Language or curriculum programs that seek or dispatch teachers who can deliver specialized course work, most often through targeted language instruction, can expand the world view of students and teachers alike.

Effective language instruction requires specific pedagogical training, however, numerous programs require no teaching experience whatsoever.  Also troubling are policies that discriminate based on national origin, paying teachers from certain countries less or more than teachers from other countries regardless of their language or teaching skills.  Malaysia provides an important example involving the teacher’s union in shaping the terms for a new national language initiative. 

Characteristics of Language and Curricular Programs

Many teachers travel the world to support language acquisition programs.  Through these programs, native speakers of a target language provide foreign language instruction to students in overseas schools.  In general, programs can be categorized based on the directional flow of participating teachers.  

  • Inbound programs recruit native speakers of a priority language from abroad to satisfy instructional needs.  Economic development goals and national interest objectives have typically been the motivations for inbound language programs, which strive to equip young people for a global knowledge economy.  
  • Outbound programs promote a country’s mother tongue and culture among speakers of other languages.  The focus of outbound programs tends to be around diplomacy, international cooperation and relationship building.  

Many countries emphasize language learning and cultural awareness among their top educational priorities (Jackson, 2013). New curriculum mandates often generate staffing needs that go beyond the capacity of the local teaching force—the recruitment of international teachers can be an attractive solution. However, if language initiatives are to be long-term priorities, educational authorities must consider ways to train and develop local teachers to deliver quality instruction. 

While some programs require candidates to be fully qualified as foreign language instructors, others have far less rigorous selection criteria.  In some cases, programs admit candidates who are native speakers of a target language but lack professional training as teachers.  Without the proper credentials and experience, novice teachers in a foreign country encounter many challenges in the day-to-day responsibilities of leading a classroom.  Under such conditions, a student’s chance to study and master a language is limited.  Research shows that students learn best from teachers with a high level of language competency who are also professionally prepared to teach a foreign language (Medgyes, 1992). EI supports rigorous program requirements to ensure that all students, in destination and source countries, are taught by qualified and highly trained teachers.  Foreign educators should be provided the necessary assistance to adjust to a new educational environment and deliver the local curriculum.

A related issue deals with the exclusion or disparate treatment of teachers based on national origin.  For example, there is evidence of prejudicial treatment in the hiring of English-speaking teachers in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. One benefit of language proficiency tests, such as TOEFL for English assessment or the TELC European language certificate, is that they set standard credentials for candidates regardless of country of origin.  International labour standards make it clear that educational authorities must avoid disparate treatment of teachers based on nationality and grant equal opportunity to candidates based on the strength of their credentials. EI supports the cross-border recognition of equivalent qualifications

Survey Highlights

A majority of foreign language teachers surveyed for “Getting Teacher Migration and Mobility Right” were certified to teach abroad.  Out of a total of 540 foreign language teachers only 59, or 11%, were not certified.  Of the uncertified, twenty-two had not worked as teachers in their home country, with previous occupations that included lawyer, management consultant, salesperson, psychologist, and winery worker.  Of the twenty American teachers who were not certified, seven worked in Georgia while seven of the nine Spanish language teachers without certification worked in the United States.  Fifty-three of the uncertified teachers had at least a bachelors and above level of education.

“The program (Teach and Learn Georgia) did not require certification, only a Bachelors, you could take TOEFL classes in tandem with teaching, but I decided not to.  I used this opportunity to decide whether I would get certified for future opportunities.” --Respondent 

“They didn’t care about a credential, after I was hired they asked me what I wanted to teach.” --Respondent (science teacher who also taught English spelling and grammar, but was not a teacher before going to Honduras)

Of the survey respondents recruited to teach a language, 96% feel that their pedagogy benefitted from the experience, with 84% of those who answered the question reporting that they learned new instructional methods and approaches and improved their language competency.  Not surprisingly, the largest percentage (89%) reports that they broadened their worldview and cultural competency.  


Jackson, Anthony. “Foreign Language Policies Around the World.” Ed Week, March 2, 2013.

Medgyes, Peter. “Native or Non-Native: Who’s Worth More?” ELT Journal 46 (1992): 340-349.