Teach English in Spain:
BEDA Language Assistants
How did you manage to move to Spain? Man, oh man, if I had a centimo for every time someone asked me that one!
The truth is, these days learning English is all the rage in sunny Spain, and between the many English teaching programs out there, almost anyone can find a way in.
After nearly six years of living in Spain, I finally became a resident with the right to work (yuppie!!), but before that I spent four years working as an English Language Assistant with BEDA in the Canary Islands (Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). Most of my experiences were positive and I’d absolutely recommend this program for those looking to live it up in Spain for a year (or four!).
In this post you can find an overview about what it’s like working for BEDA, and here you can find my overview of the main Language Assistant (auxiliar de conversación) program in Spain.
If you already know the BEDA basics, but want to hear about
my first hand experience, skip to the end where I dish on the
pros and cons of my life as a BEDA auxiliar de conversacón.
BEDA Basics: What is the
BEDA Language Assistant Program?
BEDA stands for Bilingual English Development & Assessment. BEDA is a branch of Escuelas Catolicas de Madrid (ECM) and aims to improve English language learning within private and concertado (semi-private) Catholic schools in Spain.
A major part of this strategy is the BEDA Language Assistant program, which supplies these schools with native English-speaking teaching assistants to help improve fluency, pronunciation and conversation skills. That´s where you come in!
BEDA Language Assistants
The role of a Language Assistant can vary quite a bit from school to school, but generally the assistant is responsible for assisting in English classes or in other subjects that are taught in English at bilingual schools. As a BEDA Language Assistant, you will be expected to plan engaging classroom activities and to encourage students to speak and participate in English.
Generally speaking, most BEDA language assistants are in their twenties or early thirties, but there are definitely some who are older, and some who come to Spain with their children and/or partners. At this time, there is no maximum age limit to apply for BEDA.
There are over 500 BEDA Language Assistants in about 365 schools; 300 of which are located in Madrid. You select your regional preferences when you apply, but ultimately the decision is up to the powers that be(DA). Since the vast majority of placements are in Madrid, you’re probably in luck if that’s your first choice.
Working with BEDA: What You Get
BEDA Monthly Stipend 💶
BEDA Assistants are assigned 18 – 24 hours per week and earn a monthly stipend which breaks down to about €12.15/hour gross pay. Social Security is taken out monthly, which gives BEDA Assistants access to the Spanish public healthcare system. You get virtually all of this money back when filing Spanish taxes in the spring.
The stipend is more or less enough to live off, but how much bang you get for your buck will depend a lot on where you’re placed, how many hours a week you’re assigned, and of course your personal spending style.
Most Language Assistants supplement their income with private tutoring, but you can probably squeeze by on the 20-24 hour-a-week stipend if you budget well (especially if you´re outside of Madrid). The first couple of months tend to be toughest (moving costs, new apartment, etc), but things start to balance out by December.
Is the BEDA monthly grant reliable?
Unlike the government program (usually referred to as auxiliares de conversación or Ministry program), payment with BEDA is always reliable and direct deposited into your Spanish bank account within the first 5 days of the following month.
In September and June you work 15 days, so the payment is about half that of a regular month.
Private & Public Health Coverage
Health Care: BEDA provides private health insurance through Adeslas (company subject to change), and unlike in the government program, we’re also eligible for seguridad social (public social security). Adeslas is a well known insurance provider and I was always pleased with my care.
Social Security: BEDA Language Assistants pay into the Spanish Social Security system, which is awesome for 3 reasons:
- We have access to public health care (in addition to private health insurance), meaning that we’re fully covered both at public and private hospitals.
- We get virtually all this money back when we file our Spanish taxes in spring.
- For those that may wish to find a more permanent situation in Spain later on, having a Social Security number is a step in the right direction.
BEDA Orientation & Support
BEDA provides a lot of support to help you get started when you arrive to Spain, which is totally in contrast to the government program where you’re left to fend for yourself.
- At the orientation in September, BEDA helps you fill out the immigration paperwork for the NIE and TIE and even make the appointment and accompany you to submit it at the immigration office
- They help you to open a Spanish bank account
- They’re actually there. Compared to the government program (which responds to about 25% of emails about once a month) the good folks at BEDA usually respond within a day or two. No matter how confident you are coming over, it never hurts to have someone in your corner in case you need it!
A Visa to Live in Spain
Once you are accepted to the BEDA Language Assistant program, they will provide you with documents to apply for a visa to live in Spain. Because of the academic portion of the BEDA Program (through Comillas University), you are legally considered a student doing practicas (an internship) at the school to which you are assigned.
Before arriving to Spain, you will need to apply at your nearest Spanish consulate for a student visa for the right to live and teach in Spain for the duration of the school year. You will later need to complete the visa process once you arrive in Spain.
Working with BEDA: What You Give
BEDA School Days
BEDA works with semi-private Catholic schools (concertados), meaning that they receive some funding from the government and some from tuition.
A typical day will vary from school to school, but in general most have classes from 8-1, a long lunch break, and more classes from 3-5. Since you´ll be spread out amongst a varied group of students and classes, you’ll likely be there a lot of that time.
As far as your roles and responsibilities will go, it’s pretty much up in the air. Some schools look after you, team teach and collaborate on lesson plans, while others give ya a wink and a nod and send you out into the hungry lion’s den classroom on your own. During my four years with BEDA, two of my schools were amazing and one was the absolute epitome of taking advantage of cheap immigrant (me) labor. More on that below.
Universidad de Comillas
Comillas Courses: Within Madrid
BEDA Assistants working within Madrid are required to attend weekly courses at Comillas University, which are typically held on Fridays with an occasional Saturday thrown in to mess up your weekend.
