Saturday, November 21, 2009

Emerging Opportunities

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreAside from the established destinations for TEFL teachers there are many other countries welcoming native English speakers to assist with language acquisition. For some of these countries, a degree is not seen as an essential qualification. Knowledgeable teachers backed up with only a TEFL certificate and 50-100 hours of experience can now gain meaningful employment in a large number of cities worldwide.

Good examples of countries recruiting based on merit rather than qualifications are Turkey, Brazil, China, Vietnam, Angola, DRC and probably many other African countries, but in Africa we are only just starting to scratch the surface of a huge continent of possibility.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreRates of pay, visa requirements and working conditions vary dramatically in these countries, with countries like Brazil offering a wonderful experience but since the rates of pay are marginally higher than the cost of living - you won't get-rich-quick! Turkey's rates of pay are quite reasonable and the cost of living quite low, but as a visitor to the region you are likely to want to spend your spare cash on trips around the country or possibly a Turkish carpet!

As these are emerging destinations it is advisable to do plenty of research. There are number of websites catering to EFL teachers, some of which have forums where you can read about the experiences of others or ask for advice. A good starting point is Dave's ESL Café, but essentially your imagination is the limit when it comes to finding work.

If you require further advice on where TEFL could take you, please contact us.

Improve your English, improve your future! - Courses for South Africans

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreSouth Africa is a country with 11 official languages, however, one above all others, claims the centre ground as the cross-cultural unifier - English. As is happening in Europe, English is rising in importance as a diplomatic tool and a path to enhanced career opportunities. Having a medium in which people of different cultures and backgrounds can share ideas and understanding, is essential in today's fast moving, globalised society. Around the world, English is now the most widely spoken language, followed by Mandarin and Spanish.

As an emerging global player, South Africa's unofficial business language is English. This has a number of benefits for the country. First, it helps make the country attractive to foreign investors - companies wishing to expand into SA will have no problem with a language barrier. Tourists are also more easily persuaded to visit a country they can read about at length, in a language they understand. There is also little scope for getting lost in a country where almost everyone speaks some English. However, it has been shown that only about 9% of the population use English as their home language (source: census 2001). This can possibly explain why the English spoken in SA is not always accurate, with many grammatical traits from other languages having worked their way into English.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreThere are of course, a number of institutions one can enroll in to improve ability in the language. Although, these courses are usually expensive and cater predominantly to foreigners. The Knowledge Workshop has launched two programmes aimed at addressing this imbalance.

Our Community Focused English Programme (CFEP) targets South Africans who have difficulty in the language and want to improve their confidence and ability. This 12 week programme has been specially developed to address the needs of South Africans. Classes are held on Saturday mornings to accommodate those in full-time employment, whilst being priced to accommodate lower income groups.

Special Purpose English (SPE) is aimed at professionals and companies wishing to equip themselves with an advanced understanding of the language in a particular field, eg: management, customer service or sales. Course content is tailored to address the needs of the company or individual.

At The Knowledge Workshop, we are passionate about language and hope to do something to improve the quality of the cross-cultural medium of English. After all, it is one of the 11 official languages!

To find out more about these unique courses, contact us.

Putting Something Back - Community School Initiative

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreSince inception, The Knowledge Workshop has held firm to the ideals conceived by Marian James, founder of the school, namely, to find more meaningful ways of conducting business in the unique environment of the new South Africa.

With the legacy of apartheid still hanging in the air, many children find themselves attending under resourced, overcrowded schools. This is not to detract from the huge advances that have been made since 1994, merely to point out that the task facing the government of today is still enormous. Many schools lack facilities such as libraries and have to deal with a shortage of textbooks and teachers. To play a small part in addressing some of these issues, TKW has set some initiatives in motion.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreWith the large number of TEFL graduates being signed up for jobs in government schools in South Korea and elsewhere, we have given our TEFL trainees the opportunity to do some of their practical training in a local government school where English is not the mother-tongue. Upon investigating the possibility through discussions with local schools, it transpired that there was a real need for an additional support function at some schools. One of the difficulties facing schools is the diverse backgrounds of the students. It is not uncommon for a class to be made up of mixed ability in English, where those at the top of the class have a good command of the language and those at the bottom are almost completely foreign to the language. Aside from mixed ability classes, there is also a shortage of teachers at some schools, meaning that when teachers have training days or are otherwise engaged with administrative duties, students are often left to do self-study.

