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Benefits for teachers

August 13, 2007

Hello again,

We all know that teachers are undervalued and underpaid. For many, the attraction of ELT is the chance to travel and experience new cultures, meeting...

...different people along the way. This incentive makes people willing to accept low pay and often rather poor conditions. On the other side of the coin, private language schools are seldom highly profitable. The often sudden fluctuations in student numbers can make profit margins uncomfortably narrow and so schools justify low salaries.

But teachers going to work abroad are very vulnerable. If they should fall ill or have an accident they could find themselves in very dire straits. It seems to me that one benefit a school could offer to teachers without involving undue cost is free sickness and accident insurance. Insurers specialising in international polices often have a corporate package to cover people working abroad. The cover typically includes local medical costs, repatriation if necessary and access to 24-hour help-lines so that advice can be obtained whatever the crisis.

Of course, teachers can insure themselves and schools are not obliged to offer this kind of perk. But to attract good staff, a school needs to show that it cares for the welfare of its employees. This is one token of appreciation that really says something about your attitude to staff: that you really do want them to have good care if they should fall ill or have an accident. It is also a source of reassurance to the families of teachers if they know that insurance cover is in place for emergencies.

Some of the companies offering corporate insurance plans can be accessed online: http://www.bellwoodprestbury.com/

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  1. Bob Toomey Says:


    Your article is well written, and I know that you want teachers to be careful when travelling overseas, but I run a language school in Beijing and I can't afford insurance for teachers. I alway tell people that when applying to work for me. The other side of the coin about this is that many people come to China to teach, who don't know a thing about teaching. I would not want to insure anyone like that. I tell people who want to work for me that they should be in good health and to get overseas health insurance.
    It is a tricky topic and definately needs to be discussed. Most people coming to China will work for a university which provides some limited health care. Another side of this is that while teaching at a university in China I met an older woman, who told me one night while she was drinking alcohol, that she had a heart condition, but she didn't tell the university before coming, nor while she was there. I would be very upset if someone did that to me.


  1. lena Says:

    thank you for this article.
    i believe that many of the teachers going abroad are rather young and therefore health is not their primary concern.
    in this case, the school could show their concern for the staff's well being by giving a balanced number of contact hours/week, not more than 19 for example.
    personally, if i had to choose between teaching 30 hours /week with comprehensive health insurance on the one hand, and deliver 20 hours/week with no insurance, i would go for the latter.

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    I take your point, Bob. Not all schools can afford to offer health insurance but at least you are honest with potential employees. Unfortunately being in good health cannot guarantee you will not pick up a virus or have an accident. I feel therefore that ll teachers going abroad should arrange some kind of cover if the school will not.

    As for the lady with the heart condition. I suppose she knew the risks. Unfortunately it is not usually possible to get insurance for an existing health condition.

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