So you’ve decided to teach English in France or to broaden your teaching experience with another position in France! But to land a job or not to land one – that can be a number of questions!
Getting there: Will you need a visa to be able to teach in the French school system?
If you are a citizen of a European Union member country or one of the countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), you will not need a work visa but you must have either a valid passport or national identity card. Non-EU/EEA nationals will have to obtain a work visa, and that will mean you need to have either a contract or at least a written statement of intent of employment from the school, prior to sending in your visa application.
“French spoken here”: What level of French should you have?
Foreign languages are not commonly spoken in France except along the borders, and even there you cannot be sure that many people will speak a language you are comfortable with. A minimum skills level in French of B1 (“threshold/intermediate”) with respect to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) is therefore an absolute must. Moreover, you will have to correctly interact with your colleagues, students, parents, business contacts and other actors in the system, so the more at ease you are in French, the better.
Credentials: What degrees or certification will you need?
The public school system in France is overseen by the Ministry of Education (Ministère de l’Education Nationale.) This means that certified teachers/professors are civil servants and are guaranteed job security. Non-French nationals will find it difficult to get a full-time, permanent position in the public school system. Applicants must have bachelor’s degree or higher (or equivalent certification) in Educational Sciences or in their specific field, and you should be aware that the Ministry only recognizes diplomas awarded by French universities. Language certificates such as the TEFL and CELTA for English teaching or German certification from the Goethe Institute are appreciated in France but do not meet the French ministerial requirements for hiring. However, may be able to work as a ‘teaching assistant’ if you are looking for jobs teaching English in France. Moreover, new openings in the public school system are limited and hiring depends upon the candidate’s success in one of the yearly State teaching exams.
Most private schools are “Catholic schools” though there are a small number of lay schools. They can either be contracted with the Ministry or not. Teachers in contracted private secondary schools are paid by the State, if they have passed the necessary State exams, but no position in a private school gives the teacher full civil service status. Degree requirements are also the same as for public schools.
Teaching jobs are also available in adult training schools. These organizations work with youth, job seekers and company employees to provide them with ongoing professional training. If the school works with government funding, the same degrees will often be required to obtain a contract, but the State exams are not mandatory.
You don’t have French diplomas or certification: What are the possibilities?
It can be somewhat easier to negotiate a starting or temporary position even if you do not fulfill the requirements for French diplomas and State exams, provided you have experience teaching in your field. You should, in any case, expect to be asked for a strict minimum of three to five years’ regular teaching experience in the subject.
Temporary work (“vacation”), e.g. substitute teaching, is a possibility in the public and private school systems. You can apply to the regional academy (for public schools), the diocese (for Catholic schools) or directly to the school itself (for lay schools and adult training schools), for placement on their list of substitute or temporary teachers. Be aware that competition for such jobs is already fierce among French graduate students who have not yet passed the state exam. Also, school administrators are usually very strict in respecting the degree requirements, and might not be able to accept your application for that reason, no matter what your national degree or level of experience. If you do get placed on the list, you will have to be prepared to change schools frequently or teach in different establishments on the same day.
College students in the field of foreign languages will be interested to know that the French ministry of education offers a certain number of positions in secondary schools for teaching assistants in foreign languages. The position is for one school year, and is open to students who are 20 to 30 years of age, are enrolled at a university at the time of application, and who have successfully completed their second year of studies equivalent to the French bachelor’s degree. Full details can be found at: http://www.ciep.fr/en/assistantetr/index.php.
Temporary positions are easier to find in adult training schools, though you might have to work with several different organizations to make an acceptable income. If you get steady teaching hours with the same school, you may be offered a contract, but since many adult training schools base their hiring policies on the projected classes for a given year, they tend to prefer “vacataires” (temporary teachers) to hiring on a contract basis.
Nine to Five and Saturdays: What’s it like to teach in France?
Teaching duties are similar in all countries, and France is no exception. Public and private school teachers are often required to teach more than one subject. Classes are Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday mornings. Primary school teachers put in 25 classroom hours a week and secondary school teachers have a required 18 class hours, while university-level teachers have a required minimum of 15 hours. To this is added class preparation, grading homework and tests, staff meetings, parent-teacher meetings, and in some cases extra hours are required for remedial teaching for pupils or students in difficulty. Some teachers are also active in extracurricular activities like theatre groups or literary clubs and others accompany classes on school trips. Secondary school teachers are also called upon to correct the State secondary school exams (e.g. the “Baccalauréat”) and participate in the juries for the oral examinations. University teachers also participate in exams in the same manner.
In public schools, classes average about 20-25 students but in many cases there can be 30 or even 35 students. Private schools will have smaller classes. More and more classrooms are equipped with computers and video projectors. Group work is encouraged to ensure student participation, especially in the larger classes, and class work and homework should, ideally, be geared to individual abilities as well. University courses combine lectures with smaller work groups for practical application and discussion. A no-nonsense attitude and good skills at maintaining student motivation and discipline are necessary.
Adult classes are usually smaller, around 5 to 15 people, and one-on-one teaching is frequent in-company. Evening or Saturday classes are also common in adult training. Teachers have to be creative with adults, help them to overcome their representations of “school” and know the professional subject well. It must be remembered that the approach to adult classes is very different to that for children, and adults are quick to criticize if they feel you are “treating them as children” or do not master the professional subject. However, once you are hired you can get rather steady work if your teaching is successful and your students appreciate your classes. Duties are similar to other teaching jobs, but you will also be asked to participate in the elaboration of projects and bids sent to clients. .You will also have to do more traveling between classes, particularly if you work with companies, and the number of hours per month will vary considerably in function of the school’s training programs. Some months you may have a full schedule and other months no work at all, particularly in summer.
Off the beaten path: Other employment possibilities
Finally, you can apply at British, American or other foreign schools operating in France, where the hiring requirements will be based on those in the respective country. You can also connect with online teaching sites, or do remedial tutoring jobs for families. Or you can try to freelance or start your own teaching organization. However, the latter option does require that you follow the regulations for setting up a business, getting accreditation and paying taxes, for example… which in France is quite another story.
Further information can be found on the following websites (in French):
And you may want to check the EURES website for more details on working and living in France:
Bonne chance! Good luck!
This Guide for Teachers in France was originally published on TeacherHit.com