‘Teaching in France is a great foot in the door’

Curious about living in France, but unsure about your career path? Not an EU citizen, and need a back door into the country? Working as a English teaching assistant in the TAPIF programme might be just what you need.

'Teaching in France is a great foot in the door'
Amina Benman

For this instalment of our weekly My French Career series, we spoke to Amina Benman, from Indiana, USA. After graduating from an American university, she enrolled in a little-known teaching assistant programme run by France’s ministry of education, loved it, and now plans to stay in France to study linguistics and work here.

How did you end up teaching in France in the first place?

“Well I studied French and English in New York, but studied abroad in Lille, in 2010. While I was there I heard about the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) from an American friend who was doing it then.

“After I graduated I just wanted to do something combining French and English. and I really wanted to return to France, so I applied to TAPIF and I got accepted.”

What is TAPIF?

TAPIF is a programme run by the French ministry for education that gives foreigners a temporary visa to work as English teaching assistants in schools around France and in the French overseas territories, for the duration of a normal school year.

What did you do in the programme?

“I worked in two secondary schools in Bischwiller, near Strasbourg. You can get placed in a primary school, but most of the time it’s a secondary school. I developed my own lesson plans for the students, and taught them English, especially through talking about American culture, holidays or special traditions,” says Benman.

“I also worked alongside a teacher, as well as with small groups of students who were preparing to take the Bac [France’s national exams at the end of secondary school and before university]. It was all very manageable,” she adds.

What are the requirements?

Firstly, you have to be citizen of the country you’re applying through.

Benman applied through the French embassy in the US, but the visa is also available to citizens of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas, according to France’s International Centre for Pedagogical Studies.

Secondly, you must be between 20 and 30 years of age, although that upper limit is 35 in certain countries, including the United States.

Thirdly, you must have what’s known as a B1 level of French. “That’s basically one or two years of French. It means you can go into a store and order what you want. I had friends who were not studying French, and they were fine,” says Benman.

For any other requirements, which can vary by country, consult this website.

How do you apply?

From her experience of the American path into TAPIF, Benman says the process involves a general application – university grades, a CV, and a short essay explaining why you want to come to France.

A recommendation from a college professor is also required – “preferably a French professor, but it can be anyone,” says Benman.

To prove you have a B1 aptitude for the French language, you must take a test at your local Alliance Française, or get a letter from a French professor verifying your language skills.

Applicants don’t have the final say over where they live and work, but according to Benman, “You choose three regions that interest you, and they place you in one of those three.”

The whole thing should take about two months, says Benman. “The application deadline is the end of January, and I got accepted in April. In July, you get assigned to your school and receive your work contract. Once you have that you can apply for your visa.”

To find out the latest job vacancies in France CLICK HERE.

What are the benefits of the programme?

Firstly, “It’s a great foot in the door for someone who’s thinking about moving to France, or just wants to experience living in France for a year,” says Benman.

This is especially true for non-EU citizens, who can often have difficulty finding a work visa, but are no longer at liberty to study in France.

Secondly, it gives you the chance to network, meet people, and apply for jobs or further education in France for when you come out of the program in April.

And if you do go on to work or study afterwards, having a temporary visa means you don’t have to go back to your home country and re-apply. “It definitely makes the visa process a whole lot smoother,” says Benman.

Thirdly, being a teaching assistant gives you a lot of free time.  “You only work about 12-15 hours a week, so it’s a great way to be able to go out, explore your career options and decide your next move without a lot of pressure,” says Benman.

Get the latest exchange rates and transfer money on The Local’s Currency page.

What about some disadvantages?

The money isn’t particularly great, and it’s a fixed stipend. Only working 12 hours every week does give you plenty of spare time, but in Benman’s case, the €750 she received through the programme every month was just enough to survive on.

“It’s a good student budget, but I definitely brought some savings with me, which you would need if you want to do some travelling. It’s not going into the workplace, and it’s not earning a salary,” she says.

Secondly, applicants don’t have control over where they are placed. Although Benman notes that many do get to live and work in their first or second choices, many are also assigned to small rural villages, and face either living there or commuting to school from nearby cities.

