Value of teaching reversed scale in Taiwan?

After being here for a few years, I’ve tried to figure out why some jobs pay more than others, and I am at a loss. I’ve taught business English, which generally requires a lot of time intensive work including planning and administration (reports, etc. that the company requests). I enjoyed it, but despite my trying some tough negotiations and even turning down some jobs due to low pay, the pay remained generally lower than most kindergardens and bushibans.

Now I’ve applied at some universities and colleges, since I have an M.A. I’ve gotten several calls, but all for “part-time” postions, that is full-time hours, but none of the benefits of teaching at a university or college, i.e. visa, health insurance and paid vacations. And the rates they’ve been quoting are astoundingly low, considering all of the extra work a university class requires. Again, the work is a lot more intensive than bushiban/kindergarden, has much higher requirements (most really prefer a Ph.D.) yet the pay rate is significantly lower.

I just don’t get it. How is it you make more teaching 3-4 year olds “Old Mcdonald” than teaching a graduate level business writing class (something which one of the universities wanted me to teach, since I was perfect for the job)? I’m not all about money, but that is hard to swallow.

What is up with that?

Yes, I strongly agree.

I think we need to “unionize” the graduate-degreed Westerners here, urgently! If everyone just refuses to teach these ridiculous classes, then they will be forced to re-think their strategy IF they truly want native speaking teachers.

The spectacle of National Taiwan University hiring part-timers instead of full-timers is a national shame, especially since they (of all institutions) should be able to read and understand the immigration/work laws. No visas for you guys, thank you very much, but you wouldn’t mind coming in three separate days a week for a single class each time, and we’ll pay you $550 an hour with an MA, no, we’ll continue that with a Ph.D because we don’t think your dissertation is quite up to our standard?? Puh-leese. (Been there, quit that!).

Fujen’s Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation is another prime example. They MUST have native English speakers – and not just any native speaker – they need qualified translators (hard to find) and simultaneous interpreters (harder to find) who are native English speakers. And they pay the same pittance – like $570 an hour with an MA and the princely $790 or so (I’m not sure about the exact numbers but it’s close) for a Ph.D. (rare in that field anyway). Then, predictably, the teachers demand to hold the classes in Taipei instead of to hell and gone in Hsinchuang (if they’re working translators/interpreters, most likely they’re in the city), so the students have to do 2 hours of commute time en masse several days a week for a single class in the city each time.

Until all foreigners just say NO to this kind of thing, it will continue. After all there is a fairly steady flow of foreigners into Taiwan and out of Taiwan, barring the long-timers. For general English teaching, despite what we know about what it demands, to the average Taiwanese department of English one teacher is just like another, as long as they have that Piece of Paper.

Arrrgh. This REALLY makes me mad.

If I manage to graduate from my second MA program this year, I will then have the opportunity (maybe! if they offer full-time) to make a princely US$20,000 per year to work full-time teaching a very specialized area – with a Ph.D. degree already in hand. And they would wonder why I don’t want to support my alma mater…

supply and demand, supply and demand. you’re not the only one who doesn’t want to teach 3 year olds to sing old mcdonald!

Yes, but this supply-and-demand is NOT balanced against the hordes of recent college grads with liberal arts degrees…we’re talking people with MAs and frequently Ph.D.s being offered only part-time (therefore illegal) jobs that pay poopy. :laughing: And often very specialized teaching positions, as well.

The situation in Universities is appalling, but it’s not just confined to foreigners, though we seem to be the most obvious element of that. Nor is it confined to Taiwan, just look at the adjunct situation in the US.

Most universities (including public ones) are run as businesses. Hence, if they can get away with low rates, they will. And they hide behind the MOE which sets the pay guidelines, by claiming that they are bound by their rules. Most part-time salaries haven’t risen in years. In industry and in other companies, this would be almost unthinkable.

Nowadays, if anyone offers me part-time work in a college, I turn them down immediately. There’s no point:

Too many big classes
Inadequate facilities
Limited support
Low salaries
No TAs (65-70 students are common)
etc, etc.

I enjoy teaching, it’s been my life’s work so far. But the conditions are just not good in most universities now mostly for economic reasons (I’m not talking salaries, either).


