In contrast to models of importing teachers to offer instruction in a desired language, other national governments have established programs to promote the study of their culture and mother language abroad. The French government supports an extensive network of Collèges /Lycées, staffed by French, international, and local teachers to offer mainly French instruction to students on a fee for enrollment basis. The Lycées use the French curriculum, but some also have a local curriculum. L’Agence pour l’Enseignement du Français à l’Etranger (Agency for French Teaching Abroad) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has 470 schools in its worldwide network. Schools are directly managed, contracted or accredited. Teachers can be hired under different contracts depending on whether they are French nationals working as expatriates, local residents, or recruited to work under local law. Those hired to work under the Ministry are civil servants who retain benefits, are paid according to the civil service pay scale, and remain union members. The initial contract is for three years, and can be renewed for two a maximum of two more years. 


The U.S. Department of State operates an exchange visitor program with 15 different categories of exchanges, one of those being for teachers.  The program facilitates intercultural experiences for thousands of people from around the world each year, and 1,208 exchange visas were issued for teachers in 2011.  This popular diplomacy effort, though government initiated, is structured to rely on designated sponsors to recruit exchange participants and place them in U.S. schools.  While many of the official sponsors of teacher exchanges are schools or departments of education, others are private companies.  The sponsor that has historically placed the most exchange teachers is VIF Education (VIF).  

VIF was founded in 1998 as Visiting International Faculty with the mission of expanding students’ exposure to world cultures. Though VIF was designed as a language exchange program for teachers, administrators began using the agency to fill gaps in other hard to staff subjects during a period of U.S. teacher shortages.  The misalignment of teacher expectations and program design led to a decrease in satisfaction with the program and VIF eventually made the business decision to refocus on the company’s core function.

Today, VIF exclusively recruits Spanish and Chinese language and envisions schools as global learning centers in which international teachers serve as cultural ambassadors to their host schools and communities. VIF is also actively engaged in a multi-stakeholder effort to develop a U.S. Code of Ethical International Recruitment of Teachers. More than 700 past and current VIF teachers completed the survey for the research related to “Getting Teacher Migration and Mobility Right.” More than 90% of them indicated that they believed that their contract was fair and the program met or exceeded their expectations.

More information

Fricano, Mike. “Teachers from China overcome culture shock in the classroom.” UCLA Today, August 1, 2013. 


“The Fulbright is a very prestigious award to teach and study abroad for one school year. In Georgia, although we work in less developed regions of the country, we are well supported by the embassy.”

-- Survey Respondent, Fulbright Fellow

The U.S. government began to sponsor and fund international exchanges through the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange Program shortly after the end of the Second World War. However, funding has been successively reduced.  In 2012-13, the program placed teachers in only five countries: The Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.  

When fully functioning, Fulbright provided opportunities for full-time teachers with at least five years of teaching experience to participate in direct exchanges of positions with colleagues from other countries for a semester or a year. Teachers exchanged classroom teaching assignments and related school duties. US teachers were granted a leave of absence with pay and benefits while international teachers were generally paid by their home schools and replaced their U.S. counterparts at no additional cost to the hosting school.  U.S. teachers were provided supplemental maintenance allowances to cover living expenses and a modest dependent allowance.  International teachers received smaller allowances.  

The Fulbright program is widely recognized for its high quality, and the number of qualified candidates always exceeded the number of available grants.  Program participants were carefully screened and matched with international applicants.  Teachers selected for an exchange attended a day-long spring preparatory meeting and a week-long pre-departure orientation.  While abroad they were supported by the international cooperating agency and also assigned a mentor at their matched school.  As part of the program they were offered one or more orientations and, in some cases, mid-year workshops.  

Upon their return, exchange teachers have numerous opportunities to remain connected to the program and nearly 300,000 Fulbright alumni worldwide.  They are able to share their experience abroad with one another online or through the Fulbright Association, an independent, private nonprofit, membership organization with 58 local chapters. 

Find out more here ! 

Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) is an English language program started by the Ministry of Education in 2010, among other wide-ranging education reforms. Then President Mikhail Saakashvili was personally involved in the launch of the program, making compulsory English language instruction a centerpiece of his “educational revolution.” Ministry reports make clear that TLG is intended not only to improve English language proficiency, but also to promote development more broadly by exposing Georgians to Western values and culture. 

