Thinking of teaching English in Kaohsiung, or Taiwan for that matter? Before you get started, here are some information and tips you should know.
By Kin Hoo Ho
Teaching English in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, can be a quite fulfilling job. Kaohsiung is a beautiful city with many opportunities. However, it is not always rosy, with many unforeseen challenges. While there are many factors that affect teaching, to include legal contracts, labors laws, taxes, et cetera, I will focus on the basics of getting started in teaching. I’ll share my experience of teaching in a buxiban in Kaohsiung, Taiwan as far as the qualifications, medical examination, visa considerations, and salary. I will also touch on teaching in public schools and private tutoring. Finally, the information provided is a personal account of when I started teaching, so some information may not be up to date.
Photos Courtesy of ACES 美語高雄 English school in Kaohsiung, a foreigner-owned school. The owner, Nic Fuzzell, had previously shared his experience of starting an English school with My Kaohsiung. You can read the interview here.
Traditionally, to teach legally at a school in Kaohsiung, or any city in Taiwan, one has to have citizenship from a country where English is the primary language. There are seven countries recognized as native English speaking countries.
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Some cram schools do employ teachers from outside these countries, but that is not commonplace and if done, it’s mainly by smaller schools. Also, international schools are governed by different regulations from the Taiwan Ministry of Education.
Educational and professional qualifications depend on the type of teaching. There are three types of teaching opportunities: public schools, cram schools, also known as “buxiban” in Taiwan, and private tutoring. For public schools, such as elementary schools through senior high school, the qualifications are stricter. In addition to the requirements, they also require a valid teaching license from the country of citizenship.
Cram schools require at least a bachelor’s degree. An associates degree with a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate is also acceptable. With the exception of private tutoring, schools require a criminal background check and a medical examination. Also, private tutoring doesn’t have any citizenship or education requirements, as it is an agreement between the parents and the English tutor, based on the parents’ standards.
Recently, in February 2021, the Taiwan Ministry of Education launched a new program to recruit foreign teachers for elementary and secondary schools. Their nationality requirement was expanded to include
Recently, in February 2021, the Taiwan Ministry of Education launched a new program to recruit foreign teachers for elementary and secondary schools. It’s known as the Taiwan Foreign English Teacher Program, or TFETP. The nationality requirement was expanded to include English as the official or common language. View the eligibility list here.
Before applying for your (Alien Resident Certificate) ARC or work permit, you will have to pass a medical examination. On arriving in Taiwan, you will have to go to a government sanctioned hospital to get a full health check. It includes a blood sample, a chest x-ray, and various vaccines. The health report will take at least one week which you must wait for before you can start applying for the work permit and ARC.
As soon as the school receives your work permit, no time is wasted. I was thrown in the deep and started teaching right away on my second day after the health check. During the first week or two, the school will have already started their assessment of you. Even with teaching experience this is a huge mountain to climb and 50% of new teachers quitting in the first week isn’t unheard of.
Taiwan Criminal Background Check
As mentioned, a criminal background check is required. Some schools will assist you with doing it, but it’s easy to do it online as well in this link.
In the online form you need to provide your passport number and a mobile contact number. A few days after you submit the form, the police station will send you an SMS letting you know where to go pick up the document. You can also sign a form allowing a third-party (someone from your school) to go pick it up on your behalf.
When you are coming from overseas, you will need a visa that will have to be valid until you get your work permit and ARC. This could take up to 2 months. It is possible to get a month extension if the visa from your respective country only issues a one month visa. This is the quickest way to get a work visa. Your school should start helping you to apply for this right away. The school is the one sponsoring your work permit. They will also apply for your national insurance health card.
If things don’t work out with the school, you can try elsewhere but you would have two weeks if you managed to get an ARC or work permit to find a new employer otherwise, you’ll have to do a visa run.
How Much Money to Bring
How much money should you bring? I constantly hear stories of foreigners coming over with only a plane ticket, in no world should you ever be doing this. You will need at least 2 months’ rent and then another month of cash for food and travel. The very least you should bring is about $30,000 NT ($1,000 USD).
Don’t expect schools to pay in advance, it may or may not be possible. In Kaohsiung, 1 bedroom bedsits are still possible for $250 USD/month (basic and small). I suggest getting one of these and you can upgrade later when you’ve saved enough. When you are looking for a place make sure it has air conditioning and a washing machine. It should also come with a bed and a basic table and chair. Also, make sure they hook you up with the internet because you can’t do this yourself. The rest, electricity, water, and gas should be standard.
The nominal teaching fee for a cram school is $600 NTD/hour ($18 USD/hour) to start. Some schools advertise $550 NTD/hour, but that is below the market price and discouraged among other teachers. In many situations, these positions are taken up by newly arrived teachers who are not familiar with the fee structure or those who don’t meet the qualifications. Normally, a one-year contract is required. At the end of the term, some schools offer bonuses for renewals.
