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Teaching English in Finland

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A Finnish Winter.

Although it has a very high standard of living and often ranks highly on quality of life scales, Finland nonetheless is not a particularly common destination for TEFL teachers.

Perhaps it’s the weather (often cold) or perhaps it’s the food (lots of fish) but it doesn’t seem to attract the same numbers as other countries despite it being a pretty amazing place to live and work.

Here, then, are the facts about living and working and teaching English in Finland.

TEFL Teaching Conditions & Requirements

Although Swedish is considered the second language of Finland, English is taught in pretty well all educational establishments from kindergarten to university. It’s a very popular choice and you’ll find English is spoken throughout the country.

Of interest to all TEFL teachers, there are quite a number of private language schools also and often locals will sign up for private lessons as well.

Although some teachers will work full time for a school, most are self-employed and may well spread their time working for several schools with private lessons supplementing their income as well. Some teachers will go to Finland without work and begin by offering private lessons while they look for a more permanent position – in cases like this Helsinki is probably the best first choice destination with the most teaching action.

One option to get a foothold and try out life in Finland is to sign up for one of the Winter language camps; these are popular and run for several weeks where you can get a good taste of life in Finland.

Requirements for TEFL Teachers will include:

  • EU citizenship – this generally means British or Irish teachers
  • being a native speaker; there are plenty of good English speakers in Finland so only native speakers are in demand from abroad

As far as qualifications go, the usual qualifications are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL 120hr Certificate. In higher institutes you may well need an MA or Diploma.

As for the actual lessons themselves students tend to be independently minded so as a teacher you will need to be well prepared and professional especially as in the state sector Finland out performs most other countries around the world.

Facts on Finland & its education system

  • Children don’t start school until they are 7 years old.
  • Lessons are usually around 45 minutes each (with a 15 minute break following).
  • They have far less homework than their peers in other countries.
  • There is only one standardized test, which students take in the final year of high school.
  • The national curriculum discourages schools to focus on narrow academic achievement.
  • Teachers have time to work together with their colleagues during the school day.
  • Schooldays are shorter in Finland than in the United States,

It is no surprise then that teaching is one of the most desired professions in Finland.

Finances

Finland is expensive, there’s no getting away from it. But salaries and pay can be good.

A typical salary for TEFL teachers employed at a private school will be between €1800 ($2275 USD, £1448) and €2500 ($3160 USD, £2010) per month. Accommodation is often included in the full package as can be airfares.

Although you won’t starve on this salary, remember that you’ll pay about 30% tax on this and day to day expenses can be high (eating out, heating bills in winter, etc).

Many teachers will also give private lessons which pay around €20 ($25 USD, £16) per hour.

Trivia about Finland

These are sometimes strange but interesting nonetheless:

  • Finns are the biggest coffee drinkers in the world
  • in 2012 it was ranked least corrupt and most democratic country in the world
  • Finland created National Failure Day in 2010 to learn from their mistakes
  • there are no payphones in Finland (it is the home of Nokia)
  • in June & July the sun doesn’t drop below the horizon but in Winter it never reaches the horizon
  • it has the most heavy metal bands in the world, 53 per 100,000 people – and it holds the world championship air guitar competition

Useful Links

Teaching English in Europe – a general look at working in Europe

Teaching English in the European Union‏‎ – about working in the EU

Teaching in the EU for Non-Europeans – possibilities for non-Europeans to work in Finland

Why Finland’s schools are top notch – CNN article on the amazing Finnish education system

The Finnish teacher – a better and happier kind of teacher according to the Guardian UK.

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