English Education Teaching

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

Timor-Leste is a young and vibrant democracy. It was internationally recognized as an independent state in 2002 after 25 years of fighting for independence. Peace Corps Volunteers will have a rare opportunity to make a meaningful and extraordinary impact in Timor-Leste. Volunteers will work among the nation’s heroes and freedom fighters who are still active in leading and building the nation. They will serve as heralds of positive change in communities with strong motivations and aspirations for their own development. Volunteers overwhelmingly confirm that they have a highly rewarding service where they can see and feel the positive impact they are making.
English Education (ED) Volunteers play a critical role in supporting the Ministry of Education’s strategic priority of improving English education in Timor-Leste. Volunteers work hand in hand with teachers, school directors, students, parents, and the larger community, modeling Peace Corps’ approach to development with the Timorese. Volunteers will co-teach English at rural middle and high schools and/or in vocational schools to build capacity in English language proficiency, student-centered teaching methodologies, lesson planning, and classroom management and assessment. Volunteers will also be expected to conduct and/or participate in teacher training activities for local teachers, spearhead youth development activities such as clubs and camps, and respond to community requests for formal and non-formal English lessons. While Volunteers should anticipate working full-time in a school setting, their involvement in a range of community-based activities is also likely.
Timorese Schools operate under distinctly different cultural norms than those with which many Volunteers are accustomed. Cultural differences include power distance (degree to which a culture accepts unequal distribution of power), direct and indirect communication styles, and pace of events (work-related events may appear to lack urgency, and absenteeism may be common). These cultural differences require Volunteers to observe the work culture and adapt accordingly.
The government has invested steadily in the reconstruction of school facilities since independence, and a new English language curricula for the first years of English language instruction, grades seven through nine, is in development. Student access, attendance, teacher training, and material availability are common problems that lead to poor outcomes. Moreover, many teachers have low English language proficiency as they have not had opportunities to use English or the training to teach English. Corporal punishment is still used in schools. Volunteers will be expected to model quality classroom teaching and establish strong relationships with local colleagues to help schools address these challenges. The language of instruction in schools is Portuguese, yet students and teachers are likely more comfortable communicating in Tetun and local languages.
Volunteers will need to exhibit flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity as the Peace Corps Timor-Leste program re-establishes itself post COVID-19 evacuation and strives to address the Government of Timor-Leste’s dynamic needs.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to teach English; and/or
• 3 months or 30 hours of English, foreign language, or literacy tutoring experience with primary, middle, or high school students or adults.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Primary/Middle or Secondary Education, or in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL or Linguistics, or a foreign language;
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with a TEFL, TESOL, ESL or TESL certification;
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with classroom teaching experience at the secondary level in English, TEFL, TESOL, ESL and TESL, or foreign language;
• Demonstrated experience and motivation in planning and organizing activities for youth.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

Volunteers will learn the country’s official language, Tetun, during Pre-Service Training and must demonstrate intermediate proficiency after nine to ten weeks of training. Tetun is not grammatically complex and uses the Latin alphabet. Volunteers find it relatively easy to achieve the required Intermediate-Mid proficiency and many go on to an Advanced level after serving at site for some time. Many Volunteers will also learn a local language or dialect spoken in their district. Since Portuguese is the national language and many words have been incorporated into Tetun, Portuguese and Spanish speakers will find their knowledge of those languages helpful in their Tetun studies. Many Timorese also speak Bahasa Indonesian and Volunteers will be taught some common words that are used by Timorese.

Living Conditions

Volunteers are required to live with a host family during Pre-Service Training and another host family at their permanent site during their full two years of service. This connection to a respected family in the community creates opportunities for Volunteers to build relationships with other community members, which forms the foundation for an effective service. The experience of living with a Timorese family is often one of the most rewarding aspects of service. Host families help Volunteers become integral parts of the community, offering a deeper understanding of local culture, traditions, and customs in a safe, welcoming environment. Volunteers regularly cite their relationships with their host families, both at PST and their permanent site, as a highlight of their service. Host families in Timor-Leste are large and multi-generational, with many children. It is common for many members of the host family to smoke cigarettes. Ninety-seven percent of Timorese are Catholic and attending church is a common community activity.
Timor-Leste has 13 municipalities, which are subdivided into districts. Municipalities range in population from 50,000 to 120,000. Most Volunteers will be placed at the village (suco) or sub-village (aldeia) level while a few may be placed in a district capital (vila). Volunteers are not placed in the capital city and it can take more than four to eight hours by public transportation to get to the capital.
Roads are in poor condition and may be washed out and impassable during the rainy season, December-April. Volunteers may have to walk or cycle as much as one hour over rugged terrain to the main road to catch public transportation (small truck or mini-bus) to a larger city. In addition, there has been a growth in road construction throughout the country so travel can be affected by this.
Amenities such as electricity, running water, and cell phone reception vary from site to site. There may be periods of time without electricity. Cell phone coverage is improving but there are still some “dead” zones. Accessing internet through data usage is very common in the districts. Some Volunteers have more than one SIM card from different providers to take advantage of different data packages and coverage.
Volunteers report frequent episodes of unwanted attention on public transportation and in Dili. This can be uncomfortable and stressful. Post provides training and mitigation strategies to prepare Volunteers for these situations and to understand how to manage them.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Timor-Leste: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Post can accept mixed program couples only, i.e. one spouse in CED and one spouse in ED.
Peace Corps Timor-Leste can accommodate couples serving together in different sectors. Therefore, their partner must apply and qualify for the following position:

Community Development Facilitator
Couples should consist of a male and a female. Couples should be prepared to live apart during Pre-Service Training. Once couples moves to their sites, they will live with a host family for their full two years of service in their own room in the household. This means they may not have as much privacy to which they are accustomed.
Couples serving in Timor-Leste will receive pressure to adhere to more traditional gender roles. They will likely be asked how many kids they have and may experience pressure to have children if they do not have any. However, in general, couples have done well and are happy serving in Timor-Leste.
In Timor-Leste, couples are married by the church or simply by parents mutually agreeing that their adult children are married.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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