BTW, don’t fall for the ‘work one with us part-time, there’ll be a full-time position next year’ trick. I did. It’s another variation of the part-time job ruse.

If you think of the universities here as bushibans with fancy names, then you can understand why the pay is so low.

They are looking at the bottom line…they are businesses first and centers for higher education second…or third.

What was it in Watergate that Deep Throat told Bob Woodward to do?

Follow the money.

Same thing goes here. It is a matter of who pays what.

Wouldn’t one factor be that parents are willing to pay quite a bit for the most precious things in their life, their little ones, to get ahead or least keep up with the Wangs? So they are willing to pay good money to the privately owned, entrepreneurially oriented kindies and buxibans. The competition is fierce among these schools and they need to find enough teachers so they then have to offer enough $$ to attract teachers. So these schools have lots to gain by paying high enough rates to attract and retain teachers. If they fail to do so then the kids leave for another school just around the corner.

However, the colleges are huge bureaucracies. They have nothing to lose by paying low salaries and nothing to gain by paying higher ones. They don’t really care to much about what the students learn after they get there. And the students don’t really care too much because they want to take it easy in college after cramming for exams for so many years just to get into one. Besides, the colleges can’t pay too much higher than the local teachers earn because then there would be anguished cries of unfair treatment.

Isn’t the pay discrepancy between local and foreign teachers the main reason that the MOE put on hold the plan to put several hundred foreign teachers in Taiwan’s public schools? If I remember the pay they were talking about didn’t seem very good - something like $50k/mth or so - but that is quite a bit more than local teachers earn and so there was a big huge stink about how unfair it was.

It’s the same deal with English teaching in China. There are Americans and others (but mainly Americans) fighting for the chance to teach English in China for free. In that sort of environment there is very little in the way of a market for English teachers. The schools know they can pay a wage which quite literally doesn’t cover the rent.

The main reason is pressure from the buxiban lobby who know the game is up as soon as foreigners start leaving the buxibans to teach in state schools.

You see there is an added value besides English learing for teacing kids. Babysitting.
In contrast, adults learning business English are not willing to pay much because they are on tight budgets and/or are very stingy. Some of them are tired from working all day and don’t expect to get much out of their English class, but they know they should give it a try.

I don’t know. I understand that IELTS and Cambridge examiners and trainers do pretty well, and the work is steady by comparison.
They are “instrumentally motivated” adult learners trying to pass uni entrance exams in UK, not the corporate ones who’ve no clear goals, or the college ones, who’ve also little or no motivation as English is a required subject. Monkbucket, chime in please?

Go to Japan if you think you deserve more than you get here. The market there is much more competitive and wages are at least double, I understand. Japanese are also much better students, I also hear, from those who’ve experience in both places.
Then there’s S.Korea…

alwayslol, are you a qualified instructor of English as a second language? Are you a native speaker of the language who is trying his hand at the game? Does it matter?
Kids classes pay more because the cram school gets more money out of the bigger classes. Period.

“If it moves, teach it English.”

Even in universities, however, the situation should be different for Chinese and foreign teachers strictly from a standpoint of economics (supply and demand). Taiwan is flooded with returning Taiwnaese students with MAs and Ph.D.s these days, so they cannot command much in the way of salary. However, there are not THAT many foreign Ph.D.s here on the teaching market, especially in areas slightly removed from “standard” English-teaching (i.e., linguistics, other languages, interpreting, etc.) We had a near student riot this semester at Fujen (first time, I believe, the department had to deal with students actually saying ‘I’m paying tuition and I expect better from you,’) because of the quality of the faculty recruitment effort for both foreign and Chinese teachers. The university likes to say, “It’s so difficult to get native English speaking teachers…there just aren’t any.” Sure, for $570 an hour, no benefits, no visa, and a 2 hour commute, there aren’t.

Ironlady, by comparison, how much would a Taiwanese make per hour if he/she were working at the school a) full time, and b) part time? I know it’s hard to guess with the full-time employees given the benefits, but what’s your rough estimate?

