Don’t we all have those days when we just want to break free from our mundane 9-5 lifestyle, dive into a whole new world of culture while, most importantly, still getting paid decently? But the question is, how? And also, where? Where are these opportunities?
If you are a native speaker of English, or have an equivalent proficiency in English, perhaps you should look into teaching English abroad. Consider becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in a different country! If you wish to experience the expat life without feeling a million miles away from home, Hong Kong may be a good place to start.
Hong Kong offers a great mix of Eastern and Western cultures. The economy of Hong Kong is dominated by the service sector, and by being a cosmopolitan city with expats from different nationalities, Hong Kong requires a steady supply of effective foreign teachers to maintain a competitive edge. Furthermore, English proficiency is highly prized in the corporate world since it is the main mode of communication in most global corporations. As the city wants its youth to be able to compete globally, there is a significant need for native English speakers who aspire to teach English in Hong Kong and are willing to obtain the required certifications.
Teaching is a fulfilling job. It allows you to cultivate and inspire the future pillars of society. In Hong Kong, many schools hire ESL teachers or NETs, which stands for Native-Speaking English Teacher. With bilingualism being a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s language policy, the Government invests substantially in helping students to attain a high level of proficiency in English. For instance, one of the many important initiatives is the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) Scheme launched by the Education Bureau (EDB), to support the public primary and secondary schools. Additionally, through different sources of funding, such as Government Additional Funds, Parent-Teacher Associations and school sponsoring bodies, the recruitment of NETs has also been made feasible in all types of schools. It can be observed that many schools in Hong Kong hire NETs to enhance English learning and teaching. In other words, recruitment of NETs is not just limited to public sector schools registered under the government’s NET Scheme, but many kindergartens, nurseries and private schools hire NETs too.
The quality of life in Hong Kong is high, thanks to its diverse culture, with a proximity to beaches and hiking trails with lush green mountains, as well as an abundance of restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. The city is very well-connected through its remarkable public transport. Its well-developed infrastructure, high earning potential and low tax rates make it an ideal destination for people across all professions.
Basic Requirements to become a NET/ESL Teacher in Hong Kong
NETs or ESL teachers in Hong Kong normally need to have a university degree along with anEnglish teaching-related qualification or certificate such as a TEFL/TESOL (a minimum of 120 hours), CELTA or an English PGCE/PGDE.
Teaching Recruitment Agencies
Besides applying to Government-subsidised schools that come under the NET scheme, a NET can also consider teaching at private language learning centres or as a private English tutor to gain experience and confidence, in addition to understanding student backgrounds and cultures.
With relevant teaching qualifications and work experience in your hometown, you can also consider applying for various teaching positions at different places. For example, international schools in Hong Kong. Some educational institutions also provide after-school classes for primary and secondary children focusing on writing, critical thinking, presentation and leadership skills. There is always a high demand for motivated part-time teachers.
However, it may be very challenging and occasionally frustrating to apply directly for NET positions with schools, language centres, and other institutions due to long waitlists and cumbersome paperwork.
Teacher recruitment agencies like Eureka Language Services strive to help teachers explore opportunities that allow teachers to reach their goals in teaching including registration with the Education Bureau Native-Speaking English Teacher Scheme (EDB NET Scheme), which offers a more attractive remuneration package. Eureka Language Services has consistently helped NETs enrol onto the EDB NET scheme.
Eureka Language Services also facilitates the process by assisting with work visa sponsorship, accommodation consultation, induction and training, social activities, and networking opportunities, etc. Agencies like Eureka are always at hand to handle applicant queries.
Eureka Language Services also supports fresh graduates and/or relatively inexperienced NETs find part-time teaching opportunities to strengthen their CV and acquire local teaching experience to improve their chances of securing a full-time NET position.
NET Georgia Mercer says, ‘I read about Eureka online when I was googling NET jobs. The Eureka website provided the best insight into the job and Hong Kong lifestyle for their teachers. I emailed my CV to Eureka and then went in for an interview.’ She also says, ‘I had no previous experience teaching young children and this process has also been a great learning experience for me.’
NET Steve Percy states, ‘I first heard about Eureka through a friend of mine who was working with the company. I made enquiries through their website and was soon contacted for an interview.’ He further adds, ‘The job is designed to enrich the lives of others, and in being a teacher you can see the difference you make in the lives of others.’
The average monthly salary of NETs ranges between HK$20K to HK$25K according to Eureka Language Services. While no other allowances are provided, teachers receive non-monetary benefits such as free training sessions, career advice, networking opportunities, accommodation consultation and emotional support.
Apply For The NET Jobs In Hong Kong
There are a number of ways to apply for NET jobs.
