Are you itching for a change of pace and scenery?
Maybe even feeling bored and uninspired at your current job?
Try flexing your teaching skills on the other side of the world!
The island of Taiwan has everything a potential, travel-obsessed ESL teacher could want.
It’s an excellent way to build your career in education, plus, you’ll embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
When you’re not teaching, take time to explore Taiwan’s beautiful scenery, like Taroko National Park and Dajia Mazu Temple. Shop in the colorful local markets and enjoy some of the best seafood you’ve ever tasted!
The Adventurous Teacher’s Guide to Teaching English in Taiwan
So, thinking about teaching abroad in Taiwan?
Great! The first thing you need to do is determine if the country is the best fit for you. It’s really important to do some research before applying for jobs abroad. That way, you’ll arrive prepared and ready for a change of pace.
In most cases, if you teach in Taiwan, you’ll be contracted for at least a year—so you want to make sure that you make the most of your time in the country.
Here’s a quick rundown. Give it a read and see whether Taiwan’s the right place for you.
Soaking up the Weather
The weather in Taiwan is considered sub-tropical. It’s very humid and hot throughout the year. In the summers, thunderstorms and typhoons are common. In fact, rather than school snow days, you may experience typhoon days where school is canceled.
If you’re the type of person who needs four distinct seasons or simply detests hot, muggy weather, Taiwan may not be for you. On the other hand, if you dig wearing shorts all year and love to frequent the beach, it could be the perfect fit.
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Eating the Food
If you’re a vegetarian, Taiwanese food will make you feel right at home. Due to the large Buddhist population, there are a lot of vegetarian options in shops and restaurants. Rice and soy also make up a large portion of the Taiwanese diet.
Of course, you’ll also be able to find pork and chicken. In recent years, beef has started to gain popularity, but it’s still not a large part of the diet. As an island country, seafood is the other staple in Taiwanese cuisine. If you have specific dietary restrictions, you should research a little more to make sure you’ll be able to find sufficient types of foods.
Understanding the Cost of Living
If you’re coming from North America, the United Kingdom or Australia, the cost of living in Taiwan will be significantly cheaper than your home country. It’s recommended that you arrive pocketing anywhere between $1,500 to $2,000 USD to cover the first couple of months of living. But once you start working, your salary as an ESL teacher should easily cover the cost of renting an apartment, basic utilities and your monthly food supply.
Are you trying to pay down your student debt or save up for future endeavors? If you budget well, it’s likely that you could even save quite a bit of money.
What About Pollution?
In the densely populated urban areas, there can be high levels of air pollution. The most popular form of transportation are scooters, which contribute to pollution. If you have any respiratory problems, it’s probably a good idea to speak with your doctor before making your move to a big city.
How to Find Teaching Jobs in Taiwan
So, you’ve done your research and have decided Taiwan is the place for you. Now, it’s time to start looking for a job. There are several ways to go about getting a teaching job in Taiwan.
Online Job Boards
One of the best places to find jobs in Taiwan are online job boards. Schools and organizations post open positions regularly on boards like:
- Tealit: Tealit is the top Taiwan ESL online job board site. It’s based in Taiwan and features jobs for local schools as well as private language institutions.
- Dave’s ESL Cafe: Dave’s is a great resource. While it’s not specifically for Taiwan, you can peruse the International Job Board for jobs in the country. Just remember to use the international board, not the China board—that’s for Mainland China.
- Go Overseas: Another useful resource, Go Overseas offers an international database of ESL teaching positions that you can search through by selecting which country you’re interested in.
Reach out to People Already There
In Taiwan, it’s not unusual to find ESL jobs by word of mouth. If you happen to know someone who is already in Taiwan or who may have contacts in the country, get in touch with them. Let them know you’re looking for a teaching job and see if they’ve heard of any openings.
Another way to find a job is to just go! Fly to Taiwan and start looking for a job when you arrive. Go in person to the language schools, public and private, and see if they’re hiring. Of course, this can be a little risky, but many schools prefer to hire foreigners who are already in the country.
You can go as a tourist (find out tourist visa requirements here) and once you get hired, get a work sponsored visa and Alien Resident Certificate (ACR).