So if you’re heart is set on living in Paris, and Paris only, consider the risk involved in TAPIF.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘It’s easy to start a business in France’

France has a reputation as being a hostile place to start a new business, but a report this week by Ernst & Young appears to explode that as a myth. For this week's JobTalk, one Paris-based expert tells us why France is far from the worst choice for getting a business off the ground.

'It's easy to start a business in France'
Tied up in red tape? Not according to a new Ernst & Young report, which found France led the world by some measures, in how easy it is to start a business. Photo: Dept for Communities & Local Govt.

Between taxes, financing and the dreaded red tape, it has long been said that France is simply not the place the start a new business.

However, a report this week by Ernst & Young consultants found that in some ways, France actually leads the world in making it simple and efficient for entrepreneurs to get a venture off the ground.

For example, France ranks above all other G20 countries for how its education and training systems contribute to business.

To get some expert analysis, The Local spoke to Liam Boogar, the Paris-based American co-founder of Rude Baguette, a blog on French start-ups.

'No better time than now to start a business'

Liam Boogar. Photo courtesy of Rude Baguette

“The idea of France being this place where it’s just impossible to start a business is definitely exaggerated,” says Boogar.

“I’m an immigrant, and I run a company in France.”

“Yes, certain things are inconvenient, but if you can’t get over bureaucracy, then maybe you weren’t meant to start a business,” he adds.

“Anyone who finds paperwork insurmountable definitely wouldn’t be able to handle the truly difficult aspects of running their own business, and they would probably fail to start one anywhere in the world.”

“No government in the history of the world has ever been 100 percent pro-business. And no business will ever tell you that they succeeded because of the government,” says Boogar.

“So if you’re waiting for the climate to change in some way that makes starting a business easy, and completely problem-free, forget it. There’s never going to be a better time than right now.”

Simpler and quicker to start a business in France

Besides, Boogar says, it’s actually far easier to start up a business in France than you might think, and in some ways, the French lead the way for simplicity and efficiency.

“First, France is phenomenal and above par for making interactions with the state digital, and bringing administration online,” says Boogar.

“It takes 15 minutes to do your taxes online in France, and as well as that, it’s free, unlike in the US, where you have to pay a private company like Turbo Tax.”

This is borne out by the Ernst & Young report, which found that there are just five administrative steps needed to start a business in France, as opposed to an average of 7.6 among the G20 countries.

Furthermore, it takes an average of just seven days to start up in France, as opposed to 22 days in the G20 on average. The financial cost, as a percentage of income per person, is ten times higher in the G20 than it is in France.

Both the report and Boogar point to France’s CIR (Research Tax Credit) as a major boon to research and development.

Since being launched in 2004, the CIR has “generated total tax savings for businesses of more than €5 billion” by “allowing a 30 percent deduction on the first €100 million of R & D expenditure,” according to Ernst & Young.

For smaller businesses, however, trying to get off the ground, the costs can be heavy.

Indeed, Ernst & Young rank France 16th out of 20 when it comes to ‘Access to Funding,’ with the United States ranked first.

Boogar, though, points to recently announced changes to banking policies in France.

“It used to be the case that if you had a previous business that failed, banks would place a black mark against you when it comes to future lending. But now that’s changing,” he says.

'If you try to limit failure, you end up limiting success'

That “embrace of failure”, as Boogar calls it, is all part of a country’s ‘Entrepreneurship Culture,’ to use Ernst & Young’s label.

On that measure, France ranks in ninth place among the G20 and, new financing policies aside, it’s an area Boogar admits the French need improvement in.

“First of all, ‘entrepreneurship culture’ doesn’t mean absolutely everyone is encouraged to start a business,” he says.

“If everyone in the population owned a business, there’d be no employees, and obviously that wouldn’t work.”

“But to me, entrepreneurship culture means the extent to which a country promotes or accepts risk and failure, and we have learned, time and time again, that if you try to limit failure, your end up limiting success.”

“Being allowed and encouraged to take risks is key to starting a business, and having a good climate for entrepreneurship,” he concludes.

Liam Boogar is Cofounder, CEO & Editor of the Rude Baguette, France's start-up blog.

Don't miss stories like this – join The Local France on Facebook and Twitter.