The program invites native speaking “volunteer” teachers to work in Georgian public schools teaching English and introducing new methodologies and ideas. In the first year of implementation, 1,000 volunteer teachers were recruited to Georgia through TLG, and the program touted their impact as a great success:

“TLG is indeed a ‘linguistic revolution’ with significant results over the period of one year – out of 4,200 local English teachers, up to 3,000 teachers had an opportunity to interact with native English speakers, get acquainted with modern teaching methodologies and techniques; up to 50,000 local students have improved their English level proficiency; more than 1,500 local host families and communities hosted foreign volunteers with an amazing possibility of cultural and traditional exchange.”

Despite calling these teachers “volunteers” the program offers accommodation with a local host family, provides medical insurance, covers travel costs and one flight home per year, and compensates them approximately $300 per month. That salary is roughly three times as much as Georgian public school teachers earn.  Despite calling these volunteers “teachers” the program requires no teaching experience or training whatsoever.  The eligibility criteria are merely that candidates be native English speakers with two years of post-secondary education and a clean criminal and medical record.  Indeed, TLG teachers interviewed for this project had no prior experience in teaching.  They were interested in seeing the world, and the program offered them a chance to do so.  Although the program purports to track progress in areas such as lesson planning and preparation, co-teaching, teaching methods, classroom management, evaluation of student outcomes, school administration support, and extra-curricular activities, the teachers indicated that there was nominal oversight of or support for pedagogical efforts.

“Teach and Learn Georgia is a good program and I hope it’s a worthwhile investment in Georgia’s future… In a way, though, it’s like buying an espresso machine before you’ve built a kitchen. There are so many obstacles preventing this cadre of foreign teachers from doing their jobs effectively, and I often wonder whether the government would be better off focusing on fundamentals first — buying books for all students, training teachers in modern techniques (as opposed to the translation-and-memorization doctrine that is currently rampant), paying Georgian teachers a living wage, better accountability metrics, etc.”

--James Norton, TLG teacher from the United States


Find out more here ! 


The Spanish Ministry of Education Culture and Sport (MECD) supports numerous programs that offer teachers placements in partner country public schools, Spanish government schools abroad, and European schools in order to facilitate cultural exchange between countries. One such program is the Profesores Visitantes (PPVV) that began in 1986 as an exchange program between Spain and the State of California in the United States and is now the largest overseas program sponsored by the Ministry. The program currently facilitates exchanges for primary and secondary teachers with 35 U.S. states and the District of Colombia, as well as Canada and Germany.  In 2012-13, more than 1,000 Spanish teachers worked in public schools through this program. Visiting teachers may instruct any grade or subject for which they are qualified, from primary Pre to high school mathematics and science. Though most visiting teachers instruct in English, some also staff International Spanish Academies (ISAs), bilingual programs collaboratively developed between the Ministry and partner governments, where they teach in both English and Spanish.

Spanish teachers working in the United States enter on a three year J-1 visa, which is designated for cross-cultural and educational exchange opportunities. Teachers are directly employed by the school in which they work, and as such their working conditions follow the local collective bargaining agreement where there is one. They can belong to a union and be represented should a grievance arise. Teachers who have completed the civil service exams in Spain are guaranteed employment in the area where they previously taught when they return. Re-entry provisions are reassuring not only to teachers, but equally to school administrators who appreciate faculty with international experience and have been pleased with teachers’ performance after having returned. 

Acceptance into the Profesores Visitantes program is competitive. Applicants are required to have a minimum of three years teaching experience and English language proficiency. The Ministry pre-selects the most qualified candidates from the pool of applicants who are then matched with the profile of teachers being sought. In the final phase, hiring representatives from the host site conduct interviews with candidates in Spain. In past years approximately 1,500 teachers applied annually but for 2013-14 the pool of applicants has grown to 8,000 (according to an interview conducted in May 2013 for the study “Getting Teacher migration and mobility right” with Rosa Rodriguez, Director of international programmes, MECD). The sudden rise in interest can be partially attributed to the economic crisis in Spain that has frozen educator pay for the past three years and pushed many into layoffs. Nonetheless, the demand for Spanish teachers in the US has remained consistently between 300-400 teachers annually. Unfortunately the program has not placed teachers in Germany in 2013-14.


Ministerio de Educación, Cultura, y Deporte.

Statistics by type of program. La Accíon Educativa en el Exterior, 2002-13. Madrid: Gobernio de España.