Rights for English Teachers

Should a committee be formed to protect the rights of foreign English teachers?

  • Sounds great, when do we meet?
  • Nice idea, but I don’t have much time.
  • There’s no need for such a committee.
0 voters

The results of this poll will determine whether foreign English teaching professionals in Taiwan would like to find a community VOICE aimed at protecting our rights.

If interest is strong, and hopefully with Richard Hartzell’s guidance, we can meet publicly, in order to discuss issues and concerns affecting our future role as a possible government interface committee.

Richard Harzell:

Please add your comments below. Thanks!

I can appreciate wolf_reinhold’s remarks in your comments section, however I think that one of the major areas of concern that such a Committee will want to look at are perceived contract violations on the part of the employer.

Such problems clearly have little to do with “official measures to certify the qualifications for a foreigner to teach English professionally”, which is what wolf is vigorously lamenting the lack of.

My point is that it hardly seems right to defend the rights of unqualified workers to work. Unless, of course, you are saying that teaching English requires no qualifications other than being able to speak the language to some degree.
First, cull the “cowboy English teachers” from those who have passed some sort of teaching qualification “bar” exam and then go from there.
Would you advocate a rights group for people practicing law without a licence? I doubt it.


Not sure I understand your point.
Many teachers here are qualified to teach according to Taiwan law or they wouldn’t be employed legally.

If you’re saying that they should have to show an RSA or TESOL certification, that would probably strip back most of the teachers already employed here, but at the same time increase the boundaries of TESOL professionalism. As I know, in Japan and Europe, this is the standard.

If this were the standard in Taiwan, then opportunities for foreign teachers to become TESOL accredited should also be available here. Most people I know who’ve felt the need to become accredited as such, have gone to Thailand, or other countries to do the course.

These kinds of courses can also be done via distance learning, however, the MOE doesn’t recognise distance learning degrees yet.
I find that idea unprogressive, as in a field such as TESOL, situated action research is a MUST. It makes far more sense to research and contextualise within your own teaching environment in order to theorise or implement pedagogic practices therein. To go to the US or UK for two years to complete such a degree, in my opinion, would be a backwards approach.

I know that there are many “teachers” here that have never taught before their first class in Taiwan and know nothing about teaching. My point is to get rid of these folks. If a committee needs to be formed for the certified teachers, then by all means do so; however, I wonder if simply protecting the rights of all white-collar workers is the better, broader way to go.

I see what you mean, but I would also reckon that
teachers in Taiwan, make up a majority of the professionals who’re here on work permits NOT expat packages.

As I’m interested in TEACHERS, this was proposed to THAT group. After all, I’ve heard thousands of horror stories, and have a few of my own.

Richard Hartzell proposed a group to handle affairs for ALL foreigners, and if those foreigners were represented across the board, someone should represent the teachers, specifically, as their cases may be different.

For example, as I know, white-collar workers, who are not teachers, don’t have to take a medical test for an ARC??

Why is that? Are teachers considered diseased or drug-ridden as opposed to those who work as reporters, editors, or copywriters?
It’s bloody unfair!!!

It is true about the medical exam. I’m not sure that it is unfair or just a nuisance avoided. Someone should call around to find out why teachers must prove their “health.” Or, possibly, the establishment, having seen the years of manipulation of the system by foreigners posing as English teachers, simply feel as you said – they are suspect and could have diseases or fleas or whatnot.
But this is your forum for teachers, probably the less said by me the better.

Alien mentions that TESOL kinds of courses can also be done via distance learning, however, the MOE doesn’t recognise distance learning degrees yet.

Again, this is something that needs to be analyzed, and the exact regulation which denies such recognition ferreted out. At that point, the possibility of initiating a test case (to get such a problem rectified) could be examined.

These problems will not go away by themselves.

In addition to court action, another way to initiate legal change is to get a group of legislators and sponsor a Legislative Yuan Public Hearing. This is a lot of work, but it can be done. The LY Public Hearing which I organized on June 20, 2000, to propose a category of “Open Work Permits” for certain categories of foreigners finally achieved good results when those recommendations were incorporated as Article 51 of the revised Employment Services Act, which passed third reading in the Legislative Yuan on Dec. 21, 2001, and was promulgated by President Chen on Jan. 21, 2002.


To be ‘qualified’ to teach English you need to be a good speaker and you need to be able to teach. Having a stupid little certificate that says you’re an ESL teacher is another thing altogether. When I started teaching in Taiwan I’d taught before (though not ESL) and my English is good but I don’t have a little piece of paper saying this. I’d bet I’m a hell of a lot better ‘qualified’ than someone who has just finished some kind of ESL course. Some of these courses are real jokes you know. If you think someone isn’t ‘qualified’ until they have a piece of paper to say so, and if they do have one they’re suddenly an expert, then you’re as bad as some of the employers here.


