TEFL/TESOL in Azerbaijan
Since independence from Russia, Azerbaijan has been keen to assert its own identity and anxious to learn English to engage with the West. In addition, the recent oil boom means that the country has moved a long way in a short space of time. Which is not necessarily a good thing.
TEFL Requirements & Conditions
The usual teaching qualifications are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate.
The education system in Azerbaijan, though somewhat reviewed and improved during the Soviet era, is still a far cry from the modern systems we are used to in the West. The preferred teaching technique in a language class is that of grammar translation. The teacher will say something in English, and then repeat it into Azerbaijani. The students are expected to respond in Azerbaijani for the teacher to subsequently translate their response into English.
Despite this challenging learning environment, students are motivated to learn English and eager to experiment with new techniques. So there is ground for improvement and educational associations like the British Council have collaborated with the Ministry of Education to train their teachers and provide ELT resources.
Teaching in rural areas can be more challenging than working for a school in Baku or Ganja, the former capital. You may be lucky and end up in a traditional school complete with traditional plumbing or, more often than not, you can find yourself standing in a room with dirt floors, no desks, and no plumbing!
The workload in a public school is around 15 hrs per week. Lessons last the standard 45 minutes. Often you will be teamed up with an Azerbaijani English teacher and co-teach.
A decent enough salary will be about €1200 ($1517 USD, £965) and from this just over a quarter will go on renting a small one-bed flat. After the usual bills and expenses you may be able to save about €600 ($758 USD, £483) per month. This is partly due to the paucity of places to spend money: nightlife is scanty and most bars close around 10 in the evening. Restaurants serve reasonable food (but there is a McDonalds in Baku if you have to).
Life in Azerbaijan
The capital city is Baku. It is generally considered to be dirty and has its fair share of Soviet style tenements, shanty areas and slum districts. However, there are good areas and outside the city some fantastic scenery, towns and villages. For the Eurovision in 2012 much of the city was cleaned up and new building projects put in place.
The people are friendly and nice. It is a predominantly Muslim country although not hardline. Women, for example, venture out alone and wear modern clothes (although more conservative than the West in general) however they do not go to bars. If a woman is in a bar at night then she is usually either an expat or a prostitute.
Censorship and freedom of speech as well human rights abuses are evident.
With the oil boom has come technology. WiFi is reasonable in the cities however there are still problems with the electricity supply. Prices have risen, too with a high rate of inflation. Clothes are expensive and, for foreigners, there is a major problem in being ripped off with taxi drivers being particularly prone to do this.
The country is generally safe although the road network is known for its dangerous driving!