Getting out of contracts before work starts

I am currently in South Africa, but will be arriving in Taiwan end of July. I was offered a job at a school ,everyting looked good and so I signed a contract, and emailed it back to the school. I have since read several bad reviews about the school, so my question is, can I get out of the contract? Seeing as I have not begun work, have not even arrived in the country, what could go wrong?

They do have copies of my passport etc, so I would like to know if this contract is legally binding even though I have not got my work permit with this school yet?

Also the school requires that if I had to resign from my job before the end of the 1 year contract term, I will be liable for a fine of 1 months salary. Is this standard?

Are they asking you to teach kindergarten? Do they have some holding-back of payment clause in the contract? If so, it’s illegal. What school is it? You can scan a copy of the contract and post it here, instead of having to type the whole thing out.

The contract can’t start until August, right? So, right now, you don’t have a contract. They don’t have your stuff do they? Your passport number? They can get you to sign a contract, but they can’t process any paperwork. There’s no reason you can’t just call them up and say your sorry, but your plans have changed. They’ll cry that they have to find another teacher, but they’ll be fine.

I dont want to name the school, as so far I am set to work there and I don’t want to make things worse for myself. And they have said they are not sure yet where I will be placed, but most likely kindergarten.
But what I want to know is am I obligated to fullfill the contract? Even though work has not started? Would there be any legal penalties that they could impose?

Here are some areas of the contract I find questionable:
“2. Employment starts in Summer:
a. Under Class Quota: A new school year starts around September 1st., if the Employee starts working during the month of July and/or August, The School will compensate half of your usual monthly pay (school will assign teaching related/administration work when there are no classes for The Employee to teach), plus $300NT per class.
b. However: If The Employee’s class quota is over 25 periods per week, then The School will pay you your full monthly salary, with no extra class compensation.”" - to me thios sounds like an excuse to with hold half a months salary.

"ii). Less then 10(ten) months of continued service before summer: The School reserves the right to decide if any vacation may be taken according to the employee performance and the needs of The School. " - again very unclear. can the school just decide not to allow vacation for any reason they want?

". Contract Termination: If The Employee desires to terminate The Agreement prior to the aforementioned termination date, The Employee shall forfeit the amount of compensation equivalent to his/her one month’s salary plus (possibly) waive all the above mentioned Bonus. "

Perhaps all of this is standard in Taiwan teaching contracts, but I would just like to be sure I’m not going to find myslef in a tough spot.

Seems to me that the tough spot is about to sit on you if you don’t be careful. I think I know of the company that you’re going for, and believe that all they care about is maximizing on your contribution to the company without legal worry.

If the contract hasn’t started yet, it hasn’t started. Period. Of course if you’re still worried about legal repercussions, you can always defer with them for a year or a semester then come here on a visitor’s visa and see if you can find something on your own. If you can’t, then use them as a safety net. You’ve already been accepted.

Also, if you need a completely justifiable way out: Foreigners cannot legally teach kindergarten. Enough said.