Applying through EDB or directly: Eligible schools under the NET scheme may opt to recruit NETs directly or entrust the Education Bureau (EDB) to recruit on their behalf. Therefore, applications can either be made through the EDB recruitment exercise or directly to schools with NET vacancies.
Applying through online job portals and on websites of schools/institutions: There are some dedicated online job portals such as JobsDB that list part-time, temporary, full-time and permanent positions throughout the year. You can also visit the respective school/ institution’s websites to apply.
Eureka Language Services: There are well-established language service providers like Eureka that welcomes NETs from overseas, as well as eligible Hong Kong-based aspirants. Eureka’s Full-time NETs in 2018-19 come from different English-speaking countries, with around 58% of them hailing from the UK and USA.
Preparation For Interview
Eureka Language Services sees people as their greatest asset and provides comprehensive interview training to applicants in order to develop and maximise their potential. Their induction and training workshops are led by professional in-house trainers and guest speakers who have been successful English teachers in Hong Kong. Their workshops focus on classroom management skills and knowledge of Hong Kong’s educational environment, which is believed to be of great importance to the success of new teachers. This is echoed by NET Georgia Mercer who says, ‘Classroom management can be a challenge when starting out with new classes. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to negotiate through various personalities of children in the class and undertake strategies to manage and implement lesson plans.’
Complemented by other useful topics, such as effective lesson planning and adapting lessons for diverse learners, Eureka’s training also covers interview coaching and career guidance. In the past academic year, it has welcomed more than 100 sign-ups for training sessions. Eureka provides teachers with comprehensive interview training notes, covering the interview do’s and don’ts and commonly asked questions specific to the Hong Kong teaching environment.
- Teachers receive personalised interview support from their professional in-house teacher trainer
- Before teachers get a full-time job, Eureka helps inexperienced NETs find part-time teaching opportunities to strengthen their CV and help them gain local teaching experience that is useful for winning a full-time NET position (this also helps them maximise their earnings!)
Once you are offered a position, the employer will sponsor your Hong Kong work visa, and also oversee most of the paperwork. The employer may require scanned copies of your passport and other relevant credentials such as teaching certificates, your University degree certificate, and letters of recommendation, etc. However, there are some schools and language centres that may impose prerequisites for application, such as having Hong Kong permanent resident status or other work authorisations.
Eureka’s HR team is very well-versed in the work visa application process. Therefore, they have the capacity to efficiently take on paperwork and administrative procedures, which may seem time-consuming and costly to many schools and individual visa applicants. Eureka provides eligible candidates with full support in the work visa sponsorship process that involves Eureka’s attentive liaison with the Immigration Department. In the past decade, they have successfully helped over 400 teachers from different countries obtain their Hong Kong employment visas.
The timelines may vary drastically from individual to individual, depending on the person’s circumstances and their arrival month, as there are peak seasons (e.g. July-September) and off seasons. Generally speaking, the time required between visa application submission and job confirmation is around 4-8 weeks. Once a school contract is agreed with the teacher, Eureka expects at least a year’s commitment.
Since 2001, Eureka has served over 400 schools and organisations, and currently has 200 teaching professionals deployed. Eureka’s management and professionals also come from all over the English-speaking world. Their client list includes kindergartens, nurseries, primary and secondary schools, private education and tertiary education centres, special schools and others.
When asked about the challenges of being a NET who has to teach children that are not very familiar with the English language, teach the art of pedagogy, and other specific skills, here is what the NET Steve Percy has said:
‘I wouldn’t say there have been any particularly stressful moments at work – at least not yet. The most stressful duty I’ve had to undertake was delivering a speech to the whole school, but this was easily managed because I was given ample time to prepare for it.’ He also asserts, ‘Be patient – not all students want to learn English yet they are forced to. Others have limited ability in language but want to learn. On top of all (and motivation aside) all students learn at different levels – patience is essential to facilitating all the different learners in your classroom.’
NET Georgia Mercer adds, ‘Teaching children who are not very familiar with the English language requires a lot of patience. Most of the children grow up in English poor environments and their school lesson contact time is their only English exposure. Motivation to continue to learn comes from the teacher. As an English teacher, you are responsible for encouragement and motivation. NET teachers are in a unique position where they can become the personality of the English class and ensure that the children are involved, happy and excited for the next lessons to come. English lessons can be made fun, interactive and colourful and an animated teacher can engage the children and befriend them.’
Despite the challenges, many teachers still find teaching abroad a worthwhile experience. International teaching experiences also help your CV stand out from the crowd. So, if you are up for the challenge and want to build a great career as an ESL teacher, Hong Kong is the ideal destination for you. All the best!