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Teaching English in Kyrgyzstan

A Kyrgyzstan couple enjoying life.TEFL/TESOL in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It was under Soviet control for almost 80 years until it became independent in 1991.

During Soviet control the language of choice was Russian (along with native Kyrgyz) and today it is still an official language.

However after independence English became more important and there is a drive to teach and learn English with teachers in high demand.

Finding TEFL Work

At the moment, English is considered a distant third language to Kyrgyz and Russian, but this is changing. 

There is a high demand for English teachers but not that many jobs to go around yet (although it’s growing). 

By far the majority of teaching jobs in Kyrgyzstan are volunteer positions with organizations like the Peace Corps or the UN, however there are a growing number of jobs in the private sector, especially in Bashkek, the capital.

The academic year‏‎ runs from September to June. Schools will usually start recruiting for the coming school year just before the summer. For volunteer openings, start dates take place all year round.

Most jobs are found online and organized outside the country; note that travelling to Kyrgyzstan without work and entering on a tourist visa on the lookout for work is not advised. 

The usual qualifications to teach English in Kyrgyzstan are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate. If you speak Russian this is also an advantage as knowledge of English is not widespread outside school and nor among older people.

Note that we have also heard that some schools have put an age restriction of 40 on employing foreign teachers.

Your application for a visa should be made well in advance as it can take some time. Ideally your prospective employer will help with this.

Pay & Conditions

Pay at private language schools varies a lot and can be from 30,000 KGS (Kyrgyzstan Som) or $600 USD (€475, £382) to 90,000 KGS or $1800 USD (€1424, £1145) per month.

Private lessons are charged at roughly 250 KGS or $5 USD (€4, £3) per hour.

Most schools will provide accommodation or at least an allowance.

At an international school in the capital, Bishkek, this can go up to about 100,000 KGS or $2000 USD (€1583, £1273) per month with flights, tax and other benefits taken care of by the school.

Having said this, the cost of living is cheap in Kyrgyzstan. The country is often regarded as a place to spend time enjoying yourself rather than making money.

One of the main teaching issues is lack of teaching resources in the country. Most teaching will be with a simple blackboard and often the students will not all have a copy of the coursebook you are using.

Children in the state schools start learning English in Grade 1.

Quick Notes:

  • Punctuality is not a high priority in Kyrgyzstan and students are often late to class.
  • Keep your shoes clean, it’s polite.
  • Shaking hands happens all the time.
  • People here are famed for their hospitality and encouraging everyone to eat!

About Kyrgyzstan & Lifestyle

Kyrgyzstan is renowned as a country of incredible natural beauty. It is 90% mountains with a population of over 5 million, of whom over 1 million live in Bashkek, a cosmopolitan and vibrant city with a strong artistic streak, cafes, shops and many parks – it is known as the greenest city in Asia.

Unlike some other countries in the region, Kyrgyzstan is safe for Westerners. However, do check with your embassy before heading off there – or anywhere, for the matter!.

Image © Evgeni Zotov

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