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Taipei is a high-tech, world-class city, filled with modern conveniences. This city is home to now the second-tallest building in the world, Taipei 101; in contrast, there is the gorgeous Yangmingshan Mountain, a dormant volcano where the wonderful Beitou Hot Springs originate. Yet it also boosts bustling night markets, tranquil temples, and exotic food. Locals and foreigners can be seen practicing tai chi together. Tea houses are great, relaxing places to sit and have a soothing cup of tea. There are plenty of experiences for the native English teacher to sample. Not only is there a vibrant city life with shopping, bars, and clubs, but one can sample the natural beauty surrounding Taipei with hiking and soaking in the hot springs just outside the city limits. The people in Taiwan are extraordinarily friendly, who prove as the the true stars of the abroad experience in Taipei.
As a booming capital city, there are plenty of opportunities for English teachers. After all, two of the most-spoken languages in the world, English and Mandarin Chinese, come into contact with each other in Taipei quite often. Do you want to teach kids? How about university students? Or maybe you would like to teach adults in the corporate world? There are plenty of jobs available in Taipei. Be advised: competition can be very fierce, and qualifications vary from school to school. Some places require their employees to have teaching certification from their own states and countries, as well as TEFL qualifications. However, with proper planning and good research, English teachers can find great teaching jobs and have wonderful experiences in Taipei.
Taipei has a variety of teaching jobs, from public schools, to cram schools called buxibans, and business English language schools. What follows is by no means a definitive list, but prospective teachers to Taipei can use it as a starting point for their wonderful adventures!
This is by far the most common option for English teachers, particularly if it is their first time teaching. Children attend their regular schools until about 4 PM, and then go on to a variety of special schools, which concentrate on certain subjects, such as English, math, or test prep. Classes last until sometimes as late as 9:30 PM. Also, these schools tend to hire teachers year-round and ask for varying teacher qualifications, with most schools asking for at least a bachelor's degree. Some schools prefer TEFL/CELTA certification, and even state teacher licenses. It is important for applicants to do their research.
Teachers can expect to work in buxibans in the afternoons and evenings. Their students are commonly elementary-aged children (ages 7-12) and sometimes middle-school students (ages 13-15). Keep in mind that some buxibans may pay only hourly wages. Buxibans are either little mom-and-pop ventures, or they can be huge chains with branches throughout the whole island. Two of the biggest chains are Hess, which is now branching out into Korea and Singapore, and Kojen.
For teachers that possess state licensure, there are opportunities to work in international schools. These schools follow American curriculum and school terms. Students are elementary to senior high school-aged, and are generally expatriates themselves. Hours are a regular five-day week, with classes spanning from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM. The pay is generally adequate to give you a comfortable lifestyle, and there is a good mixture of native English speakers and English-speaking locals.
International schools tend to hire through job fairs during the year, such as those offered by International School Services. They also advertise on their websites and other services. These are professional teaching positions, in which grading papers, attending meetings, and planning lessons are all part of what's expected (thus, these are jobs that go beyond teaching English). However, for a certified teacher looking for a change of scenery, working in an international school can be a great career move, with opportunities worldwide.
These are the schools attended by local Taiwanese, administered by Taiwan's Ministry of Education. Some of the private schools are boarding schools, which often offer housing for their teachers in dormitory-style apartments.
The English teacher is usually the only foreign teacher in the school, and there is a large variance of English fluency among staff and students. Also, class sizes tend to range from 20 students up to over 40 students. The curriculum for learning English is very basic, which leaves a lot of room for the English teacher to put their own stamp on lessons. Hours are generally from 8:30-5:00, and pay can be from about $2000 to $3000 USD a month. Hiring times vary, but generally are around the end of semesters. Public and private students do prefer their ESL teachers to be certified from their home states or countries, or with a TEFL/CELTA certification.
There is a market for teaching adults and university students in Taipei. Electrical engineering, Internet technology, sales and marketing, and science are some of the biggest industries in Taipei, all of which are businesses that require some level of ability in English. Some students want to pursue graduate degrees abroad and need passing scores on tests like the TOEFL and TOEIC. This is by far the most difficult market to break into; the positions are not always advertised clearly. However, databases like Tealit advertise positions with language schools that cater to adults, as well as positions teaching university. Even some of the buxibans like Hess and Kojen have classes for adults that need native English speakers.