The classes are meant to be directly applicable to the classroom and cover topics such as lesson planning, classroom management, teaching methodology, etc. You’re also required to take Spanish classes unless you test out of them by proving you have a B1 level.
I never had to do these courses as I was placed outside of Madrid in the Canary Islands, but the general consensus I’ve heard through the grapevine is that while they’re a drag to go to, they’re reasonably helpful for newer teachers and a great place to meet new people.
Comillas Courses: Outside of Madrid
Assistants working outside of Madrid aren’t required to attend these courses (woohoo!), which was a big draw for me to ditch the capital and explore the islands instead. Auxiliares outside of Madrid are given access to a separate online course and are simply required to complete the online modules and travel to Madrid for a weekend in April to take two Cambridge Teaching exams each year they’re with the program. While a drag at the time, the certifications I earned during my four years with BEDA definitely helped my Spanish CV and my application for residency.
The Good, The Bad & My Two Cents
Having worked with both the government program (Ministry of Education) and BEDA, my pros and cons all come from a comparative standpoint.
- BEDA Assistants are always paid on time (within the first 5 days of the following month)
- Earning €1165/month outside of Madrid vs. €700 (government program stipend ourside of Madrid) makes a massive difference
- Adeslas health coverage is great and we have access to public health services, meaning you’re covered virtually no matter what
- BEDA offers hands on support to help with the bureaucracy of living abroad
- The courses at Comillas University may a drag, but it´s great for resume/CV building for those who wish to remain in Spain long-term, or to pursue a career in teaching
- Some LA’s will have the opportunity to train as Cambridge Speaking examiners, a resume builder and an opportunity to make some extra cash
- You get a visa to live in SPAIN for a year!
- The hourly rate is less than that of the government program, who pay €1000 for 16 hours in Madrid and €700 for 12 hours outside of Madrid (about €15/hour)
- Unlike the dreamy 3 day weekends of government program auxiliares, we BEDA suckas almost always work five days a week and often have both morning and afternoon classes
- While no doubt useful, the weekend classes put a damper on livin’ it up for a year in Spain
- If you plan to pursue a career in teaching, BEDA gives you realistic experience leading lessons and managing the classroom
- Paying a $175 ¨deposit¨ to hold space for a job seems pretty crappy & counter-intuitive, but it´s actually an enrollment fee for the academic component of the BEDA Program through Universidad Pontificia Comillas. Think of it as getting a post-grad degree for a couple hundred bucks. Click here for more information about how to pay the deposit and what this money covers.
My Two Cents
All in all, I enjoyed my experience working with BEDA in the Canary Islands. Since cost of living is cheaper here than Madrid, the monthly stipend goes a bit further. I supplemented my income with a few private classes (2-5 hours a week) and some freelance gigs to support my wanderlust, but if I was more of a homebody I could have got by without.
Over four years, I’ve worked with 3 BEDA schools, one of which was amazing in every possible way, one of which I enjoyed a lot and made some lifelong friends at, and one of which completely takes advantage of the Language Assistant program, using it as a way to score cheap English teachers and pushing way more responsibilities than are outlined in our contract. Point being, the schools can be hit or miss, but as far as I can tell the majority are above par.
I’m definitely in the minority working outside of Madrid, so it’s also worth adding…
BEDA Language Assistants:
Madrid vs. Other Parts of Spain
Unless you have your heart set on Madrid, BEDA gives you more bang for your buck in other communities. Here’s why:
- Unlike the government program which pays only €700 outside of Madrid, BEDA wages are determined by hours worked, not by where you live. €1200 a month goes a lot further outside of Madrid than within the capital
- Language Assistants placed outside of the Comunidad de Madrid don’t have to attend weekend classes. I’m a lifelong learner, but I had zero desire to spend my Friday afternoons in a classroom after a long week of teaching!
- Living outside Madrid adds an extra level of independence and immersion. Having lived in Madrid, I know how easy it can be to fall into the trap of making easy expat friends as opposed to truly immersing yourself in your new home. Without the convenience of a million other auxiliares and Erasmus students, you’re forced to get out of your comfort zone and get in with the locals.
Ready to apply for the BEDA Program?
BEDA placements are more competitive than the government Language Assistant program and not everyone gets a spot. To be a successful candidate, shine up you CV (resume) and be sure to boast any experience you have related to teaching and working with children.
BEDA Language Assistant Applications
for the 2020/2021 school year will be open from
November 30, 2019 – January 31, 2020.
BEDA Language Assistant Requirements
To apply as a BEDA Language Assistant, you have to be over 20, have completed university and be a native English speaker. For your visa, you´ll also need to provide a clean background check and bill of health.
BEDA Bonus Points (but not necessarily required)
When submitting your application and resumé, remember to emphasize any skills or relevant experience. Did you study English, Spanish or Education? Do you have a TEFL or TESOL? Have you worked in a classroom, as a coach or in summer camps? Have you ever studied abroad or travelled long-term? All of these extras will work wonders for your CV.
BEDA Language Assistant Application Process
1. Submit your CV and application by the deadline.
2. Successful applicants will receive an email inviting them for a Skype interview (in English). It should last 5-15 minutes and isn’t something to stress over. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to highlight your relevant experience, express why you want to work in Spain, and to confirm your location and age group preferences.
3. Accept the position. Those accepted will be notified by email in late March or early April and given a week to make a $175 wire transfer to hold their space. Once you’re in, you’re in!
Questions About BEDA?
If you have any other questions about my BEDA experience, let me know in the comments below! You can also take a look at this link for general information about what the BEDA program entails, and here you can find BEDA’s FAQs.
Still Considering Your Options?
And don’t forget to like and follow, as I’m compiling tons of information & resources about the various options to teach English in Spain. Make your Spain dreams a reality! 😉🇪🇸💃
Hasta luego, Erica 💙
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