Our response has been to launch a pilot project with Ikamvalethu Secondary School in Langa, Cape Town. The school is about 10 minutes drive from Rosebank and situated on the edge of Cape Town's oldest township, where the predominant language is Xhosa. Langa has seen a lot of change in the last few years and is now the focus of the N2 Gateway Housing Project, which aims to make the informal dwellings of the area a thing of the past.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreWe approached several schools with our ideas, and Ikamvalethu was one that could not only see the benefits of such interaction, but openly welcomed us to work with them in a mutual and cooperative manner. We have formed good relationships with the Principal, Head of Department for English and many of the teachers and office staff. Our TEFL trainees initially step into the classroom as assistants but after the first day, they set about designing lessons and activities in line with the curriculum and lead entire lessons. The more confident trainees often step in as substitute teachers when the resident teachers are absent or unavailable. Of course, our trainees are obliged to practice the methods they have learnt on the TEFL course. Often, the methodologies employed in mainstream schooling are not effective in catering to the needs of classes with mixed ability in English. By default, this often means that English classes are, in part, conducted in the mother tongue - Xhosa. We work closely with the teachers who identify areas of weakness that need addressing. It is then up to the trainees to devise activities to facilitate the learning process.

This project has been running since early 2008 and has had a tremendous impact on the school and the quality of training experienced by our TEFL trainees. We have had some fantastic reports from our trainees, who said the experience prepared them for almost any classroom situation, whilst fitting into school structures and growing attached to the children and teachers!

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreFrom the other side, Ikhamvalethu has seen its grades in English go through the roof - an average of 84% in last year's exams, compared with 50% the year before. We can't take full credit because the staff is clearly putting in a serious effort, but this project has definitely helped and so far seems to be an elevated example of a win-win situation. Ikamvalethu, incidentally, means "Our Future!"

If you are a teacher or think you have something to offer, why not volunteer your services for a few hours a week. It's an incredibly rewarding way to gain classroom experience. Please contact us to find out more.

South Korea - A Nation on the Move....

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreSouth Korea is a rapidly developing nation. With a population of over 48 million, it places enormous emphasis on international trade. Already it has become a substantial global player with Korean brands such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG, Kia, Ssangyong and Daewoo spreading across the world.

A key component of this success is ensuring that Korean schoolchildren learn to speak and understand English - the international language of commerce. The Korean government has embarked on a recruitment drive, hiring thousands of native English speakers with the appropriate qualifications to strengthen English ability at school level and improve national competitiveness in the long term.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreTeaching English in South Korea is a wonderful opportunity to live and work in an advanced Asian nation. You will experience a country with a history and culture thousands of years old that is at the same time, one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth. With an excellent public transport system, some of the world's best shopping, rugged mountains and friendly people, Korea is ready to make you feel very welcome.

Many people who do our TEFL course, have been motivated by this drive to recruit teachers. Typically, a teacher armed with a degree and a TEFL certificate will be accepted and placed at a school on a year long contract. Salaries are relatively high and living costs low due to accommodation being provided. This presents graduates with an unrivalled opportunity to work and travel, whilst saving! Visit our links page to see details of our placement partners for Korea.

TEFL Opportunities - New Horizons

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreFor those who wish to teach English overseas, there is a host of opportunities opening up globally. South Africa is increasingly recognised as an English speaking nation. More than ever before, South Africans armed with a TEFL certificate and a degree are finding jobs, more easily in more countries. Teachers who have done our course are currently based on every continent and an increasing number of countries are willing to employ TEFL teachers who do not have a degree.

The Middle East, Africa, China and South America are fast-growing destinations for teachers, with countries such as Brazil, Chile, Turkey, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Dubai fast gaining popularity.

