Often overshadowed by neighbouring Russia and China, Mongolia offers unique charms that you’ll come to love during your time there. However, there are challenges, too. Mongolia has a serious problem with pollution from coal burning. Although efforts are being made to improve this, with nearly half the population living in Ulaanbaatar alone, it’s difficult to get on top of. With air pollution rates that are some of the worst in the world, it’s certainly worth careful consideration if you suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues.
However, The Land of the Eternal Blue Sky has its perks too. As the nickname indicates, Mongolia is a land of vast open spaces. Once you get out of bustling Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Cold winters are offset by plenty of sunshine (around 250 days per year), and if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, your choice of weekend activities including hiking on the incredible steppes, archery, wrestling and horseback riding should give you much to enjoy on your time off.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Ulaanbaatar
- Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions (in International Schools) is likely to be in the region of 2,500,000 – 4,000,000 MNT (£630 – £1,000 / $875 – $1,400) per month.
- TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification will be required for most positions
- Prerequisite university degree: Required for all paid positions
- Term times: The school year starts in September
- Currency: Tugrik/Tögrög (MNT)
- Language: Mongolian
- Teaching programmes: Private language schools, Business English, University, International Schools, Volunteering
- Age restrictions: 17+ for volunteering, postgraduate with experience for paid positions
- Previous teaching experience: Required for most positions
In the last 100 years, literacy rates in Mongolia have gone from less than 1% to nearly 100% of the population, although funding cuts to seasonal boarding schools in the 1990’s contributed to a slight dip in literacy rates. A recent change to the education system means that school children now spend 12 years in school, as opposed to the 10-year system that was previously favoured in Mongolia. 60% of Mongolians now go to university and, since 2006, English has been taught in all secondary schools across Mongolia, beginning in fourth grade.
As such, there is a continued increase in demand for qualified TEFL teachers in Mongolia, particularly amongst students aspiring to study abroad, or for adults learning business English. Russian is the most frequently spoken foreign language in Mongolia, although English has been gradually replacing Russian as the second language in a trend that seems set to continue. In the 2020 edition of the EF English Proficiency Index, Mongolia rated at number 78 (out of 100), which is on the very low side of the scale. However, what this means is that there’s certainly a great need for top TEFL teachers in the country, and of course the level of your students’ fluency will vary greatly depending on if you’re working in an elite international school as opposed to volunteering with a local homestay family.
Requirements for teaching English in Mongolia
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Teach in Mongolia||£630 – £1,000
($875 – $1,400)
TEFL salaries aren’t high in Mongolia, but neither is the cost of living. Some jobs will provide you with flight reimbursement and accommodation, but these are likely to be limited to the elite International School roles. Volunteers can expect a homestay experience with a private room in the home of their host family, and three meals a day in exchange for their English services.
One of the perks of staying with a host family is that you’ll get to sample genuine Mongolian food. Vegetarians might struggle as the cold climate of Mongolia in the winter has fostered a hearty meat-eating culture, including local favourites such as mutton, beef, lamb, horse, yak, and even camel. Khorkhog – Mongolian barbeque – has a distinctive smoky taste, and dumplings will likely become a firm favourite. Heavy carbs like Tsuivan (a noodle stew) help to see locals through the winter, and sweet treats like Boortsog cookies and Ul Boov cake (shaped like the sole of a shoe) will be familiar sights on the dinner table. While you’ll find similarities with Chinese cuisine (such as plentiful helpings of fried rice and noodles) the flavours are distinctly different, and you’ll see more dairy products than you would in mainland China. Top dishes to try are yak hot pot and butter tea.
- Accommodation: £456 – £616 / $646 – $873
- Utilities: £50 / $70
- Monthly transport pass: £8 / $11
- Basic dinner out for two: £11 / $16
- Cappuccino in expat area: £1.85 / $2.62
- A beer in a pub: £1.20 / $1.69
- 1 litre of milk: £0.60 / $0.85
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £0.80 / $1.14
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)