Life as a Female English Teacher in Saudi Arabia
Life as a Female English Teacher in Saudi Arabia. It’s like any other day. As the sun slowly rises, so too do the residents of the town. They emerge from their homes, some off to the shops; others for a morning dip in the local pool, greeting neighbours and friends in the street.
They say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Easter’ at the right times of year, they celebrate birthdays, welcomes and farewells, and eat out at restaurants on the weekends. And, every morning, they board cars and taxis, which take them out of the high-walled compound, and into the streets beyond.
That’s life for the thousands of expats who live and work in Saudi Arabia, where they enjoy a life somewhat exempt from the strict laws outside. Such compounds are a common feature in Saudi cities, allowing foreigners to lead lives not unlike their ones back home.
Teaching and Learning
In the classroom, men and women are segregated; educated with their own gender, by their own gender, in designated schools and universities. The West is no stranger to segregated education, but it is in decline. Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia it’s mandatory and reflects culturally specific needs.
StudyCELTA’s partner centre in Riyadh, the largest city and capital of Saudi Arabia is providng CELTA training. “It’s a centre specifically for women”, says Mary Grennan, a CELTA and Delta trainer who works both in Riyadh and in Galway, Ireland, “Men and women are separated from puberty… so, all the students are women, and all the teachers are women”.
Contrary to many ideas presented in the West about education for women in Islam, lthe pursiut of knowledge is considered a responsibility for all muslims. A hadith, or authentic saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says: “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim.” Opportunities for women to become teachers themselves are increasingly present.
“In a way, it’s very liberating for them,” Grennan adds, “Even for the women who can’t leave their homes… they can teach online, or via Skype”.
The Cambridge CELTA qualification has become newly mandatory for English teachers in the Middle Eastern nation, meaning a flood of already well-qualified, well-experienced female Saudis are lining up to take the course.
But it’s not just local women who reap the benefits; experienced foreign teachers are also in demand at both universities and private academies.
For many people, a move to Saudi Arabia evokes images of strict laws and scorching hot days. Yet, consider for a moment this job offer – taken from StudyCELTA’s TEFL jobs listings:
“Up to $45,000 USD tax-free per annum…with 45 days of paid annual leave and 20 days of local holidays, international transportation, furnished accommodation and private health care.”
Faced with that kind of salary, and little to no expenses – a year-long stint in the Middle Eastern country is more than worth the while.
Saudi’s rich culture provides a feast of new sensations. People breakfast on dates and coffee, and eat a lunch of doughy, meat-filled Matazeez. Ancient mud palaces, walls and watchtowers dot the city’s outskirts; its centre pin-pointed by the 300-metre high Kingdom Centre tower.
“It’s really good for someone looking to put a deposit on a house, for example,” says Grennan, “They can go to Saudi Arabia, work for a few years, and come back with a good down-payment”.
If saving money isn’t the focus, there are plenty of things to do- trips into the desert, to beautiful Oman for hiking or to the coast during the ample breaks. Travel in and out of Saudi Arabia is smooth with the huge air hubs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai nearby. Contracts often include a paid visit home once a year.
Grennan mentions a teacher she knows, an American, who moved to Saudi Arabia in search of a more relaxed lifestyle.
“She was a stock broker in New York, in a really high stress job”, she says, “But she took the CELTA, moved to Saudi, and spent all her spare time travelling around the world.”
For both local and foreign teachers looking to carve out their own slice of Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh centre is the perfect place to get qualified to teach.