Some native English speakers are asked to teach kindergarten and preschool classes. Be warned: unless you have a special license and visa, teaching children younger than age 6 is illegal. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Some teachers also supplement their income as private tutors, where they can make as much as $50 USD an hour, cash up front. However, pay attention to the school's contract, as some schools write a clause not allowing their teachers to perform work outside school hours, as they view it as competition or distraction from teaching.
Most schools in Taipei do hire year-round, especially at the buxibans. Public and private schools tend to hire around semesters, so look around January and February, or in July and August. If a teacher is interested in working in universities, look around the end of semesters, such as around December and January, or May and June. Some Taipei schools prefer to interview their candidates in Taipei, but Skype interviews are becoming more common. It is also easy to look for jobs online through sites like Tealit, which also provides information about language classes, apartment classifieds, and roommate searches. Forumosa has been around for a long time, where newcomers and long-time residents of Taiwan can talk about jobs, legal issues, and activities.
English teachers should have a bachelor's degree. As competition increases, public and private schools would like their teachers to have credentials from their home state or country. Some university positions want their teachers to have at least a Master's degree in TESOL or linguistics. It is a good idea to get a TEFL/CELTA certification, and some schools want their teachers to have at least 120 hours of training.
Each month, an English teacher can expect to make anywhere from $1600 to $2700 USD, but of course even that can vary. Some schools, especially buxibans, offer hourly wages, so pay attention to that before signing a contract. Remember Taipei is a large, capital city, so things tend to be a little more expensive here than outside the city. However, money can go far here, and it is possible to live comfortably on the money a teacher makes, and still have a good time.
Some schools include housing as a benefit, whether in an apartment or a dormitory with other teachers. Other schools provide a housing stipend, which allows the teachers to find their own place. Like in any city, apartments in Taipei run the gamut from tiny studios to three bedroom houses, and everything in between. There are housing and real estate agents available; for such visits, you may want to bring a trusted Taiwanese friend with you. Also, some schools do provide assistance with apartment hunting. If you are going at it alone, it's advisable to check sites such as Tealit, which include ads for apartments and for roommates.
Some expats seem to favor the Tianmu area, which is where most of the international schools are located. Tianmu is also home to many foreign embassies, Western-style buildings, and food from all over the world. Tianmu is nestled in the Shilin District, which is home to the famous Shilin Night Market, and close to Yangmingshin Mountain and the Beitou District. Another attractive area, even though it's expensive, is the Da'an District, where several of Taiwan's famous universities are located, such as National Taiwan University, and the beautiful "Central Park of Taipei," Da'an Forest Park.
It comes down to what kind of lifestyle a teacher leads. If a teacher eats out a lot, Taiwanese food is cheap and delicious! If one is open enough to looking, a meal can be found in a small restaurant or at a night market for as low as $1 USD. Of course, there are plenty of Western restaurants in Taipei. In general, a meal in Taipei could cost as little as $8 USD. In terms of apartments, it depends on what a teacher is renting. Generally, a one-bedroom could start as low as $200 USD, with a three-bedroom going as high as $1200 USD. Of course, the central locations in Taipei will cost more than those outside the city.
Taiwanese people are very friendly and hospitable, with deep devotion to family. A third party usually gives introductions, with a nod of the head being acceptable; handshakes are common, but they are usually not strong handshakes. Unless otherwise indicated, wear business attire in the classroom, especially when dealing with adults. However, some buxibans require the teachers to wear a uniform, usually the company T-shirt with khaki pants. Patience is a huge virtue among the Taiwanese, so that is something to be cultivated by the English teacher. Communication can be slow, not just because of language, but because the Taiwanese do not care for direct confrontation. They prefer "saving face," which places great importance on avoiding direct conflict and blame, and showing respect and paying compliments.
Whitney Zahar is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and has always longed to travel, write, and make a difference in the world. he got her chance in 2009, when she started teaching English in South Korea. Currently, she lives in Taiwan, where she still teaches, as well as participates in freelance fiction and ESL writing projects, and raises a beautiful active son named Preston. Follow her on Twitter at @WhitneyZahar.
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