Teaching ESL in Europe Vs. Asia

Look at this widely-quoted article:


[quote]Let’s take the pay and conditions first, and let’s take Rome, where I have lived for the past eight years. Typically, an English teacher working flat-out for a variety of employers and private pupils might earn €1,500 (£1,000) a month pre-tax for 10 months a year: £10,000 annually, therefore.

Permanent positions are scarce, and there is no work in the summer; although if you are willing to sell yourself into servitude, there are plenty of 10-month contracts from September to June that leave you washed up and penniless at the start of the long hot holidays, and with little option other than to sign up as a teacher at some miserable summer-school in Kent, where once again you will be ruthlessly exploited.

All over Europe - in Paris, Madrid, Prague and Athens - it is the same. In London the constant flow of foreign students provides work throughout the year - but who can survive on the £12,000-odd a year that TEFL teachers earn there? Indeed, since British graduates now leave university with debts that rule out dead-end jobs with microscopic salaries, English schools everywhere are finding it harder to attract staff.

Increasingly, they take on the dregs. If the work were in any way rewarding, the pay might be tolerable. But unlike a job in a proper school, there is no pastoral side involved in being a TEFL teacher, and no variety, no career structure, no sense of progression. You spend your day rushing from one lesson to another, endlessly drumming in the essentials and explaining the difference between, say, “I grovel” and “I am grovelling”.[/quote]

These sorts of conditions are totally foreign to most of the people I know who work in ESL in Taiwan, who enjoy NT$100,000 a month (in many cases closer to NT$200,000 a month) incomes for work that is at least somewhat psychically rewarding. Pretty much everyone I know who works in ESL here makes this solid income while pursuing side projects in publishing, multimedia learning, musical, artistic, or entrepreneurial areas. These projects are often sources of additional income. The only people I know who struggle to make it in ESL lack the ambition and the drive to get themselves into a better position.

The lack of a pension program doesn’t mean much to me–I’ve never worked as a business exec for a company that had anything more than a 401k program.

Can anyone find an original link to Alain to Botton’s statement that “You become a TEFL teacher when your life has gone wrong”? Surely he was referring to conditions in Europe, and has little idea about what is possible in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

I believe that it is quite difficult to get a decent EFL job in continental Europe. I think a lot of people do it for a year or so as a kind of working holiday. People who want to do it as a career need DELTAs, or MAs in TESOL. But even they don’t make very much money on the whole. I guess there are exceptions but not many.

In the UK itself, there is some fulltime work teaching foreign students, and while the pay isn’t great, it can be enough to live on. There’s also some work with local councils teaching migrant workers and also refugees. But the latter tends to be part-time, contract work, so teachers don’t get full benefits. The pay isn’t that great anyway.

It’s just market forces I guess.

On the plus side, Europeans in general are a little more clued up when it comes to effective language teaching and assessment. The general-purpose Cambridge exams are quite popular, which is good as they’re well designed.

I make less than hundred grand these days but I’m a lazy bitch. When I worked full time and did a bunch of privates, I was doing well financially. But I was so bored and miserable, I spent it all on pain relief. You can make stacks if you can get away with not prepping much (I can’t) or do the same lessons again and again.

Friends who have worked in Europe, say it is good because you are nearer your family, etc, and all the Euro-fun you can have, but it really is hard to make ends meet. Things like 9 month contracts are standard; you are unemployed in summer and end up having to go back to Ados at grim awful summer camps in Oxford or Brighton. France and Italy are notorious for this.

As someone else said, expectations are higher, a DELTA is pretty much required for any job that doesn’t require you to buy your own bus pass so you can spend four hours a day travelling to offsite ‘business English’ classes. :slight_smile: You’re also less of a hotshot in Europe, as well. No-one is going to pay you to write a course book unless you have qualifications and DECADES of experience with Cambridge, Pearson, etc.

I have worked in the South of France; it was grand but it was an EU work placement thingy I won a place on, not a ‘real’ job. The paid teachers were great. They got paid pretty low wages, all did a few hours here, a few hours there and were expected to speak fluent French, but they just loved living in Montpellier. I loved it too, I definitely want to go back, one day.

I totally get what Alain de Botton was talking about. (I can’t believe I wrote ‘I totally get’. I’m an idiot.) It’s nothing to do with money. I’ll try to find it. I have many of his books, but I have only read ‘The Consolations of Philosophy.’

‘Juggling the Stars’ by Tim Parks is an interesting insight into the world of the English teacher in Italy. Tim Parks escaped by becoming a novelist, which is pretty much the only ‘pension plan’ 90% of my teacher friends have.

110,000 in Korea. Between 2:30 and 9, Mon - Fri. At one place. And they pick me up and drive me home! Just teaching. Privates and all that jazz is a goddamn headache. That’s 6 fifty-minute classes/day with 10 minutes in between and a half-hour break. And that’s bare minimum. My biggest months were 150,000. School vacation time is slower (and I love it), but right back into teaching 2:30 - 9:30 (half hour break), Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:30 - 9 (no break), Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 2:30-9:30 straight through on Fridays in March. Then I’ll be making 120,000 all in one place.

LG 2 or 3 times a year for two months stints (3 hours/wk) gives me apx 12,500/month. Maybe a 2-week, 2-hr/day 40,000 summer or winter camp thrown in there.

Had one private this year give me 20,000 in December. Four 1-hour classes in the late evening during the week.

No paper work. No bullshit. Just teaching.

I’ll be making much much more in a year or two. Much more. But not at this job. I have 2-years experience in Taiwan teaching illegally at about a million different kindergartens, buxibans, and homes getting from place to place on my bicycle. Sometimes I only had 3 hours/wk (summer). 2 years under my belt in Korea.

The discussion on making good money teaching English in Taiwan is a useful one in its own right, so I split it into its own thread:

Let’s use this thread for discussion of the general differences between TESOL in Europe and Asia.