Bri, what on earth are you saying? That formal qualifications are a waste of time? Maybe degrees should be scrapped as well, in that case?

Doctors could just get started by hanging out at accident blackspots and practicing on crash victims till they know what they’re doing.

Or are you talking only about English teachers?
I’d be pretty farking pissed off if I spent four years studying at university and got nothing to show for it at the end.

Qualifications are an accepted means of proving a certain level of competence in a given field of expertise. If you don’t have any proof of this expertise, what’s a prospective employer (anywhere in the world, not just here) supposed to do? Take you at your solemn word? Maybe that kind of honour system works in NZ but I never heard of it anywhere else.

Oops, just noticed – Auckland uni offers degrees also, so I guess its just you!

quote[quote] Or are you talking only about English teachers? [/quote]

Yeah. You can get an ESL certificate in a month. you can can do it in Taiwan. Some of them (I suspect most), are just crappy little pieces of paper put out by outfits who have managed that they can make more money teaching ESL than teaching English. Even the more accepted qualifications, such as the Cambridge one that a friend of mine did, only takes three months. Who is better suited to teaching in Taiwan? Someone who has years of teaching experience in Taiwan, or someone who has never taught before, but just finished a month or two learning how to do it?

quote[quote] If you don't have any proof of this expertise, what's a prospective employer (anywhere in the world, not just here) supposed to do? [/quote]

If it was me, I’d talk to them for a while about teaching (focusing on the practical) then give them a meaningful demo and talk to them again. From that I think I’d have a much better idea about whether or not they could teach than by looking at a certificte.


Originally posted by sandman: Bri, what on earth are you saying? That formal qualifications are a waste of time? Maybe degrees should be scrapped as well, in that case?

That’s not really the issue. English teachers here are required to have a 4-year college degree. They are not required to have a certificate to prove that they can teach ESL. Editors here don’t need a certificate, and neither do salesmen, technical writers, business people, etc. Some have post-graduate certificates and that puts them at advantage. The same is true for English teachers.

Even in the US, some states are allowing people without education degerees to teach in public schools.

To Hartzell:

I’d be happy to serve as a ‘test case’ when I finish my distance degree. It’s the least I can do. After all, my university in the UK, ONLY offers their MSc TESOL/TESP via distance learning, and it was the first one in the UK to offer one in this field, twelve years ago. In fact, they closed the LSU (language studies unit) to resident students several years ago because their whole angle is on contextualised research. It’s also one of the most reputable TESOL Masters in the world, so for Taiwan’s MOE to reject it, they’d also have the British Council breathing down their necks! I just hope I’ll have published a couple papers about Taiwan learners before we put this into action. Will keep you posted, or if I know anyone else who finishes before me, from any of the Unis offering them, I’ll let you know.

To Wolf:
You sure have a low opinion of English teachers in Taiwan. I wonder if you started out as one yourself, and had a bad experience, to make you feel so bitter. Almost all of the English teachers I know at the moment, are professionals, whether they’re teaching in children’s bushibans, universities, or employeed as corporate consultants. They’re committed to their students, responsible to their schools, and enjoy their work, which they consider their careers.
It may have been true in the past that ‘gadabouts’ would wash up on the shores of Taiwan to teach English for a couple months and then head back to Thailand for heavy doses of morphene, but sweetie pie, times have changed. Wake up!

I don’t mind crude language in my forum. (see *farking) It adds spice. However, please refrain from making such uninformed comments. It’s true what Bu Lai En says about those certificates. It’s also quite true that there are plenty of people who’ve got tons of qualification teaching English, but who’re absolute crap at it!! Especially with the Taiwanese. It takes more than a degree showing your capability around here, it takes experience. I wouldn’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt.

Everyone seems to be missing the point, and that is a white face is all you need to teach English in Taiwan. Racial discrimination is probably the biggest travesty that comes out of the English-teaching mess. I haven’t done any studies, but I can almost say for sure that walking in as a “caucasian” eastern european with a thick accent and bad grammar, I could get the job in no time. On the other hand, a canadian whose parents are from India - notice the darker skin - watched as her students were pulled from the class because their parents thought she had an “accent”. Of course the school, being a little too eager to make the parents happy, put pressure on the teacher to quit. And so she did; shortly afterwards she left Taiwan for good.
Recently an american-born chinese student came to taiwan to look for a teaching job. Her resume was more than substantial. Lo and behold, schools weren’t interested in her credentails, but rather in her looks, which may have caused some parents to find weakness in her english-speaking abilities.
Dare I mention the plight of Taiwanese teacher assistants, who are not only over-qualified, but do more work for less. I realize natural-born speakers are in high demand, but does that mean you should sacrifice quality for quantity. No, you just make sure the parents see a white face in the classroom. Quality vs. quantity has become a non-issue. Do you think the committee would bring these issues up?

Humph, you’ve put me in a right snit now Alien! I don’t want to be in your forum anyway, so ya boo sucks!

