Teach Abroad: Top 5 Countries in Asia

Mitch Gordon
Topic Expert

Mitch is our fearless leader and the CEO of Go Overseas. He spent his formative years in Upstate NY, has taught English in Taiwan, and is a proud UC Berkeley alum (Go Bears!).

Go Overseas President Mitch Gordon spends six minutes discussing "Teaching Abroad in Asia: Top 5 Countries". Mitch will give an overview of the factors involved in deciding on a country: salary & benefits, class schedule, lifestyle, culture, etc. Most importantly, make sure you end up at a good school that will treat you well and provide a good support system. The list includes:

It also includes a special secret bonus country. Actually, we don't need to keep it a secret! We'll also be discussing teaching abroad in Vietnam. If you are thinking about teaching in Asia, but aren't sure which country to choose, you've come to the right place.

Ready to GO? Head to our Teach Abroad section to review thousands of teaching positions around the world.


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Go Overseas Whiteboard Wednesdays. I'm Mitch Gordon and today our topic is "Teaching Abroad: The Top Five Countries in Asia."

So, if you have already decided that you want to teach abroad and you have already decided that you want to teach in Asia, you are definitely not alone. There are a few great countries for you to choose from, and we're going to go over them today and just give you a few quick details to help you as you make your decision and help you dive a little bit deeper into your research and make a fully informed, educated decision, which is what everybody wants to do. It is an exciting choice to teach abroad in Asia, and you've got a great year ahead of you. So let's dive into it.

Actually, before I dive into it, one quick point that I want to make, and that is teaching abroad for a year is a really important decision. It is important to remember that your decision affects a lot of other people. You're committing to hundreds of students for the year, to their parents, to your co-teachers and the administration of your school, and you're representing your country. So it's really important to ask yourself why you want to teach abroad. You want to make sure that you really want to be a teacher, that you're really going to care about your kids, and that you're willing to put in the hard work to be a good teacher and to put in some really good time into lesson planning and to caring about your students. That's the most important thing. A lot of people want to go and travel for the year. That's great. You're going to have a great experience. But just keep in mind that your decision affects a lot of other people as well, and you want to go for the right reasons.

Okay. Without further ado, I will get off the soapbox, and let's jump right into some interesting information about the countries.

Number one on our list is South Korea. South Korea is a tremendously popular place for people to teach English, and thousands of teachers go ever year. There are a few reasons for that. The first one is that the benefits there are really, really good. About ten years ago, the South Korean government created the EPIK program. Actually, I think it is closer to 15 years ago at this point. The EPIK program places teachers in public schools throughout South Korea. There are also the SMOE and GEPIK programs also run by the government. They have great benefits. You airfare is included. Your housing is included. You get a signing bonus and a yearend contract completion bonus. People have the opportunity to save quite a bit of money in South Korea, so it has become a very popular place to go. There are also a lot of private schools in South Korea as well and very similar benefits there. Also, the food in South Korea is great. The people are friendly. So it is a very comfortable place to live. It is westernized in a lot of ways, so you're not kind of giving up a comfortable lifestyle like you might be at some of the other countries on this list. That's what makes South Korea a very popular destination for teachers in Asia.

Let's move on now to China. Now, China, very soon, like with many things that China has done recently, will be number one. There are more and more teachers that want to go to China every year. As the economy has developed, as salary packages get better, and as people's interest around the world is just focused more and more on China, people are very interested in spending a year there. In China, there are also opportunities to teach in both public and private schools, and that's a whole separate discussion that we'll have in another Whiteboard Wednesday. You really want to decide if you want to work a public school schedule, which is more of a morning-afternoon schedule, or a private school schedule, which is more afternoon-evening, and that applies to all the countries in Asia by the way. China has really become a popular place, and obviously people want to learn Chinese and they want to learn about Chinese culture because those are great life experiences that they can apply to almost any job they have, whether you're working in international development or international business or even going back to teach at home. There are going to be Chinese students probably in your school in your community. China has become a really popular place.

