Tunisia is a former French colony where traditionally students are taught in Arabic in primary school, then in French in secondary school and at university, with English lessons starting in year five of primary school and carrying on throughout secondary school for three hours a week.
Now all this is about to change. In an effort to tackle its high unemployment rate amongst young Tunisians, Tunisia is working to transform its educational system.
Currently the budget of the Ministry of Education is one fifth of the whole state budget. It is hoped that by improving vocational training and developing a multilingual workforce Tunisia will be able to attract investment from Europe and lend its skilled workers to wealthy Gulf countries.
Boosting English language skills is seen as key in this move to invest in education. In its effort Tunisia Ministry of Education will be aided by the British Council, the UK’s international agency for education and cultural relations, to develop the English Reform Project (see below).
Teaching in Tunisia
The most usual qualification to teach English in Tunisia are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate.
It’s not usually difficulty to find work if you are already in the country although pay is not brilliant and conditions in school tend to be fairly basic. Monthly pay is around 1,700 TND or $1000 USD (€791, £636). Your school will help with the visa and it is not uncommon for English teachers to arrive on a tourist visa and then look for work, converting this into a work visa later on.
However, the cost of living is cheap (especially accommodation) and if you are into ancient history or a relaxed lifestyle it is perfect!
English Reform Project
The project aims at creating a new generation of school leavers who will be competent communicators in English, as well as in their first language, Arabic, and second language, French.
This nationwide ELT project will start across primary and secondary schools from 2010 and it will run for up to 10 years, with the BC acting as the Ministry’s exclusive project partner and principal funder for the whole period.
The project will introduce existing teachers to communicative teaching methods. The ELT curriculum will be completely overhauled, with new course books and materials, and a new system of exams and testing will be introduced based on the Common European Framework for Languages, the widely adopted benchmarking system for assessing foreign language competence.
The BC will also develop a parallel program to improve Tunisia’s vocational skills training, which will also have an English language teaching component.
The US State department has given $250,000 towards training teachers and the British Council is also building its presence in Tunisia.
Although it is not obligatory, many women wear headscarves. Foreign women often wear a scarf in respect of the local customs, however in some state buildings it is actually forbidden. As regards general dress, although Tunisia is not as strict as some countries, general decorum is expected.
No Marmite in Tunisia – a good blog from an expat in Tunisia