Public school vs cram school teaching

Hey everyone! I am currently mulling my options. I’ve been in Taiwan for awhile but only have worked at one cram school, I think it’s a good school but there are a lot of issues with cram schools for me. I’ve moved into more of a management role but still have to deal with a lot of the same issues. Constant change of schedules, lack of professionalism from colleagues, awful hours and not much time off.

So I’ve been thinking of joining a public/private school. I am thinking of going this route to boost my resume but would be taking a pay cut.

I’m just wondering what people’s experiences are at “traditional” teaching jobs here.

One concern I have is my current job has good western management and I’d be losing that in the switch.

Any feedback would be helpful, thanks!

Public schools have steadier pay than most cram schools (monthly salary and housing stipend), but you’ll deal with the same or other nonsense as cram schools. Possibly more, because they need to justify paying you every month, so they might ask you to do worthless things like “plan an English curriculum for x”, which cannot be used in your school based on how your classes are set up and is only for the government to put in a secret file of curriculums planned by FETs that no one is allowed to see. Or meetings that were scheduled to take two hours and therefore have admin pulling up worthless PPTs about nothing in order to fill the full two hours because the meeting only needed to take 15 minutes. Other FETs get lucky and have a pretty chill life of teaching kids how to sing English songs for ~15 hours/week and have the rest of the time to chill out or even go home and take a nap. So it’s hit or miss, not unlike a cram school.

I warn you the FET program has turned into an utter mess this year. Completely disorganized and a lot of worthless time-sucking PD that anyone with a teaching license doesn’t need to sit through. Some FETs changed schools after years of teaching here and their pay reset to “0 years experience”, others had to fight to get their housing stipend, etc.

Oh, and you do need a teaching license to work in the public schools.

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Thanks for the info yes I have a teaching license but definitely don’t want to just be teaching songs.

You will be teaching the same way regardless of the school. Everyone expects a buxiban type lesson. i.e. stickyballs

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I have been teaching in a junior high school and I like it a lot.
I choose what I want to teach. I design every lesson, choose topic for the lesson, activities. If I want to play volleyball / basketball, I take kids out.
No stress, no drama, kids are very nice, they like my lessons a lot.
I go to work with a smile on my face every day.


Awesome thanks so much, sounds like something I’d enjoy . May I ask what your hours are?

Public school hours are usually 7:50 or 8:00 am to 4:00-5:00 (depending on how long the lunch break is). Max classes/week depends on the grade (elementary classes are 40 min vs. Jr. high is 45), but no one should take more than 22 hrs/week, because that’s what you’re base pay is based on. Also, cuz local teachers start getting overtime after 18 classes/week, so there’s that.

That wasn’t at all the case in any of the three public schools I worked at. Never once played a stickyball game.

I made the switch from cram schools to public schools a few years ago. Here are my thoughts.

The Good:
As NZ mentioned public schools are a lot more stable in hours and schedule. This was especially beneficial during the recent school closures. I kept receiving my full salary the whole time and was not expected to do anything outside of making a few Youtube videos per week.

Also you’ll never lose hours or have classes cancelled at the last minute like happens in cram schools, and you get a decent amount of paid time off. About 4 weeks total.

You do also have a lot more autonomy in how you teach and what you teach and there is no pressure or complaints from parents.

The Not So Great
It depends on the city, but from talking to FETs in multiple cities I think it’s safe to say that overall the schools are terribly disorganized and have no idea what they’re doing or what they expect to accomplish from their English program.

If you’re lucky they will give you a Chinese textbook and tell you just to translate it into English to use in your class. If you’re unlucky they’ll give you a handwritten note in Chinese of some random ideas they have and expect you to just make it happen from there. Both of these things happened to me during my time in public schools here.

Also - NO AIR CONDITIONING (outside of Taipei). Or even if the school does have it you have to pay for it yourself on a prepaid card and they put ridiculous limits on when you can use it and at what temperature.

Make sure to ask about the details of the contract. Some cities only do an 11 month contract while some do a 12 month contract with one month salary bonus.

Ultimately I much preferred the public schools to cram schools, but now I’ve moved on from public schools to a better job and would not even want to go back to a public school.

Can you work not in education if you were a teacher before?

I work 8am till 4pm, Monday - Friday.

You might have exactly the same issues in a public school. It really depends on the school and the city/county where it’s located.

The FET (Foreign English Teacher) program officially ended last school year. 2002-2020, may it rest in peace. What we have this year is the TFETP (Taiwan Foreign English Teacher Project), which is more centrally administered. Up to last year the program varied widely depending on the county. This year it’s more centrally administered, with everything from Taichung to Hualien south answering to a new administration in Jiayi, and everything from Miaoli to Yilan north answering to another new administration in Taipei.

And all of this fails to include the parts of Taipei City, Taichung City, Tainan City and Kaohsiung City that have their own FET programs, many of which pay differently and only recognize years served in their respective areas.

I’m in the TFETP Love-In now. It’s a period of transition, and it’s really hard to say if what we’re doing will become more efficient/responsive or just more bureaucratic. Judging by what little I’ve absorbed from this week’s online orientation I’m inclined to say more bureaucratic.

Western management? In the new TFETP program there doesn’t seem to be any of that. Just certain foreigners who happen to be sitting next to someone important.

There’s an ad on here for 15 FETs in Hsinchu, so they’re short of a fair few!

That’ll be starting on Tuesday?