Japan, which is the number three country on our list today, really kind of started the teaching English in Asia craze in the 1980s and 1990s, when Japan became a really popular place to teach English. One of the main reasons for that is the JET program, the Japan English Teachers program, which is run by the Japanese government. Thousands and thousands of teachers have taught in Japan through the JET program over the years. The benefits are good. You're teaching in a public school. The schedule is good. The JET program is definitely something that you want to consider, especially if you are considering the EPIK, GEPIK, and SMOE programs in Korea, which are similar in some ways, you'll want to consider the JET program as well. There are also a lot of great private school positions in Japan. The food is great in Japan. It is just a very comfortable place to live. Japan is a very popular place for English teachers.

The number four country on our list today is Thailand. Thailand is going to be a very different experience from the three countries that we have talked about to this point. We haven't talked about salary too much. We talked a little bit about salary and benefits, but in Thailand people tend to go there more for the life experience and less because they want to save money. As I have said before, I don't think that people should go to any of these countries just for the monetary aspects. People don't tend to go into teaching for money. There are other places to go. In Thailand, you are not going to save money as opposed to South Korea, China, and Japan, where you really will have the potential to leave at the end of your year having saved a decent amount of money.

In Thailand, you're going more for the cultural experience, for the food, for the people. Thai people are extremely friendly, known for their great smiles, and just for the outdoors experiences there. For example, you can scuba dive and rock climb and things like that. There are a lot of opportunities to do interesting things like that from a lifestyle perspective in Thailand. Just keep in mind that it's going to be a bit of a different experience. You're going to be roughing it a little bit more, especially if you're in a rural area of Thailand. A bit more of a Peace Corps type of experience compared to living in larger cities in some of these countries.

The number five country on our list today is Taiwan. We'll leave all the politics aside today as far whether Taiwan is part of China or not. As far as our list goes, we're talking about governments and how you are going to look at the job and the life experience, and from that perspective Taiwan is different than China. You can also work in public schools and private schools in Taiwan. As far as standard of living goes and salary goes, Taiwan probably fits right here in between South Korea and China. Your savings potential is not going to be quite as high as it is in South Korea, but it's going to be a little bit higher than China. Ultimately, I think that's why a lot of people chose to live in Taiwan. It is a really interesting place to live. You have exposure to Chinese culture. They speak Mandarin Chinese there. Similar roots as far as culture to China. At the same time, you will have the opportunity to make money and live a comfortable lifestyle, and that's why a lot of people chose Taiwan.

We've come up with a bonus country today as well, as an addition to our list, and that's Vietnam. Vietnam has become a lot more popular in recent years. The economy is growing, and as they have just opened up to the western world much more and liberalized their economic environment in Vietnam, it has become a popular place to teach English, especially over the last five years. Now Vietnam is going to be more similar to Thailand in the sense that you're not going to make a lot of money in Vietnam, but if you are interested in the culture, the language, and things like that, then Vietnam is going to be a great place to live. You're going to have a great experience, which I would argue is the most important thing here overall anyway.

So, that's our list of the top countries in which to teach abroad in Asia. Obviously, this is a short video, and we're just giving you an introduction here. Giving you some factors that hopefully you can consider as you start to drill down on what's most important to you and make your decision as to which country you want to spend an exciting year teaching abroad in.

Thank you very much for watching. Make sure to visit GoOverseas.com and visit the reviews that we have there. We list every single teach abroad program in all of these countries along with ratings and reviews left by people who have actually taught at those schools. So read those. That might help you make your decision. You always want to make sure to do your research really, really well. Make sure you are going to be at a school that cares about you, treats you honestly, pays you on time, things like that. Be careful about that kind of stuff. Also, of course, make sure when you're finish with your year-long contract, come back to GoOverseas.com, leave a review there, and help people coming after you to make an informed decision as well.

Okay. Thanks everybody for watching another edition of Whiteboard Wednesdays. Have a great day and take care. We'll see you next time.

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