Yes, I make no bones about it – I was an English teacher for six years. Finally, a number of things made me walk away:

  1. Except for young children, most students just don’t give a whit about really learning. They think that putting their butt in a seat twice or three times a week is enough. Few students put much if any effort into homework or any assignments.

  2. The schools were only interested in making money which meant keeping those butts in seats. If the language schools in Taiwan could hire locals to do the same job, they would in a heartbeat.

2a. The teaching material was horrid and many schools demanded that you use their material.

  1. Teaching was never considered a profession here in Taiwan, and, according to many past posts, is still contentious.

  2. The running around just got too old. Teachers’ schedules can look like a NASA flight plan. Two hours in Neihu from 2-4, then zip over to Shihlin by 4:30 for that high-paying one hour, then kill time somehow, somewhere until 7 where you need to be near the train station…at one point I knew the city as well as any taxi driver.
    Sometimes you could find a block of hours somewhere, but mostly it was piecemeal.

Now, before anyone posts saying that the problem was that I was simply a shit teacher, let me say add that I was considered competent. Moreover, my fellow teachers, those who stayed more than a year or so, felt the same problems with the job that I did.

I agree that some people with a lot of letters after their names or paper in their resumes are not as good as some Joe just off the plane from Bangkok looking for a little seed money. I have seen all combinations.
Look, I thought I was a decent teacher after years of doing something called teaching BUT I WAS NOT QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB. There may be desperate situations in the US where you may be allowed to teach without any credentials, but fundamentally, this is not the case. I had taught the Chinese English for six years, but NO accredited school would hire me in the States to teach.
My point here is: I don’t pretend to know exactly how to find out if a person is qualified to teach a second language – on-the-job experience, educational background, a mix of the two or what. But I do know that there are teachers here who just babble through “classes,” professional as their attitudes may be.
I have seen teachers here “teach” and the fact is that it is usually not an impressive sight.
But perhaps all this HAS changed. I haven’t been in the classroom for years. Maybe I’m just talking through my hat?

I think it is impossible to measure how good teachers here are in Taiwan by comparing to other places and qualifications, since the whole point in teaching kids etc is to give them the ability to speak english. Things like personal development etc are not included

As against qualifications, you can only measure it by the results.
If you teach a class and every month their english is getting better, then you must be a good teacher. If you have lots of qualifications and your class can’t even say hello then you are a crap teacher. Whether you have qualifications, whether you are impressive or whether you do it for the money; is irrelavant.

As long as you teach the kids how to speak you are fullfill the job description as an ‘English Teacher’ And that your function as an english teacher, it doesn’t really matter to the school, to the parents and to the ROC government, if you have a qualification or not!!

Does anyone have stats to back up the claim that a Qualified TEFL teacher can get better results from a class?

People assume just cause somebody has a degree in something, that they have a passion for it and have an apititude for it. Thats a pretty big assumption. I have a passion for F1 but that doesn’t make me a F1 Driver or capable of doing it. Sure by doing some degree or course they may have developed better skills but skills can be acquired. These skills can be learned and as life is the best teacher, practical experience stands to you more than reading about it in some over rated Psychology teaching book.

With all the debate shooting back and forth you people have got me confused as to what the “rights” of an English teacher are? The debate has gone more towards the slant of professionalism in teaching English than to the “rights” of an English teacher. There are a lot of statments I can agree and disagree with in this discussion but I just want to know…

What exactly are the RIGHTS that are asked of English teachers in Taiwan?

thanks cyfhsu,

It does seem this forum has gone off track a bit, thanks to those who’re presently ‘non-teachers’, but that’s ok, at least it’s all related.

I don’t know what the rights of English teachers in Taipei entail. That’s one reason I posted the poll. It’s funny how few have actually voted, but how many profess to have deep insight into the field.

I do know that teaching involves a great deal of learning. For one to sit back complacently and repeat the same patterns in their classrooms for years, unwilling to expand their horizons experientially, educationally, or theoretically, may implicate poor teaching practices.

For hundreds of years, skilled artisans have accepted apprentices, who willingly or not, have learned from their mentors the arts of blacksmithing, tailoring, printing, and wordsmithing. Usually the years spent under the tutelage of her mentor gave the apprentice enough knowledge and experience to become a journeyman. And after another stint practicing her chosen profession, and if financially astute enough, she would one day set up shop for herself. Then once herself an artisan, she would take on an apprentice–no teaching certification needed.

As adult native speakers we should, from our mothers’ tongues, and our years in grade school and college, have a strong command of English. We then, when first arriving here, are journeymen: We can speak, read and write English—if we come here without being able to do so, then we have no business teaching English in Taiwan. We are not yet teachers though. But after a few months practice and some on the ground training we will know what it takes to be a good language teacher, if not, then once again, we have no business being here; then once adept at passing on our knowledge, we can progress as teachers of our language, just as craftsmen teach their prot