Monday, July 8, 2013

So you wanna teach in Asia?

I left Scotland in 2010 to teach English in South Korea. My original plan was to stay only for a year, but 3 years later, I'm still going strong. I'm not a veteran by any means. I know westerners who have been here for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, etc. I also know a few who just drift between countries in Asia on a yearly basis, living the life, so to speak. My experience pales in comparison to theirs, but still I wish to add my views regardless, in the hope that it might help someone out.

Now, there are a huuuuuge number of options out here for budding English teachers. I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail, but I will reveal the fruits of my investigations from the past.

The first option is of course my choice: The Republic of Korea.
It's not that difficult to land a teaching job out here in Korea. Most people can get away with just a  BA in Harry Potter studies. The BA part is important, the rest...less so. Still the degree doesn't reflect the qualities of the potential teacher. I know many people with just a BA in something who are wonderful people and really devoted teachers. It IS possible in theory to land a gig here with an Associates degree, provided you go through the government  sponsored TaLK programme, but you are more likely to loose out to people who are still in their studies(as the programme is all about catering to that specific demographic!)

Provided you do actually want to teach in Korea, there are two avenues you can go down. Public and Private. Public is the safe option, you work at government funded schools along side Korean teachers. A word of warning though. Many of these positions are being slowly phased out. Getting jobs in the cities these days is becoming more and more difficult. Still, it should be easy enough if you don't mind living out in the middle of nowhere.

The other option is that you go Private. Private jobs at Hagwons (private academies) are numerous but quality can be extremely variable. Some are amazing, some are terrible. Its a crapshoot, but as long as you do your research and ask questions you should* be OK.

*Disclaimer: I bear no responsibility for any shitstorm that occurs should you happen to sign a contract with a nasty evil hagwon (they do exist sadly)

For teaching in Korea I suggest that you look at the following websites:

Esl cafe does have a very lively job board that is packed with positions. Both websites have forums that have many helpful topics. ESL cafe was a huge help for me when I took my first steps on the path to working here. I actually found my very first job in Uiryeong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do though that website.

If you do decide to teach in Korea, there are many hoops that you have to jump through, but they will become apparent as soon as you begin to look into it

The second option is The Republic of China (Taiwan)
Before I came to Korea, my original plan actually was to work in Taiwan. As a result, I did quite a bit of research on this topic. I learned that Jobs in Taiwan come in 3 tiers depending on your qualification

Associates Degree + TESOL certificate
Bachelors Degree
Bachelors Degree + Teaching Certificate from your home country

If you have an Associates degree, you can get a job at a private academy (much like the Korean Hagwon), but you will get paid much less than you would if you had a BA. No biggie though right? Work is work.
If you have a Bachelors degree, then you can work the same jobs, but you should get paid more.
Now, if you happen to have the lucky holy grail that is a Teaching Certificate, then you can teach at public schools in Taiwan. Congratulations, you lucky boy/girl!

I'm not an expert on this by any means, I haven't worked in Taiwan, only researched it so I'm not sure what hoops one has to jump though these days to teach there. You can find out more information at the ESL cafe international job forums.

A better resource though would be to look at Forumosa, the website for the western expat community in Taiwan
Compared to ESL cafe, that place is an absolute treasure trove of information.

Website I remember from the past: A standard English private school chain (They also have opportunities for Native French Speakers

A recruiter for public schools in Taiwan (They have privates on their website too, but you will find public jobs here)

From what I heard, pay is similar to that of Korea, but unlike in Korea, you will have to pay for your own flights and accommodation.

Another popular option these days is the Peoples Republic of China
Admittedly I haven't done a great deal of research on this topic, only a brief few days of investigating. I do remember quite clearly though there are two big kinds of jobs in China. Universities and Private schools.
At Universities, your pay will be low, but you will get lots of vacation, short work hours and the cool title of professor. All this can be yours with just a BA degree.
Privates from what I understand are fairly similar to what you can expect in the rest of Asia. Again I am no expert on this, and would love for someone to correct me if I am wrong.

Again, ESL cafe might be your friend if you want to work in China. Use the International job forum for advice, and the China job board to find jobs.

Another website I remember that had many University positions back in 2010

There are a huge amount of recruiters these days for jobs in China, so finding one shouldn't be too hard, Just remember the golden rule for working abroad. ASK QUESTIONS and READ THE CONTRACT before you sign anything :P

Of course, there is the granddaddy of all the ESL gigs, teaching in Japan
The only research I have done on this topic that is still relevant is with regards to the JET programme. A bunch of private schools I researched back in 2010 have all collapsed now. For the JET programme, I believe they have a once yearly intake. Its a long process from what I gather, and has many steps, but if you pass each stage,  you will get assigned a public school in Japan. There is also another programme called INTERAC which I don't know a great deal about, but apparently it places you at public schools too (though I have heard terrible reviews about it, but it depends on the person I guess)

Now, if you happen to be British, you can get a working holiday Visa and work a few short term, part time jobs in Japan(if I recall correctly), which means you can bypass the larger programmes. You might want to look at the following website for jobs and advice:

Finally, there are options available in Thailand and Vietnam too, but I haven't done any research on those options at all, so would feel deeply uncomfortable giving any suggestions. If you want to work there, I suggest you ask about those countries on the ESL cafe.

Anyway, I hope this post is of use to anyone who is thinking about teaching abroad, but doesn't really have the faintest clue about where to look. Enjoy!


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