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Teaching English in Chile

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Salt lake, Atacama Desert, Andes.

In Chile the Ministry of Education is on a mission – at least on paper – to promote the teaching of the English language at all school levels, and steps have been taken to develop curricula and programs that will allow all Chileans to learn English from an early age. Universities are also trying to follow the guidelines set by the Ministry of Education and have made English a mandatory subject in some of their undergraduate courses.

However, the budget the government has allocated to this project is minimal and so English language classes in state school are still randomly put together and often comprise of 40 to 50 mixed ability students, making Chile one of those countries where having teacher training definitely pays off!

Schools

In response to the increasing demand for English tuition in both the private and the public sector hundreds of English language schools have sprung up not only in the capital city Santiago, but also around the country. These vary from cowboy concerns to reputable ELT‏‎ institutes.

As you might expect, most jobs are in the big cities: Santiago (almost 4m people), Puente Alto (just over half a million) then Antofagasta, Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, Talcahuano, San Bernardo, Temuco, Iquique and Concepcion.

Job opportunities for English teachers are also available at Santiago’s largest universities as well as in many primary and secondary schools, where English is an important part of the curriculum.

Qualified native speakers are also required by schools outside the capital so if you fancy a more relaxed pace of life why not head towards the coastal cities of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar. But you don’t have to stay necessarily by the sea. From Punta Arenas in the far south to Arica in the far north you are bound to come across a small school needing a native English teacher.

If instead you are a recent Masters Degree graduate and an experienced US English language teacher you might be interested in the English Language Fellow Program and become a trainer at one of the 13 bi-national centers around the country, working with the Ministry of Education in developing, designing and implementing teacher training programs for public school teachers throughout Chile.

Qualifications

You can get work without experience in Chile, but some schools will ask you to give a demonstration lesson. Qualifications usually required by most private schools are a degree and a TEFL Certificate.

The Chilean academic year starts in March and ends in December, with a 2 week break in July. Private institutes tend to run their courses all year-round though their “summer” courses, which run in January and February, are usually on a smaller scale.

Pay & Living Costs

The hourly rate ranges from 3,000 CLP or $6 USD (€5, £4) in the smaller institutes to CLP 15,000 or $30 USD (€24, £19) in some of the larger universities.

For reference the minimum monthly salary is around CLP 400,000 or $820 USD (€649, £522) for 15 weekly hours of classroom time. This is a baseline example only, many teaching institutions pay more. This salary is competitive to the wages that local Chilean teachers earn and allows you to meet basic living costs at the local standard of living.

As a basic idea of the cost of living per month:

  • Public Transport CLP 40,000 or $82 USD (€65, £52)
  • Food CLP 75,000 or $150 USD (€119, £95)
  • Basic bedsit apartment CLP 200,000 or $410 USD (€324, £261)

Most English teachers employed at language schools supplement their salary with private lessons as they can ask anything between CLP 5,000 or $10 USD (€8, £6) and CLP 10,000 or $20 USD (€16, £13) for an hour lesson. Although Chile is one of the most expensive countries in South America teaching is relatively well-paid, and there is enough work available for teachers to live reasonably well.

Visas

A visa is required if intending to carry out paid employment or study in Chile. However, you can’t get a work visa until you get a job so most teachers enter Chile on a 90-day tourist visa to which nationals of European Union‏‎ countries, Australia, Canada‏‎ and the USA (amongst others) are automatically entitled, and subsequently apply for a temporary (1yr) resident visa, which allows them to work. Those who teach without official residency papers take a bus trip to Argentina‏‎ at the end of the 90 days then re-enter Chile the next day with another 90-day tourist visa.

Most schools will help you with the visa process (and some will let you work without it).

As regulations are subject to change at short notice you should check with your nearest Chilean Consulate for the latest information.

Useful Links

I Love Chile – a website dedicated to English (and language education) in Chile with news, comment and lifestyle, all in English.

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