Some teachers choose to bypass placement agencies and research job opportunities for themselves. The internet is invaluable when it comes to finding jobs internationally and many schools can be found who are actively recruiting teachers. However, many teachers choose to use a placement agency for their first international appointment. This offers guidance and a support structure, taking some of the stress out of temporarily relocating one's life overseas. There are a number of agents in South Africa who place teachers in an ever-increasing number of countries. Visit our links page to see details of our placement partners.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreAt The Knowledge Workshop, we work hand in hand with a number of placement agencies, specialising in their geographical area. We differ from our competitors in than we focus on the teaching aspect and do not take any fees for putting students in touch with job opportunities. We offer advice on a diverse range of opportunities, whilst vetting agents to ensure that the newly qualified teacher gets a good deal. We can also provide the independent teacher-traveller with many suggestions of places to look for work. We receive no commission from agents or schools and instead work only with credible agents, who in return, refer students to us. With this arrangement we have a truly objective approach. After training, our students become friends rather than clients! This approach also leaves us free to concentrate on training and support.

Finally, to mention our support initiative for teachers, heading off into the deep blue yonder, we encourage all of our past students to keep in touch, to help us stay informed of current dynamics and trends in the industry. We have devised The Knowledge Bank - a collection of teaching resources - with lesson plans and activities available to download. We encourage the sharing of knowledge and invite past graduates to send us their lesson plans, ideas and classroom anecdotes. These are then made available on our website for anyone to make use of.

TOEFL - 100% success rate. Yes, Really!

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreGetting into a respected, English-medium university, such as the University of Cape Town is a competitive exercise. With a limited number of places and over-subscription, the challenge to the student whose second or foreign language is English, is to prove ability in the language, over and above other qualifications. TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) is recognised globally as the standard proficiency test in English to gain entry to such institutions.

Some colleges will accept students on a mere pass. However, more often than not, universities in cities with high demand will impose a minimum pass mark for accepting students.

With this in mind, and bearing in mind that TOEFL is a challenging test of ability, it is essential that you enroll for a course that will quickly get you to a level where you are confident of obtaining an above-average pass or better.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreThe Knowledge Workshop's approach to TOEFL is to provide targeted assistance in small groups or on a one-to-one basis. On average, our students have taken 12 weeks of TOEFL preparation before the TOEFL exam. Our success has been amazing! Recent TOEFL graduates of The Knowledge Workshop have gone on to study at UCT, UWC and CPUT in South Africa, at Washington State University, USA and The University of East London, UK.

The TOEFL preparation course covers all linguistic aspects of the language, with a heavy focus on the language ability required to complete tertiary education.

Whilst there is no guarantee of passing or gaining access to your preferred institution, our success rate has been proven by our results. To this point, every one of our TOEFL students have passed the exam with a higher than expected score.

To find out more about our TOEFL course, please see our course information.

Create space, help build a library!

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills Centre

Donate your unwanted books to our book project. Be they old textbooks, reference texts, biographies, pulp fiction or otherwise. We have been gathering donations over the last year and have greatly assisted Ikamvalethu Secondary School in Langa in starting a library.

Where there were empty shelves, there is now a reading area with a fair assortment of books - largely thanks to a massive donation we received from the National Library of South Africa, but with some credit due to Quantum Publishers and independent donors.

Despite attempting to attract interest from many sources, donations from businesses are few and far between. Further donations are needed to improve the library at Ikamvalethu, which is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many schools, especially in poverty-stricken areas, where the students are hungry for knowledge, but the shelves are bare. We nominate such schools, alongside Ikamavalethu, as beneficiaries of your unwanted books.

The Knowledge Workshop - Language & Skills CentreWe urge you, if you are in such a position, to think about how you or your company could benefit schools that need help. Are you aware of books going to waste or being pulped due to lack of space? Or maybe you know of books that are no longer required, out of date or presumed totally uninteresting. We accept all books and then channel them to the most appropriate cause - sometimes the pulp mill!

If you want to donate books, from a handful to a truckload, give us a shout and we'll make arrangements to collect. Full credit will be given for any substantial donation, which could, of course, have positive PR/media spin-off!