TEFL is a great career choice for lots of different people but there is a bigger picture with TEFL and one which is not always readily apparent when you are searching for a training course.

Education is a big driver in the developing world to lift societies out of poverty, empowering the poorest people in the world and also females who can be overlooked in some cultures when it comes to the provision of education.  TEFL offers myriad employment opportunities all over the world but if you really want to make a difference why not consider working in the third world where you can actually make a tangible difference to some of the most vulnerable people on the planet?  If you can only travel for short periods of time then you can work as a teaching assistant. Many of these posts are voluntary although you will receive your board and lodging. They can be a great way to make a real impact and may also help fledgeling teachers get started as voluntary positions can just provide that invaluable track record and experience on a CV.

Some volunteer programmes actually allow you to train overseas and complete courses lasting around four weeks the last week of which is dedicated to teaching in the classroom where you will actually be able to get some real teaching experience in front of students.  Or, you could take a placement as a volunteer teaching assistant and complete a part-time online TEFL course at the same time. Plan My Gap Year offers TEFL Express which is an accredited online course taking around 60 hours which you can wrap around overseas volunteering projects.  It’s a chance to make a real difference whilst picking up a universally useful and recognised qualification.

If you search online, there are zillions of websites and companies offering placements to teach overseas, mostly voluntary and requiring a range of teaching skills.  It’s a thriving industry so you will need to filter carefully to avoid those just trying to make a quick buck and also those who are totally well-meaning but don’t really know what they are doing.  If you want to make a difference teaching deprived children and adults in the poorest of nations then you still need infrastructure and professionalism and properly organised curriculums or you will end up making no impact on the students at all.  

There are paid TEFL positions within what might be called the voluntary sector but they are few and far between and would only be accessible to well qualified and experienced teachers.  If you find it difficult to marry the two roles, why not take a paid post in a more central developed country and then intersperse this with placements on volunteer programmes before you move on to your next paid role?  This also gives you the freedom to get involved in other voluntary projects as well, not just teaching. 

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