The school that applies for your work permit and the ARC will have to provide you with at least 14 teaching hours a week. If the school can’t do this for whatever reason, you are allowed to make up the difference. You can take odd jobs you can find but your loyalty will lie with the school that is on your work permit and ARC, meaning they come first.
The pay at public schools is based on salary. A typical position is around 60K – 70K NT ($1,800 USD – $2,100 USD). In addition, they offer bonuses for completing the contract and for renewing.
Teaching privately may offer high pay, but there are some disadvantages. The pay is negotiated between the teacher and the parent. The typical range is from $800 NT – $1,200 NT ($24 – $36 USD), or higher. There are many factors that go into the pay negotiations, to include number of hours, preparatory time, and even the type of teaching, whether is basic English, IELTS, TOEIC, Business English, etc. While the pay is higher than buxibans, private tutors are only paid for the tutoring time, whereas buxiban hours are guaranteed. Also, there are no bonuses or health insurance provided through private teaching.
Normally, teaching hours start in the afternoon between 4pm to 5pm when the older students finish their schools. For the younger students in the first and second grade, many cram schools offer early afternoon time slots because they finish elementary school at 12:00 noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. At a minimum, most schools give two hours per day, but many full time positions run through around 9pm.
Many teachers think that they have to work only the paid teaching hours. If you can pull an amazing class out of your sleeve every class because you’re a natural, then ok, However, if you are a normal person, you will have to be prepared. That takes planning and time before the class especially when you are starting out. Some schools, in fact requires teachers to come in for prep time, often unpaid. The students and the school will know whether you’re are a good or bad teacher very quickly. If the latter, your life as a teacher will be that much more difficult.
Many schools and especially kindergartens provide teacher assistants (TA) to help you manage the class. They are usually local co-teachers and in no way should you be giving them orders. I have never had a TA refuse me help when asked, but they may or may not help you with disciplining unruly students. Their role is to assist you in classroom management, checking homework, helping you explain instructions. They are very helpful and eases some of the workload.
Tips for Getting Started
There are many ways to find teaching jobs in Kaohsiung, or Taiwan. First, join a Facebook group focused on hiring teachers. Kaohsiung has two groups centered around teaching jobs. This method is more competitive and teachers already in Kaohsiung may have an advantage, especially if the school is urgently looking for a teacher. This happens to be the case in most advertisements.
“Cold calling” is still effective, even in the teaching field. Dress professionally, ask to speak to the recruiting manager, or manager, and drop off your CV. This is a tried and proven way to land a job, especially if there’s a particular school you want to teach at.
Self-advertise in a Facebook group. Many schools plan ahead and need to fill future positions. This method is more guaranteed to lead to a contract offer.
Write to the bigger chain schools. They include Joy English, Hess, Kid Castle. Many times, these schools will keep your information as they have high turnover.
There are recruiting agents. While these lead to placements, the conditions you are hired may not be to your advantage. Before signing this contract, be sure to read the fine print. With so many other ways to get hired, this method is not encouraged.
Resources for Teaching in Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung English Teachers Facebook group is the most popular for finding teaching jobs in Kaohsiung.
Kaohsiung Subbing Facebook group is geared toward temporary positions but will also have some full-time ads.
Many chain cram schools advertise on Tealit.com.
Teach Taiwan lists ads for teaching at Taiwan public schools for certified teachers.
Kaohsiung has three international schools who hire certified teachers: Kaohsiung American School, I-Shou International School, and Morrison Academy. Please check their recruitment pages for job opportunities.
Teaching English in Kaohsiung, or insert any city here, will bring the best and worst out of you. Most likely, the latter will be because you didn’t sufficiently prepare. The school will have a curriculum for you to follow, in addition to all class materials. However, I suggest bringing your own teaching tools because it will just make your life easier.
Generally, you will have to be a disciplinarian whether you like it or not. This will be an area (discipline) that no book or training course will fully prepare you for. If you get this right, your teaching career will get off to a flying start. Remember, you are their teacher and you are responsible for everything that happens in the 2 hours that the students are with you. They are not your friends.
A lot of success in teaching depends on luck! Many factors come into play whether you will fit in to teaching English. People have different standards for success, but having the right colleagues, support staff and even students play a big role in this. I’ve been teaching for 14 years in cram schools. I still make mistakes. I still get stressed. If you don’t do it for the money, you’ll be satisfied. I am still here, so there must be something to teaching after all.
About Kin Hoo Ho
Kin is from the United Kingdom. He is an accomplished photographer, whose photos have been featured on My Kaohsiung and in other popular magazines. Kin is also an experienced English teacher and private tutor, having taught in Kaohsiung for over 10 years.
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