It’s pretty fair to say that COVID has been like a very big, very wet blanket, thrown over so many of our plans since it emerged in 2019. Many of us have had to adjust our career goals, our travel plans, and our lifestyles to accommodate this almost surreal situation. Now however, after more than two years of frenzied scrambling, we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and reasons to hold out hope that our lives may soon get back to some semblance of normalcy. In this post, let’s dive right in and talk about the elephant in the room where teaching abroad is concerned: COVID, and how it’s going to factor into our lives over the course of the next year.
Let’s start with the good news, since we could all use some of that: instead of playing catch-up, we now have a fairly stable footing from which to fight COVID. Emergency use authorization has been given to 29 vaccines (and counting) worldwide by national regulatory bodies (1), and these vaccines are now reaching more and more people every day. While every country has a slightly different definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated”, the following list details some of the countries that, at the time of writing, have reached a benchmark of 75% or more being fully vaccinated according to accepted standards. If we were to include the partially vaccinated, these numbers would be about 1-5% higher, on average (2).
United Arab Emirates: 92%
South Korea: 84%
New Zealand: 76%
It should be noted that these are just a sample, and many other countries are reaching similar rates at this very moment. Moreover, as these countries are reaching their targets, they are increasingly passing along excess vaccine doses to other countries who are lagging behind.
What does this mean? Experts are of differing opinions about that, but many are hopeful that 2022 will see us moving away from “pandemic” and into “endemic” status. This prognostication implies that the virus won’t disappear, but rather will become an occasional or seasonal annoyance, much like the common cold or the flu. While this is not to say that the risks are comparable (COVID is demonstrably more dangerous), Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, thinks that we will probably be able to control the virus “in a way that does not disrupt society, and does not disrupt the economy.” (3)
In places that embrace practices like masking, social distancing and hand-washing – in addition to accepting vaccines – this is largely already the case. Japan is one example – in a country of over 125 million, Japan has seen, to date, only about 2 million cases (4), and you can still do pretty much everything you want to do. It seems safe to say that the rest of the world will follow suit in time, so long as we all play our part in helping flatten the curve and stop the spread of infections.
While many countries remain closed for the time being (Japan included), 2022 will likely see this trend start to shift in the other direction. Demand for foreign teachers is still high, as it is for workers in many fields, and after two whole years of travel restrictions, many countries are now increasingly eager to hire. While some countries have weathered the last few years with minimal COVID-related restrictions (lookin’ at you, Mexico!) others have developed certain guidelines that travellers will have to follow, especially as borders begin to reopen. For those willing to get their shots, undergo a PCR test, and in some cases quarantine for a week or so upon arrival, opportunities do exist, and will likely see a steady increase. For those that aren’t willing to meet the requirements currently in place for international travel – well, the reality is that such opportunities will be greatly reduced. Most countries don’t want to take chances, and it’s hard to blame them for taking this position.
Our position, as an intermediary between graduates and employers, is that we are obligated to respect the hiring criteria imposed by employers, just as they are obligated to observe the rules imposed by their own respective countries. As such, where COVID-related restrictions are concerned, the guidelines found on government websites around the world, and our guidelines for graduates, will be virtually identical. That said, it’s important to provide teachers with current information from official, government sources and reliable web resources, and keeping up to date with these has increasingly become a big part of our daily research activities.
In addition to the hopeful increase in overseas teaching opportunities for 2022, the past two years have also given rise to a boom in online teaching, and this trend also seems like to continue to grow over the coming year (and is an option which would, of course, be open to any qualified candidates). While at the moment the demand for online teaching positions still outpaces supply, many educational institutions are working to reverse this trend, and Oxford Seminars is continually striving to work with more of these institutions to address their teacher recruitment needs. In the coming months, it is our hope to offer our graduates more online teaching opportunities, and we look forward to further discussing these with both graduates and recruiters alike over the course of the new year.
Finally, we would like to say to all our graduates who have continued to pursue their dream of teaching abroad that this dream is still alive and well. While the safety of our graduates and their students is of paramount concern, we intend to provide every opportunity we can to help you chase this dream. Doing so right now may not be easy, but then nothing worth doing ever is!
1 – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_COVID-19_vaccine_authorizations
2 – Our World in Data/CNN Research: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2021/health/global-covid-vaccinations/
3 – AhramOnline: https://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/7/48/454867/Life–Style/Health/How-will-pandemic-end-Omicron-clouds-forecasts-for.aspx
4 – Worldometer: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/japan/
Lucas Laplante has taught English in Japan for a total of 11 years, mostly with the JET Programme. From 2005-2008 Luke was living and working in Beppu city and Oita city, Oita prefecture. Then, from 2013-2021, he worked in Miyakojima, Okinawa, and Kitakyushu, Fukuoka. During his time teaching in Japan Luke taught everyone from Kindergarten to retirees, in both the public and private school systems. He’s currently a Job Placement Advisor with Oxford Seminars.