In your current or future career as an English teacher, you may find that the background of your students will play a key role in informing you of what teaching methods you should apply. Asian countries differ to the west in many ways, including their educational systems. As an English teacher in Asia you will find yourself faced with the challenge of adapting your existing beliefs and teaching methodologies to a totally different paradigm. To help make the transition easier for you, and to give a sense of what you might encounter, we have made a list of some key challenges that you may face when teaching English in Asia, as well as some tips to overcome them.
The first thing you might find when you enter the classroom is that although students may seem keen to learn, they will try not to draw too much attention to themselves. The concept of losing ‘face’ plays a big role in the shyness of the students. As a result, it can be hard to judge the level of understanding that the students actually have, for example; a student may know the answer to a question but then may choose not to raise their hand due to not wanting to stand out from the crowd, as well as not wanting to make their peers feel like they lack knowledge. There is also a fear of making mistakes, as this can result in perceived negative attention due to social attitudes; this is a key behaviour pattern that has to be overcome if the students are to make progress with language learning: making mistakes is an important part of language learning.
Classroom management approaches in Asia are old fashioned to say the least; you may encounter practices which are frowned upon in the west. Unfortunately, such approaches to discipline may be part of the culture, and are even consolidated through the way parents discipline their own children. However, we can be the proactive change through our positive examples of showing there are other disciplinary techniques such as reinforcement, which are proven to be much more effective than punishment.
In terms of academic level, you will find that there are two main factors which influence the success of English language learning; these are funding and motivation. A well-funded school often has everything at its disposal to guarantee the academic success of its students such as appropriate materials, comfortable and spacious facilities, projectors and TVs, as well as staff who are fluent in English or are native English speakers. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of schools in many other Asian countries, this simply is not the case; you will find that there is a lack of many of these modern day learning aides and even textbooks may be lacking in some schools. The latter are the students that need our help the most, and whose future will benefit immensely by having regular interaction with fluent or native English speakers. We can help to motivate students through accurate, fun and engaging language instruction; this can help to overcome difficulties posed by the lack of resources.
If you’re a new teacher then the best way to get hands-on training is through work experience on a volunteer basis; this also greatly benefits the local population of the country that you will be teaching in. For information about how you can obtain work experience and job placement through volunteering to teach English in Asia, check out our program.