Number one for English language teachers

Mongolia: 'You will be welcomed'

Sender Dovchin educates us about his homeland and promises a fascinating experience for English teachers.

My name is Sender Dovchin and I’m from Mongolia. At the moment I’m in Japan teaching English at a private conversational school in Tokyo. Prior to my arrival in Japan, I used to work as an English lecturer at the National University of Mongolia, the most prestigious state university in Mongolia. I graduated from the National University of Mongolia in the field of English language teaching and translation in 2001 and got an MA degree in TESL in 2002. In 2001 I started my job as an English teacher at National University Mongolia, Department of American and British studies. Anyway, I found this site very useful and informative and wanted to share about English language teaching situation in Mongolia.

A few words about Mongolia

Mongolia, more known as Outer Mongolia, is located in the heart of Central Asia, sandwiched right between two superpowers: China and Russia. It has a population of only 2.4 million people living sparsely over the territory of 1,566,500 sq. km, or equal to half of India.

The Mongols gained fame in the 13th century when under Genghis Khan they conquered a huge Eurasian empire. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and came under Chinese rule. Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing and a Communist regime was installed in 1924. However, in the early 90’s, as a result of the Soviet collapse, the ex-Communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) gradually yielded its monopoly on power to the Democratic Union Coalition and Mongolia has chosen the road of democracy and a free market economy.

Education in Mongolia

During the socialist era, education was heavily subsidized with modern schools and dormitory facilities built in all soum (district) centers. Every child—even those from nomadic families in remote areas—could go to school. With every school having a full staff complement, student-teacher ratios were among the lowest in the world and—although educationally desirable—proved expensive.

With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Mongolia embarked on a painful transition from a planned to a market economy. As a consequence, expenditures on education eroded drastically, with teachers’ salaries having to be cut to minimal levels and textbooks becoming precious. However, the Mongolian government has been trying to overcome all the obstacles in order to set a complete new stage in the field of education.

English language popularity in Mongolia

The Russian language remains the most widely spoken foreign language among elder people, but this is changing as English is gaining much more popularity than Russian among the youth. During the socialist time, the Russian language was taught from a very young age and almost everyone could speak fluent Russian but nowadays the roles of the languages are changing. In other words, English is getting extremely popular and Russian less so. People would rather choose English or maybe other languages including Japanese, German and so on.

English language learners

With 70% of Mongolia’s population under 35 years old, education is the foundation of Mongolia’s future. Reforms, streamlining, and repairs—mixed with ample optimism and dedication—are propelling the English language curriculum toward achieving its goal of education for all.

By school year 1999/2000, enrollment in English language classes had risen to over 90%. Rural areas, however, still lagged behind, with enrollment in two thirds of the districts lower than 80%. Since then, every school including high schools and universities began to teach English and it has become a compulsory subject.

Nowadays, everyone wants to study English however, unlike many nations, Mongolia is challenged with educating its boys, who only account for 40% of enrollment in upper secondary education. At higher education level, female students outnumber their male counterparts by over two to one. Therefore, if you visit English language schools in Mongolia, there are classes full of girls and only few boys. Boys usually study at technical universities and they don’t really see English as their future career.

Mongolian students are very talented and enthusiastic about learning English, so it is easy to work with eager and self–motivated students. Generally, the written and reading skills of the students are pretty good because they write essays, do written exercises and read texts, however, because of the lack of native speaking teachers their speaking and listening skills leave room for improvement.

English instructors in Mongolia

During the painful process of economic transition in 90’s, there were only a few English instructors some of whom used to be Russian language instructors. These teachers were well aware of the importance of training themselves and improving their skills and English ability. Therefore, they often attended English language teacher training funded by several foundations and institutions which offered native speakers who had degrees in TESL. This training and other projects have boosted teachers' abilities as well as confidence. These days the teachers are motivated and capable and that helps the learners stay in school.

Thankfully, native speakers who come to Mongolia as volunteers have made a difference in teachers and learners. The number of English native speakers coming to Mongolia has increased dramatically since 1990 as Mongolia opened itself to the world and some of them even began to live in Mongolia to teach English despite the cold climate – the most challenging aspect of the country - and the low salary. English teachers in Mongolia can expect to receive up to $90 per month in rural areas and $100 in major cities. This figure puts Mongolia well ahead of other former socialist countries in the region such as Tajikistan, where teachers’ salaries are just $5 a month.

Final words

If you would like to teach English in Mongolia, you will be welcomed by friendly and hospitable people of the eternal blue dome hanging over an endless steppes who closely intertwined with the nature and unique nomadic culture. In this country, everyone knows the urgent need to master the global language which is why English teachers are also needed in language institutes, fashion design schools, business and technical schools. Most of your students here would have a strong grasp of the language giving you the chance for a fascinating experience.

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