OK - I will chime in. Not all universities are the same. I teach at Ming Chuan, which has a large number of full time English instructors (about 60?). It is not a perfect job, nor is it a perfect university, but there is no way I would trade it in for a buxiban with higher pay.

As a university English instructor with an MA in Chinese, I get about 1000 per teaching hour (though teaching hour sometimes (but not always) includes 1 hour of prep - so sometimes its more like 500). So I get about the same amount of money that ya’ll are complaining about. Could I get more money at a cram school? Sure. Could I make more money at a similar job in the States? Of course. But -do I feel adequately compensated for the work I do at the university? Yes. I am full time - average teaching load of 15 hours per week - and I have about 4 months of paid leave (with regular salary) each year.

Sure - the university doesn’t give you as much money. But the summer and winter vacations more than make up for it. On top of that, I have the freedom to design my courses and materials and to use my own teaching style. I also have the opportunity to teach classes in different departments (smaller English Dept. conversation classes, course on intl. etiquette, course on modern Chinese history). I have a say in what hours, days, and classes I teach. My students are not always motivated, but enough of them are to make the classes are worth it. They are capable of interesting and engaging discussion at times. There are far too many of them in each class (about 70) but once you get used to it, you can be an effective teacher to a crowd that big. The freedom I have in my teaching and in my classes more than makes up for the extra money.

I think the lower pay is ok - as long as you get the benefits of being full time (visa and vacation).

But then again from what I hear, MCU is not typical and I got lucky when looking for jobs. Who knows - maybe they are still hiring for fall?

Why does the auto-correct change my perfect pinyin into something else! It is not Minquan - it really is Ming Chuan ???

Hold on to that job – it’s far above the official government scale for teachers at universities and colleges. As far as I know (haven’t researched it, but this is what I’m told and it was my experience when I taught) the usual thing is more like $570 per hour with an MA and $780 with a Ph.D. Preparation time is something you contribute because you are a dedicated professional, etc. etc.

These rates are set by law. I suppose universities (I’m optimistically making that plural!) have the right to surpass it if they want, to get “good help”. Most do not. But Ming Chuan has a larger English department than many; maybe that has something to do with it. The Christian colleges also seem to place more emphasis on English than many of the others – maybe because of missionary influence??

So, in answer to the earlier posting, in all my previous experiences teaching and talking to others who taught (except perhaps Monkbucket, don’t know about that), Chinese and foreign teachers received precisely the same compensation. They did not receive the same benefits – foreigners got only a 1 year contract, had to have an annual syphilis test which Chinese did not (and I could have pointed out a couple of older chaps in a certain other department who looked far more likely to have picked up that sort of thing than I), etc. etc. My fear was that, having drawn this line of demarcation between “Chinese” and “foreigners”, they could easily continue to deny us sabbatical, retirement, etc. etc. So, in short, what’s the use of making your “career” at a uni here if you will be thrown out in the street at the end of it? (Not to mention the fact that I make far more translating and interpreting than I ever did teaching full-time, and have less stress doing it. But that’s just me.)

I personally do not believe in going out the door for less than NT$1000 per hour. Preparation is my problem – that comes with being a teacher, and you can’t really expect to be paid for it, but if you’re on salary, the hourly rate will reflect that (they don’t calculate an hourly rate exactly, but we usually divide it out and see how we’re doing). Usually the trick with universities is to take the MINIMUM number of class hours (that is, highest hourly pay) and avoid add-on classes (paid at the so-called “zhong dian fei” which is the hourly fee – lower than the hourly fee under salary for the minimum.) (IF that makes sense.)

To clarify and make it clear, my frustration was definitely not just about the money, but a whole insulting attitude and lack of professionalism. I guess I would just expect more from a university, at least some of the “national” universities and those with better reputations. I am certified (CELTA) with an M.A. in English and I am serious about teaching.

As an example, a certain national Uni calls me up and leaves a message with my roommate at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday that if I want a job, I need to show up the next morning at 9:15 a.m. So, I scramble to prepare, get out my business suit, etc. They’ve got many specialized classes they want covered scattered throughout the week-one in the a.m., one in the p.m. on another day, one on Sunday, etc. My first question: Is it a “full-time” position? “No. Part-time.” Can you help me get a visa? The department head makes a phone call. “No, you have to have another job first before you can work here.” (Note for the uninformed: This is where one is supposed to prostrate oneself on the floor and lick something, the something depending on how grateful you feel at having been called, and your physical limitations.)

