Working as a teacher in Maldives
Finally, I’ve found time to interview of my good friend from USA – Kyle McGee. He was teaching English in primary school in Hulhumale. For now he moved to Oman because of some reason that you will get to know below.
Hi Kyle. First at all thank you for your time! I hope your story will help people to get some pros and cons of living in Maldives. How did you move to Maldives to work and live? Please, tell your story.
I have been living overseas for over 15 years in various countries. Like most of the jobs I get, I found a advertisement on a website and applied. I started teaching in India as a volunteer. Since then, I have lived and worked in India, Thailand, Malaysia (Penang), Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, Bhutan, South Korea, Malaysia (Sabah), the Maldives, and now back here (to Oman).
I was originally coming to the Maldives to teach staff English at the Four Seasons, but that job didn’t work out. So, I accepted the primary school job in Hulhumale instead.
What do you do and why choose this profession?
I’m an English teacher working at a variety of environments like colleges, primary schools, secondary schools, and language schools. I chose it because I really liked teaching when I tried. I still enjoy it today. I also really enjoy travel, living in different countries, and experiencing different cultures.
Generally, the working conditions and salary are better than I can get in the US (surprised, no?)
About Maldives education system in general
The education in the Maldives is not much different than other places I’ve worked. It was an international school run by a Turkish charity. We had students from preschool up to senior year, but only a few were in the upper grades. The school had the typical subjects in an islamic country with the exception of an additional language – Turkish.
So, the kids would learn 4 languages – Arabic, Dhivehi (the local language), English, and Turkish.
Like most government schools, they were mainly challenged by bureaucracy. There was endless paperwork for no apparent reason. Additional challenges came from the parents wanting to be very involved with the teachers.
They would contact us on a daily basis asking questions or complaining about something. While the younger kids were generally well behaved, the lack of a disciplinary system in the school meant kids could act out and not receive punishment. The principal of the school would invite us to tell him our problems with the students and then blame us for the child’s poor behavior.
It was quite difficult to find work in the Maldives as a teacher. There are more jobs available on Male, but that is a very unpleasant island to stay on. (very true. It’s a good place to work, but not to live)
Every school in the Maldives does hire expat teachers (usually for English), but mostly the positions are filled by non-native speakers commonly Indians.
The kids were mostly fine. I did have difficulty with one class, but so did all of the teachers (the same class). The main issue was the lack of support from the principal in dealing with the disciplinary issues. As they are getting money from the parents, they are very concerned about keeping them happy.
A few of the kids lied directly to their parents and the principal and the school would side with the students. This, of course, was very demotivating. Most other schools I worked for provided more support during these times. Additionally, I had never had much contact with the parents before in another school.
As previously mentioned, the paperwork was quite difficult. While the school was an international school, they tried to follow every inane rule of the government schools with the fear that an inspector might show up and check. So, we were told to do many useless things.
Additionally, they assigned teachers for extracurricular activities and encouraged them to hold extra classes after normal school hours and on the weekend. It seemed to be understood that we would all work many more hours than the contracts specified. While this commonly happens at schools, this school added many more things to our proverbial plates.
As native speaking expats, we were paid higher salaries than other teachers, but the cost of living was too high on Hulhumale to live comfortably. I was really not happy with the places I could afford. Rental prices in Hulhumale were quite high and this was a big problem as the school did not provide accommodation (for now it became even higher and the cost didn’t stop to increase).
Almost everyone who had never been in Maldives think this paradise. So in you case, what do you like/dislike in Maldives?
I wasn’t a fan of Hulhumale (or Male). It was too busy with lots of cars and motorcycles flying around (and very narrow streets). There was constant construction work and swimming wasn’t nice due to the shallow water and rocks.
The alcohol laws were not that concerning, but there were limited things to do. I think I would have been happier on an island like Maafushi which is quieter and seems to have more culture than Hulhumale. I also didn’t like my school and the management there.
The positives are of course the ocean and sea life. It’s a really beautiful place and the water is crystal clear. Scuba diving was especially great there.
As I see you haven’t got a desire to move to Maldives forever, have you?
I thought I would stay longer of course. (more, then 4 months) I don’t think it could have been forever as the salary and conditions were not very reasonable.
Tell me about your usual working day and day off.
I woke up at maybe 6:30 and worked until about 3 on weekdays. I would spend a lot of time marking when I returned home. I would go to the beach, sit, read, and drink coffee. I met friends for drinks on the weekends.
How many islands have you visited during your short staying in Maldives?
I only visited maybe 5 resorts and 2 local islands (Maafushi and Dhigurah) while I was there. I saw most of them during special parties they would host every few weeks (these parties for expats only). It’s very hard to choose the best island, but I went to Bandos the most.
There are quite a lot of expats living in Male and Hulhumale. How many of them do you know?
I had maybe 10-12 expat friends. We would meet on and off. We often went to the resort parties together or got together for a drink at the HIH resort (Hulhumale Island Hotel – the only place where you can drink outside of resorts). There are very few places to meet with friends.
In your opinion, why people should visit Maldives at least once?
I don’t know that you need to 🙂 It’s a beautiful country with great water sports and diving spots. They have many nice resorts that can be nice for a few days. But in the same time cost of this holiday can be extremely high!
And the last question. Can you tell some funny or sad story from your life in Maldives?
>I don’t know that I have a great story to tell. I can say I had a really wonderful time on Maafushi and also Dhigurah Island. The diving was always great. I met some very nice folks there. It was always nice to meet up for dinner or drinks. Maybe my stories would be embarrassing to others involved, so I’ll just hold my tongue. 🙂
Good luck, Kyle with new live in amazing country of Oman!