be to find full-time work in Singapore (that is, legally reside here on an Employment Pass), and see if you can do a part-time course.

I have no idea about what kind of courses you'd require for a teaching career here. I have some vague idea that the National Institute of Education is into training teachers; a friend was doing some coursework there a while back.

The National University of Singapore might also offer some courses that could eventually lead to a teaching career, although I understand you still would need an NIE certification if you were to teach in the local public-school system.
posted by the cydonian at 3:02 AM on May 14, 2007

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