To say that Covid-19 has changed the world is a gross understatement. Everything is different now and people seem to be getting used to the expression “the new normal” as a reference to whatever world we emerge into following this awful pandemic.
Almost every sector of the economy has been impacted, with education perhaps one of the biggest. It has not helped that China recently decided to stamp out yet more foreign influence by completely overhauling the education system, effectively removing foreign books and teachers from its schools.
So that brings us to the big question: How will Covid change the landscape for IELTS teachers?
The Popularity of IELTS
Before we look at exactly how IELTS teaching will change (ie the technical and financial aspects), we need to first establish some important facts. Namely, is IELTS even going to be relevant in the post-covid era?
The primary purpose of the IELTS examination is to test students’ English proficiency in order that they may go abroad to work, study, or live. There are a few people who do it to get a job in their own country, but overwhelmingly it is related to going abroad to countries like the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada.
Of course, Covid has brought international travel to just a trickle of what it once was and that is true of immigration as well. With universities holding classes online and borders closed, international student opportunities are in decline. Therefore, it would seem that IELTS is doomed. Yet, that is not what the data shows at all:
When we look at Google search results for the past several years, we can see that Covid did have an enormous impact on the number of people looking for information about IELTS. As soon as the pandemic was announced, there was a catastrophic decline, which of course hit the industry hard.
I own an IELTS business and I noticed this in my web traffic and my earnings, which took a severe beating in the middle of 2020. However, the chart above shows what I also found: interest in IELTS returned over the following months and has pretty much returned to its previous levels.
In fact, IELTS responded to this situation by implementing a new form of its test, called IELTS Indicator. This helped spur the recovery and we can see how this provided new opportunities in the summer of 2020, albeit with interest tapering off after that:
Thus, we can conclude that IELTS is not dead and therefore there are plenty of opportunities.
Post-Covid IELTS Jobs
With that established, we may now ask what sort of opportunities will exist in the post-Covid era for IELTS teachers. This is a good question and as with anything else right now it will largely depend on how the remainder of the pandemic unfolds. Yet we can still determine a few things.
First of all, there will likely be fewer opportunities to teach abroad in the beginning. This is obviously because countries still have their borders shut at the moment and this will remain the case for months or even years. When they open, restrictions will be tighter and travel will be more expensive. The situation in China, which was the biggest market, is also bleak, with training schools now outlawed. This was a hugely lucrative area for IELTS teachers, and with that gone, competition elsewhere will be higher.
Online, it is already easy to see the effects of the pandemic on the IELTS teaching industry. With thousands of teachers out of work in early 2020, a great many of them took to the internet in search of opportunities, starting websites and social media pages, or taking to platforms like Cambly and Udemy. This has made the industry hyper-competitive, dropping prices and forcing experienced teachers into difficult situations. There has even been spillover from the general ESL teaching world into the IELTS realm as platforms that catered to Chinese learners shut down or ceased paying their teachers.
If that all sounds bleak, then remember that there are still plenty of opportunities and, theoretically at least, the cream should rise to the top. Going forward, many tutors will of course lose interest, give up, or find other opportunities, leaving those who succeeded in a relatively good position. Assuming that IELTS continues to be popular, they should have a decent platform for a career going forward.
Teaching IELTS Online
With travel difficult in the coming months and possibly years, it is of course natural that much IELTS teaching will take place online. Already, we can see this. There has been an explosion in the number of online IELTS teachers since early 2020 and this has really changed the dynamic of the industry.
It is – as my IELTS students so frequently say – a double-edged sword for teachers. On the one hand, more teachers encourages more platforms and more resources, but of course it also lowers prices and floods the market with low-quality teachers. You can find a review of good and bad IELTS websites here.
Still, as I mentioned above, in theory the best should still succeed. My recommendation for teachers old and new is to simply create the best materials possible and make them visible. Don’t worry about things like SEO and going viral on social media. These can help, of course, but you’ll just be doing what everyone else is doing. Alas, in a crowded field, being different can be a big help.
A lot of teachers take to Instagram and TikTok to make funny or informative content and this really draws in the younger crowd. Others, like me, do more long-form content on platforms like YouTube, where we can deliver more conventional lessons. Others utilise Facebook and Twitter. Having your own teaching website is also a boon.
Of course, none of this is necessarily making you any money, so you will need to get to the teaching part of teaching online. For that, there are myriad possibilities. I like Zoom, which really became popular with the coming of the pandemic, but Google Meet, Skype, and other services can work just as well. I suppose it depends on your style and your lesson plans.
Teaching and Masks
I’m going to add one last point here before I get into my conclusion. This is to talk about the logistics of teaching and in particular of speaking. Back when I taught in the classroom, I often did lessons on pronunciation and these invariably involved showing students how the shape of your mouth or the movement of your tongue created certain sounds.
Nowadays, with masks you are going to have certain challenges. Whilst teaching online will most likely allow you to continue maskless, those who do get into the classroom will be presented with some difficulties. First of all, you will have to find out whether or not you are allowed to go maskless and, if so, how to maintain a proper distance.
If you do have to wear a mask, you will need to work more on sounds or use pictures or videos to indicate the shape of the mouth and the movement of the tongue. This is, however, just another minor inconvenience. We are teachers and we are good at innovating!
Ultimately, IELTS is going nowhere and is arguably as popular as it was prior to the pandemic. People around the world have not given up on their dreams of working or studying abroad, and thus they are in need of qualified teachers that can give them good advice and deliver high-quality English lessons and exam preparation.
The market has changed for us teachers. It is more competitive now and heavily slanted towards the online realm. Those who do not adapt well might struggle, whilst those with a knack for tech stuff might suddenly have the edge. I just hope that it is the best who thrive because our students need reputable teachers now more than ever, and personally I relish the challenge.