An overview of the system

The goal of this is to introduce people to the idea of teaching English in Taiwan.

A few personal comments/reflection on the issue. I tried to organize and present this in an authoritative way, but by no means is this anything but the opinions of a single person and hopefully, others can chime in, modify, and improve upon this overview. Please feel free to offer criticisms, insights, and/or alterations.

Right now, there’s quite a few problems facing Taiwan’s foreign teachers. The first is the current economy, which stinks elsewhere in the world. There’s a greater foreigner presence in Taiwan than in the years past, so the job pool is larger. The teaching of English has also been codified and is much more built along book lines.

A brief outline of the way teaching is organized in general: there are international schools, government/official/public schools, private schools, universities, buxibans, kindergartens, and tutors (from most organized/planned to least organized/regulated/easy to get).

The tutoring jobs are pretty much word of mouth and don’t seem capable of supporting either ARC, steady employment, or dependable hours (and usually in the evenings). Kindergarten hires are, of course illegal, usually provide a few hours in the morning, and are the source of numerous ramblings on this forum about visa runs and such. Buxibans are after-school programs (typically a corporation) that offer single or small group education. They can offer an ARC, provide evening hours, but are varied on the hours they offer, the structure of lesson, your boss, the attitude of the coworkers/students, etc. Many teachers work a combination of the above; kindy in the morning, buxiban in the evening, maybe tutoring a few hours on the side, and seem to make out quite well, but spend a lot of time seemingly running around. After a few years of this kind of teaching many experience burnout, especially as bosses change or the situation changes. Universities require a masters or Ph.D. and offer what can be less salary than actual teachers in Taiwan. But the hours they offer are incredibly loose, usually very little oversight, and basically a lifestyle that opens itself to other side jobs or whatever pursuits one wishes.

For the next categories, the teaching field changes a bit. The above jobs are, in general, unregulated, flooded, your salary is based upon a combination of factors and can be excellent or poor. It seems as though most of the foreigners come to Taiwan, teach one or more of the above jobs, marry a Taiwanese girl, settle down, get their ARC or depend on that marriage, and then move into one of the other fields below eventually.

Private schools have two sides; the public face and the private one. To look professional, many of them have to follow labor laws… {Some of course, don’t, falling into the same category as kindergartens above}. This means only being able to hire teachers who are professionally certificated or ARC holders. Many private schools call themselves bilingual, international, or other “catch words” to sell to people, but are not. Government/official/public schools have similar requirements, but have to follow the law so are a bit stricter in their requirements. Especially important is the fact that public high schools in Taiwan are very hard to get in to, and parents whose kids aren’t able to get into them often resort to these expensive private schools to save face. Also they usually don’t pay as much, since the pay is regulated as another said in this forum… but since the pay is much more steady and the quality more regulated the private schools have to offer more money or other benefits to get those foreign teachers to come to their school. International schools can only accept internationally trained teachers (not just ARC holders).

Note: {Something important}:

Examples of how to get a job: Tutors are found mostly directly or personally, kindy’s are EVERYWHERE but of course don’t advertise openly so you must go on foot around, buxibans are EVERYWHERE and either advertise on Tealit or don’t advertise (HESS is a big chain that is well-known), universities do their advertising usually through tealit or postings online (or just find the teachers directly again), privates almost always go through recruiters nowadays, gov’ts go through recruiters (and through the MOE), and international schools go overseas and hire directly.

Potential problems:
“Being legal”: Having defined these arbitrary but easily identifiable categories, one can see that there is a certain level of legality that pervades the entire structure. The pay structure does not reflect this, as with any capitalist system, as what one bargains for/can wheedle out of people is the key to beating the system. There also doesn’t seem to be strict problems for breaking illegal rules, and there seems to be an underhanded dealing between the employer and the regulators that often allows for a clear lack of oversight {typical of Taiwan}. However, in this same respect, often a foreigner can find himself caught in a legal trap of having his wages garnished or put into unexpected demands. The clearest way to retain your individual control of the situation is to learn the language, get an APRC or marry a local to get citizenship, then skillfully maneuver the system, as many people in this country do successfully.

Testing: Another major problem is the idea of what English learning is. Multiple choice tests rule the day in ESL courses. Memorization of vocabulary, stock phrases, weird rules of English that are almost unexplainable except by english masters (but easily learned by speakers who are exposed to it and speak every day), these are what is tested in general, not speaking, writing extensively, or presentation of ideas or concepts. Most want to go to the an American college and get a degree in something unimportant, then come back to Taiwan and really go into their job here.

Understanding the youth: Most kids go to school from 7:45 in the morning to 5:00. They then go to afterschool tutoring, educational fun-classes, or buxibans, often having dinner there, usually finishing by about 9:00 PM. The parents are not home and see no reason for them to waste their time at home watching TV, and worry incessantly that without supervision they will destroy things or fail to advance themselves. To save face as well, they often send their students to the best buxiban or such, and a large part of the child’s life is involved in constant striving to achieve their parents’ goals. Many parents here think that what is best is that the child learn Chinese education first {To retain their identity/skill with Chinese and survive in this country}, but to compromise they take many additional English classes in the afternoon, and then they will send their child to an American school in the end. This can often lead to children coming in to “Master English” with utterly no real interest or exposure.

Trends: Most people complain that the market isn’t as good as it was a few years ago. It isn’t. There are more foreigners here, many of whom have settled in. There is a greater regulation by the schools, though again it is Taiwan. Less children are being born as Taiwan’s birthrate decreases. Parents who are spending more on their fewer children want to have that feeling that they’re giving their kid a quality education. As many complain on this forum, this “feeling” is often sold to make foreigners seem like dancing monkeys to entertain their kids and so long as the kids are happy the parents are happy no matter the quality of actual learning. This has led to the creation of a series of private schools, a growth of chain buxibans, and more “follow the book” style lessons.

Quandries ahead: There are a few problems ahead as indicated by the declining birthrate. There is an interesting quandry for English teachers in the China-Taiwanese relationship. Legislation in the US might make it more difficult for Taiwanese parents to send their kids to the prestigious American schools except through stricter routes (for example the oral expansion on the IEFL test).