According to the Lonely Planet Guide, Kazakhstan is the ideal country for those who “enjoy remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, long hypnotic train rides and horse sausage!”
With a size comparable to that of Western Europe, the Republic of Kazakhstan is the ninth largest nation in the world, extending east to west from the Caspian Sea to the Altay Mountains, and north to south from the plains of Western Siberia to the oasis and desert of Central Asia.
Many people understand and/or speak English but don’t expect to find a wealth of information in the language.
The cost of living in Almaty, Astana and Atyrau is very high. Rental prices are also expensive. However foreign English teachers working in private schools can do well.
TEFL in Kazakhstan
In good schools a base salary can start at $30000 USD (€23738, £19089). This is very good money for a TEFL teaching job and you should try to get it paid outside the country, whenever possible. Your salary package will include accommodation allowance, when not offering free accommodation. This is usually apartments owned by the school and let to their teachers. Living in the accommodation provided by the school – even if they are not top notch – can prove a smart move, financially speaking, as utilities are generally covered by the school if you accept their housing. This way you could save between 50 and 70% of your salary. All in all, not a bad deal for teaching English abroad! Of course, to take advantage of this you will need a degree and a good TEFL Certificate.
Since free accommodation and paid for round trip are standard practice you should make sure they are included in your contract. Particularly, given that both apartments to let and air tickets are expensive. Also included in a typical one-year contract are: end of contract bonus, paid holidays and free access to email & Internet facilities.
A year contract is standard but you may also find schools that are happy to hire you for a shorter period. If this is your first time in the country, you may want to avoid committing to more than a year to start with.
Employers usually help sorting out visas for their teachers but you should make sure this is done in advance. The government is very strict on visas.
In general the students are used to a very traditional way of learning with rote repetition often being the order of the day. Sometimes it can be awkward to get the students used to the more advanced (and much more efficient) methods of teaching such as the communicative method.
To enter the country a valid passport and visa are required.
As of February 2004, an invitation is no longer required for single-entry business and tourist visas, but multiple-entry visas require an invitation from an individual or organizational sponsor in Kazakhstan.
All travelers must obtain a Kazakhstani visa before entering the country. Overstaying the validity period of a visa will result in fines and delays upon exit. As a traveler you may be asked to provide proof at the border of your onward travel arrangements. Whatever you do, you are advised not hand over your passport at arrival!
For complete information concerning entry requirements, U.S. citizens should contact the Kazakhstani Embassy in Washington, or the Kazakhstani Consulate in New York.
Background to Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. However the bureaucracy and red tape typical of the Soviet nations still remains.
Oil and gas is the leading economic sector and Kazakhstan is a very healthy nation, financially speaking. So much so that in 2000 it became the first former Soviet republic to repay all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – seven years ahead of schedule!
Astana is the official capital but Almaty (capital city till 1998) remains the largest city in Kazakhstan with a population of approx. 1.5 million, and the most fun!
Teachers’ Day in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan teachers are celebrated during the first week of October. Classes are shorter than usual and during the extra time students prepare performances for their teachers. Some students will organize a short concert of song and dance which will sometimes include a humorous skit where they mimic their teachers. These are sometimes lavish (although noisy) affairs with parents, teachers, and students all watching together.
These days students will often make videos to remind them of their school days and to pay tribute to the teachers.
Also students offer their teachers small presents such as flowers and sweets. During this time the price of flowers rise as their is such a demand and one curious tradition is that in Kazakhstan giving an even number of flowers is only done on sad occasions (death or when visiting a sick relative) so teachers will either receive 1 flower (often a rose) if the student likes them or 3 flowers if they are a particular favorite of the student.