If you decide to take this route, it’s best to go during the summer, which is considered the peak hiring season in Taiwan. This is the time when schools are primarily looking to hire new teachers. Even so, you should plan for it to take at least a month to find a job once you’re there.
Teaching requirements can vary drastically depending on where in Taiwan you apply and which type of school you apply to. However, there are some basic requirements that apply to all ESL teachers coming from abroad. You’ll need to be a native English speaker, have a four-year university degree (with the exception of Hess International Group, which only requires a two-year associate degree) and a background check/police clearance from your home country. All of this is required for the work visa.
What’s more, some of the higher-paying positions may also require you to have a TEFL certificate or even a master’s degree.
If one of your applications is successful, you’ll likely be asked to interview and give a sample lesson. For this reason, it’s important to have a short demo lesson prepared.
A demo lesson can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on the school conducting the interview. Make sure you pick a lesson and topic you feel comfortable with, and don’t forget to practice your lesson before giving the demonstration.
Tip: Check out our tips on how to ace your ESL demo lesson!
Providing that your demo lesson goes well and you’re hired, you’ll need a work visa. Your new employer will help you obtain this document.
Also, if you really want to impress your potential employers, try teaching a sample lesson using elements of FluentU. This allows you to draw upon a wealth of real-world material from English-speaking countries around the world.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The Different Types of Schools You’ll Encounter
There are three main types of schools in Taiwan for ESL teachers to join. Each school offers a different teaching experience.
Buxibans (Cram Schools)
Buxibans, or cram schools, are basically after-school programs or a form of supplemental education. While there is no one Buxiban like another, they share the same philosophy: fit as many students into the school as possible and cram as much knowledge into their heads. Buxibans aim to make money. They capitalize on the fact that English is a very desirable skill in today’s world and that students need to learn it in order to pass exams for various educational and professional opportunities.
Buxiban teaching positions are the most plentiful in Taiwan, and also happen to provide one of the higher starting salaries. You can expect around $20 USD an hour as a beginning salary. Typically, teachers work between 60 and 100 hours a month. These schools usually hold classes in the afternoon or evenings after regular school hours, as well as the occasional weekend class. The primary qualification for teaching at a Buxiban school is being a native English speaker.
One popular company you might want to consider is HESS. It has offices in Taipei and is one of the most successful Buxiban companies on the island.
Private school English teaching positions for foreigners are harder to find. However, teaching in a private school includes several benefits you won’t find at Buxibans. For example, you’ll be reimbursed for airfare, given medical insurance and you’ll be guaranteed annual vacation leave up to 20 days per school year. A lot of private schools also help teachers find accommodation and may even provide an accommodation allowance
A typical salary for an ESL teacher at a private school can be anywhere between $1,400 to $2,100 USD. The qualifications for teaching at this type of school varies, but in most cases, you’ll be more likely to land a job at a private school if you’re already a licensed teacher in your home country. You should expect a normal teaching load of 20 to 25 hours per week.
If you’d like to learn more, check out this list of popular international schools in Taiwan.
The last option is to work in a public school. As a foreigner, it can be hard to find work at a public school in Taiwan. They don’t often hire native speakers. The public schools have very strict hiring procedures and require you to have a teaching license and teaching experience.
Public school ESL teachers in Taiwan tend to make between $2,000 and $2,400 USD per month and can usually expect a bonus at the end of their contract, which can be biannually or annually, based on their performance. You’ll be given health insurance and at least ten vacation days. In some instances, you may be given a housing allowance and reimbursement for airfare. A typical school week includes roughly 20 to 25 hours a week.
Your Students and the Classroom Experience
It’s hard to say exactly what your teaching experience will be like in Taiwan, but generally, it’s said that Taiwanese students are better behaved and more respectful than Western students. However, this may vary depending on where you teach and with what age group you work with.
In most cases, Taiwanese students will expect some level of fun with their foreign, native-English speaking teachers. Games are not out of the question and are certainly appreciated and anticipated by the students. Of course, lessons that emphasize speaking and cultural differences may be more desirable than strict grammar lessons and book work—which students get from their regular English teachers already.
So, if you’re ready for the adventure of a lifetime, pack your bags and book your ticket to Taiwan. Enjoy a fulfilling job, helping Taiwanese students improve their English skills, while discovering the beauty of the island and saving a little money too.
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