It's no longer a secret that Taiwan offers some of the best opportunities to teach English in Asia. Many choose Taiwan for its low cost of living and availability of high paying jobs (that's a win win!). Living in Taiwan is also a great opportunity to study Chinese while immersing yourself in Taiwan's unique combination of urban progression and traditional Chinese culture. Many teachers who have also taught in South Korea or China all agree that Taiwan offers the best standard of living for English teachers in Asia.
Almost all new English teachers in Taiwan start at private cram schools known locally as buxibans. Students aged between 4 to 15 come to these schools after normal school hours just to learn English. The largest of these buxibans include Hess, Shane, Joy English, Kid Castle, Kojen, and Sesame Street English. Hundreds of other small schools exist throughout the country so it is very important to research and compare schools to separate the good from the bad.
At any of the aforementioned buxibans a standard curriculum is already established and ready for new teachers. For the most part the materials are entertaining and well grounded in teaching the kind of English Taiwanese can relate to. There is a strong emphasis on brute force spelling and memorization with less regard given to reading and understanding. This is reinforced by educational values that emphasize quick results rather than genuine learning. For example, you might find some students who will memorize a book instead of actually learning how to read it.
With your curriculum already set teachers are primarily tasked with encouraging proper pronunciation and classroom engagement. To this end, many schools enforce a strict "English only" learning environment, which means even if you know Chinese, you can't use it in the classroom. You'll also be expected to play a lot of games to keep students engaged and reinforce the association between learning English and "fun." Remember, these are private schools where making money sometimes comes before effective teaching methods.
Most new teachers in Taiwan start out at $600NT per teaching hour. A standard work week is 25 hours of class time + additional preparation. This equates to a monthly salary of $60,000NT (roughly $2000 USD). This is easily enough to live comfortably in Taiwan and save money. If you have taken a TEFL course, or have prior teaching experience, you are eligible to demand a higher base salary.
With a little hard work and determination, a career teaching English in Taiwan can be very lucrative. Teachers who stay in Taiwan and gain experience often transfer to more selective buxibans, earning up to $150,000NT / month. Some even go on to open their own schools!
For a long time the only requirements to teach English in Taiwan were that you were white and showed up to the interview. While this is no longer quite the case, many job opportunities still exist for teachers with limited qualifications. The standard requirements are:
- Native English speaker
- Bachelor's degree in any discipline
- A criminal background check
- Be able to sign a one year contract
- Be physically and mentally healthy
- Be at least 20 years of age or older
Do you need a TEFL Certificate?
The short answer is no, particularly if you're looking for a job at a buxiban. However, some schools do require some form of TEFL and those that do tend to offer a better working experience. A TEFL also allows you to demand a higher salary, which will usually offset the cost of the course itself within a year. Year two and that's all profit. Learn more in our guide to TEFL certification.
As you'll quickly discover, there are many recruiters in Taiwan that specialize in placing English teaching jobs. There are many forum posts debating the pros and cons of recruiters, but overall we believe that most do offer quality services that make the transition to Taiwan easier.
The need for recruiters stem from the problems caused by the large number of teachers who break their contracts. Not all teachers make the necessary adjustments to living abroad and decide to return home early with little regard for the students they leave behind. Some schools have turned to recruiters for a better applicant pool and higher retention rates.
Reasons to work with a recruiter:
- Most are operated by foreigners themselves who have already taught in Taiwan and thus in a better position to relate to your specific needs.
- It's free for you! Recruiters charge the schools for their services.
- The larger recruiters offer a great support network when you first arrive in Taiwan.
- In order to be successful, a recruiter must only work with quality schools who keep their teachers happy.
When working with a recruiter doesn't work:
- You're already in Taiwan. Most recruiters work on a 2-3 month schedule which makes finding work on short-notice difficult.
- Some of the best buxibans in Taiwan require personal interviews and prior experience teaching in Taiwan.
- Some recruiters will stop working with you if they learn you're also working with another recruiter. Admittedly this is a smart thing to do, but keep this to yourself as long as possible.
- You like the challenge of going it alone.
Where to Teach
The majority of teaching opportunities in Taiwan exist in the capital of Taipei. This is a large cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer in terms of quality of life, and is generally the destination of choice for most new teachers. Other large cities in Taiwan include Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Hualien, which all fit the bill if you're looking for an immersive environment that encourages more language and cultural experiences.
Contributed by Andrew Dunkle
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