Since the discovery of oil some years ago, Oman – the second largest country in the Middle East – has grown very wealthy with good opportunities for TEFL teachers.
For those teachers who do end up in Oman, the country itself is very diverse with mountain ranges, salt flats, rolling deserts and pleasant green hills. Muscat is a thriving port and the capital city. As for the social life, whilst it can take a little time to get used to it, there’s certainly a lot on offer for the right kind of teacher.
Schools & Conditions
English has long been taught in Oman and in the public schools it is taught as a second language beginning in the fourth grade. It is also taught in many colleges and also companies to serve both business and the service industries.
Most English teachers tend to be local and not often native speakers. This is because it can be quite difficult for foreigners to get a visa and residence permit for Oman. Certainly it’s not something that teachers can do on their own and you will need the school to help you with this.
The academic year generally begins around September so recruitment takes place in August and jobs are available at both private schools as well as international schools and universities/colleges.
Working hours in private language schools can be quite long and sometimes anti-social as lessons take place often after business working hours; this is especially true for adult students.
There is also often a demand for private English lessons. It is common for university students to take these around exam time. However, bear in mind that due to the visa issues mentioned above, it’s almost impossible to go to Oman simply to teach private lessons. Normally established teachers will take on extra hours like this or expat English teachers who already have a valid visa (e.g. partners of expats working in Oman already).
Qualifications, Salaries & Benefits
Demand for well qualified English teachers is high and schools offer attractive salaries which often include free housing, airfare, insurance & health cover, end-of-contract bonus and suchlike. A typical teacher’s salary can be up to twice the cost of living which allows teachers there to save a considerable amount of money during their contract.
In addition, an end-of-contract bonus or indemnity is paid by law and usually amounts to 15 (or sometimes 20) days’ pay.
Salaries, then, begin around $1700 USD (€1345, £1082) per month with good jobs at colleges offering double this, often tax free.
Because of these kinds of benefits, candidates for work need generally to be well qualified and experienced. The minimum qualifications are usually a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the IWeb TEFL Certificate. A further degree and experience are also often required but occasionally there are jobs advertised which are looking for new teachers.
Living in Oman
The Omani people are known for their generosity and friendliness and, whilst often insular in their outlook, can be interested in other cultures and enjoy meeting people.
The extended family is important and often several generations will live together. Foreign workers often live in compounds or apartments. Some are multi-ethnic whilst others are composed of mainly one nationality.
The state religion is Islam and as with many Islamic countries, discretion in dress and attitude is expected. The holy day is Friday (equivalent to Sunday in most Western countries) with the Thursday or Saturday often a holiday as well. During Ramadan the working day is often reduced, however non-Muslims may be expected to work full days whilst their Muslim colleagues are on reduced hours.
- Temperatures can reach 50 C or 122 F in the height of Summer.
- Health care tends to be good and of a high standard.
- Accept refreshment when it is offered.
- Only eat with your right hand.
- Do not cross your legs or show the soles of your feet.
- Do not offer alcohol to a Arab unless you know they drink it; it can be offensive to do so.
- Do not enter a mosque unless invited in.
- Be discrete. Do not drink or smoke in public and never engage in any sort of sexual behavior (even an innocent kiss) in public!
- “Face” is an important concept in Oman and you should avoid putting anyone in a position where they will lose face. This applies not only in your day to day life but also in the classroom where treating your students sensitively and avoiding “showing them up” is very important.
- Do not beckon any student with your finger; it’s impolite. One might beckon a dog, but never a person.
- In all classrooms one should avoid discussion of religion or politics, but it is especially true of the Middle East and Oman. What may be regarded as quite innocent to Western ears can be very offensive. This applies outside the classroom too and thus religious/political discussions should be avoided even when socializing.
Women & Men
Men are the traditional breadwinners and women are regarded more as home makers; when women do work in Oman it is often in the service industries and teaching and nursing. However pay for women is often less than for men in the same job so women are often seen as a cheaper alternative.
Arab women in Oman will often wear full veils and always cover their head. Western women must dress conservatively and cover their head whilst outside. Shoulders, arms and legs must covered. If not, the women will be thought of as a prostitute or at least of “easy virtue”.
Men should dress conservatively and avoid shorts or sleeveless shirts outside.