Mind you, the place has had foreign teachers for years and should have known better. So, they want to have all my time, but expect me to find some other visa job that I can manage to squeeze in there somewhere? Then scramble in a few days to plan all of the classes, order the materials, etc.? And of course they feel the need to add, “We’d really prefer a Ph.D.” :smiling_imp: The poor pay is really just the icing on the cake.

But this is just one example of many, and I know it is not just a foreign teacher problem nor exclusive to Taiwan. Good thing I like singing and like the little kiddies. Although seeing a kid pee himself and make a little yellow puddle on the floor at the 7-Eleven yesterday made me think twice about it! :laughing:

I agree that it is frustrating to see the lack of professionalism in many schools. I know, some people say, “well the teachers need to BE professional before they are treated professionally, so better blame your T-shirt wearing, pub-crawling teaching buddies for that, not the schools”. But like you said, this attitude towards foreign English teachers extends to the university and full-time advanced degree teachers. Of course, I can’t say exactly how full-time local teachers are treated in terms of professionalism. Even if we had full priviledges and benefits, we might be disappointed with what that is and still yearn for a more western educational environment.

It’s so frustrating because we see that with just a small change in attitude, the schools could attract and keep higher calibre teachers. If they would listen more to their teachers, their program could be really effective. But there’s no competition for uni jobs and it seems there are more than enough qualified foreigners willing to take those jobs. After all, it LOOKS more like “real teaching” on a resume, it FEELS more like a “real teaching” job with paid office hours and summers off, and some people simply prefer working with college students as opposed to kids or business people. But,as I understand it, it’s not much different than a buxiban that gives you a “conversation” class, some materials, maybe a testing format, and then leaves you to your devices. At the end of term, they want a copy of your tests and will give you a bad time if too many students fail. So public, private, kindys or unis, the schools generally don’t foster professionalism in their teachers. If you consider yourself a professional, act as such, keep up with current trends, and continue your education for your own pride in your work, because most schools won’t recognize or reward your extra efforts.

My school now insists on researching. It wants everyone to research publish and get grants from NSC for the work.

Yet: we get no offices, no book money, no pcs, bad libraries, tons of pressure, no time off for conferences, no help with grading/marking/assessing, no… the list goes on.

Most profs who manage their research programmes pay for it out of their own pockets for pretty much everything, even staples, like paper ( I had to steal some from the office just to print out stuff for school!).

While I really appreciate the efforts that the profs make in their studies, it’s against tremendous odds that they succeed. Universities here shouldn’t take any credit for just signing the NSC application forms every year. Because that’s all my University seems to do.

Is it any wonder that Taiwanese universities rank near the bottom of Asian universities?

But you know what really sucks. It’s knowing that no matter how hard you work for your school, nothing can really change because the powers that be don’t/can’t/won’t recognize the problems staring them right in the face.

Next week, I have to go to a meeting at my school and hear for the umpteenth time how I can be fired on top of everything.


Hear, hear.

And to top it off, if you are going to do experimental research, what do you have to work with if you’re only given freshman conversation classes with 60 students each, for 2 hours a week? Assuming you have a background in applied linguistics or pedagogy, maybe you could design some kind of an experiment to do and publish it. If your background is in something else (like literature, for example) it might be difficult to put out a study that would be accepted in a “real” journal (and increasingly, universities are rejecting articles published “only” in Taiwanese journals, for the very real reason that there is zero quality control.)

The gap in salary is even worse if you’re specialized. I have already been virtually offered a job teaching in the program I’m studying in now, when I graduate. But why would I take a teaching job, even full-time, to each like $70K a month if I’m lucky, when I can make double that working in the field the program is preparing me for? Unless I’m given extraordinarily flexible working conditions (interpreters tend to need days off if they’re going to work anywhere else) I wouldn’t want to do it, and even less if it were part-time at part-time pay. The only good thing I could say about it is that I’d get some respect, but respect is hard to spend at 7-11.