Progress Spells Growth for South Africa – and its Universities

More than a decade after the end of apartheid and the country’s first open elections, South Africa is reaping the rewards. Today it is home to the largest economy in Africa and enjoy the status of political heavyweight in the region. This growth has paid wide dividends, however, as its colleges and universities have recently begun to hit their stride. Between 1994 and 2007 – the most recent year that such statistics are currently available – the number of international students enrolled in South Africa’s universities has quadrupled. Nor does this growth (from some 12,557 students in 1994 to fully 53,733 in 2007) show any signs of slowing down.

This represents a boon for South Africa’s pride and signals a unique achievement. International students, who clearly see the country as an emerging study abroad destination, now make up 7% of the country’s student body. South Africa now ranks, for example, among US students’ top 20 most popular study-abroad countries. These finding, corroborated by the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report, South Africa is now America’s 18th most popular study abroad destination, putting it just ahead of the South American heavyweight, Brazil.

The South Africa Student Visa has also become a hot commodity among the country’s neighbors. Fully two-thirds of the country’s international students – more than 35,000 in all – are from Southern African Development Community member states. The involvement of students from this 15-country block, which counts among its members neighboring Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana, represents a huge show of support for South African higher education. Zimbabwe alone sent more than 18% of the country’s international students in 2006.

South Africa’s universities are recruiting from well beyond Africa’s southern tip, however: 16% of all international students came from elsewhere in Africa and 14% from the rest of the world. With that 14% – comprising students from Europe, Asia, North America – growing faster than any other, the future looks bright for South African study abroad.

English Teachers in China

A great deal of attention has been paid to China’s increasingly prominent role in international education. This is particularly true in its capacity as a source for international students and important destination for English language instructors. Indeed, as the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” report aptly notes, in the 2009-2010 academic year China passed India to become the biggest source of foreign students in US. At the same time, tens of thousands of native English teachers from the US currently make China their home. While Chinese exchange students, raised in China, doubtless experience their fair share of culture shock when making that transition, less attention has been paid to the experience of English Language Teachers in China.

Thanks to mass media and the rise of globalization, Chinese students are more aware of American culture than ever before. For many, a study abroad opportunity is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of effort. The average English language teachers in China, however, has been significantly less exposed to the ins and outs of Chinese culture and, given the sheer number of them that teach English in China, the differences in teaching styles alone can have a profound effect on their effectiveness in the classroom.

Thus it is important to note that traditional teaching styles in Chinese and American schools are vast different. While America instructors focus on class discussions and student engagement, lessons in China are teacher-centered, exam-based, and place an emphasis on rote learning. English language teachers in China should also recognize that competition to get into a good college in China is so intense that most Chinese students spend a large proportion of each day studying and are rarely receptive to the nontraditional learning techniques used in the more relaxed American educational system. Lesson plans should therefore be designed with the student – and an awareness of these and other cultural differences – in mind. Such customization is the cornerstone of ESL success.

TESOL Certifications and the Changing Market for Teaching English Abroad

The big question for many would-be international English teachers is not why, but how to teach English abroad. After all, although international demand for English teachers is at an all-time high, so too is the supply of would-be educators. Indeed, what was once a fringe movement has become a large – and increasingly competitive – industry.

At the same time, a TESOL certification, long seen as a leg-up in a job search but not an essential feature of one, is increasingly becoming a prerequisite. While it of course remains possible to get a job teaching English abroad without formal certifications – private companies around the world and the Peace Corps in the United States, for example, are always looking for raw recruits – it is increasingly more difficult to get the best jobs without one. For example, many government programs in countries like Japan and South Korea that once enlisted scores of untrained teachers annually (but also offered stable, secure positions) have slowly shifted their focus towards certified instructors.

Fortunately, a teaching certificate is also easier to come by than ever. 120 hour programs are offered in an equally varied number of locations and mediums. Some TESOL Certification programs are fully online, others part-time over several months, and still others full-time (and can be completed in your home country or at a growing number of international locations) meaning that there are options to fit anyone’s time and budget.

Also, it is important to remember that many TESOL certificate courses make your eventual job search still easier. Not only do they make you a better candidate in general, some even offer fringe benefits like job placement through partner schools while others team up with recruiting agencies in specific countries. In any case, however, your training will doubtless serve you well once you step into that classroom, wherever it might be.

ELS Language Centers Testing Services

ELS Educational Services, Inc – also known simply as ELS – offers international English immersion students a number of unique benefits. Far and away one of the most impressive of these is the wide recognition and acceptance of their English for Academic Purposes – otherwise known as EAP – certification. Part of the on-campus Intensive English Program curriculum at many of its ELS Language Centers around the world, an advanced EAP level is recognized by over 600 colleges and universities as direct proof of English proficiency for admission. That means that students who study English at ELS Language Centers and complete ELS level 109 or 112 can use it as direct fulfillment of its English proficiency requirement for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Better yet, many ELS partner universities offer ELS Language Center students that achieve these levels of proficiency a conditional letter of admission to many of their higher education programs. This means that students can transition from their English immersion program directly to a degree-seeking program at the same institution as seamlessly as possible, a unique advantage of ELS Language Centers.

In the event that your chosen university does not yet accept the ELS certification itself, all ELS Language Centers offer preparation courses. These distinct courses are comprised of a comprehensive, 12-week curriculum that allows any student – including those already affiliated with an ELS immersion program or those who are new to the ELS system – to practice the speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills necessary for TOEFL success. As an added bonus, thanks to a cooperative agreement with Educational Testing Services (the developers of the TOEFL exam), ELS also offers testing services for the TOEFL. This means that students can move directly from their preparatory work to the actual test at any ELS Language Center in the United States.

Of course, before signing up for any program you should carefully consider what your chosen institution requires. Given the sheer number of possibilities covered by ELS, however, you can rest assured that ELS can help you no matter what the future holds.