In looking at the opportunity to teach English around the world, let's first take a quick look at the demand for the product itself: the English language.
The Fastest-Spreading Language in Human History
Today, English is spoken by 1.75 billion people as a first or second language. That's more than a quarter of the population of planet earth.
This number is only set to grow. By 2020, the British Council forecasts that two billion people will be speaking or learning English.
English now belongs to the world—increasingly to non-native speakers. 75% percent of the time English is spoken, it’s done so as a second language. It’s a Thai speaking to a Korean. Or a Brazilian speaking to a Chinese.
Non-native English Speakers Outnumber Native Ones
The growth of international business, travel, and education has seen schools everywhere hiring thousands of fluent English speakers every year to teach English:
Right now, ESL speakers (English as a Second Language) outnumber native English speakers 3–1 worldwide.
China is already the largest English-speaking country in the world. And the number of Chinese English language students is as large as the entire US population — over 300 million and counting.
Roughly 100,000 English teaching positions open every year.
Latest estimates put the number of ESL schools and language institutes at 40,000+ worldwide.
Three Teaching Trends Here to Stay
1. ESL students are getting very young.
In the past decade, the ESL industry has seen an exponential increase in the number of children learning English as a foreign language.
While parents have long known that strong English skills offer their children better employment opportunities in their future, in many countries today, it’s governments that are leading the charge.
In many countries worldwide, English is now compulsory at primary or elementary grade levels.
For the past five years, countries including Saudi Arabia and Vietnam made English a mandatory subject for students in grades four and up.
At the same time, Japan has introduced English learning at the primary level and young learners in Dubai now start learning English in kindergarten.
Middle-income Chinese families typically spend 30% of household income on their children's education — some US$ 3,000 per year. What was the preserve of the wealthy just a few years ago, is increasingly going mainstream.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese kids are learning online. Four or five companies are currently investing $500 million dollars to attract millions more.
2. Technology will innovate language teaching.
The explosion of technology in today’s classrooms makes blended learning — where learning is done partly through online media — is a reality that ESL teachers will need to embrace in order to be successful.
Today’s language apps—mLearning—allow digital native learners to increasingly adopt the smartphone and tablets to help them learn English where they can access high-quality content anytime and anywhere.
3. Many English language learners are moving online.
It’s not just kids. While there are more people learning English, than speak it as a first language, only some 15% percent have access for formal teaching.
Adults all over the world need to speak English more fluently in order to capitalize on global opportunities. Many are turning to the internet—particularly in remote areas—to get the instruction they need.
By 2025, over 5 1/2 billion people—of planet Earth’s 8 billion population—will have internet access.
ELT is Big Business
English Language Teaching (ELT) is a huge growth industry. Of the 1.75 billion English speakers in the world right now, only 15% of these people have access to formal ELT.
In 2012, GSV advisors said that the size of the global language learning market was $115 billion with a 2017 estimate at $286 billion - growing about 20% per year.
All this translates into a big demand for English teachers.
An estimated 250,000 native English speakers work as English teachers abroad. Eighty percent of English teachers abroad – particularly in public schools – are not native English speakers because there are simply not enough native English-speaking teachers to meet demand.
Major Asian cities of Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, and Shanghai are home to well over 1,000 language schools employing up to 15,000 foreign English teachers.
In both China and South Korea, approximately 1,000 new English teachers are hired each month. In China, this number is projected to double in the coming years.
A Global Analysis of English in the Workplace
Cambridge just published the first global overview of English language skills at work. Their findings are based on data from over 5,300 employers in 38 countries - and along with insights from Cambridge English experts.
The English at Work Survey shows the global importance of English, with over two-thirds of employers saying that English is important for their business. Analysis of responses from these employers showed:
In every industry, there is a gap between the English language skills required at work and the English skills that employees currently have. (That often translates into increased training budgets.)
Around half of all employers offer a better-starting package to applicants with good English language skills, which can also lead to faster progression through job grades and higher salary increases (in countries and territories where English is not an official language).
So which of the four language skill are most valued by employers? You discover that by downloading the full report here.
Revolving Teaching Doors
Historically, about half of all English teachers abroad will leave their current teaching positions each year. That creates some 100,000 positions for new English teachers abroad open each year.
About 50% of teachers stay for a second year. Approximately 15% – 20% go to a new school or a new country after one year. Some 35% will return home after one great year abroad.
Only 10% stay for a third year at the same school.
All of this means that schools and language institutes are facing a constant need to hire new teachers. The world's biggest market for English teachers is coming from East and southeast Asia.
English Teaching Today
The teaching of English as a second language has evolved from a niche business into a global business. And, as the language teaching has become more professional, certified teachers are replacing backpackers in classrooms around the world.
The great demand for English classes has attracted more people to the teaching profession. And this greater supply of teachers has allowed language schools to impose stricter standards on new hires.
Many are finding that jobs that could once be attained with basic qualifications now require more advanced training and more experience.
Even entry-level teaching positions have become more demanding. Thailand and Korea have famously tightened their standards in recent years, demanding that teachers meet certain legal requirements in order to be qualified.
The successful applicant today is the one who is the most qualified, the most experienced, the most readily available and the most flexible.
An English speaker, qualified with a recognized and accredited English language teaching credential, has the opportunity to see the world...
or to stay at home and teach the world.
Careers in ELT
Becoming a TEFL certified teacher is just the first step to working in the ELT world. Teaching is the essential foundational skill you'll need for many positions in the English Language Teaching (ELT) industry.
And this is an industry that's also creating new job types...positions that didn't exist ten years ago!
You might find our Careers in ELT page worth your time.
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