Asia attracts tens of thousands of TESOL qualified teachers every year, however, some countries have certain restrictions in place that you need to be aware of before choosing a destination. For example, a 4-year university degree is required in some countries and others will only issue work permits to native English speakers. Another issue that teachers might need to be aware of is that there are age restrictions that apply in some situations.
Table of Contents
Some of the most popular TESOL destinations in Asia have a strict retirement policy that applies to both local and foreign teachers. In countries such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, government schools are not allowed to sponsor work visas for teachers who have reached the retirement age of that country. The retirement age varies from one country to the next and can be anywhere from 55 to 65. To be sure you are clear on the local requirements you should check with the embassy of your prefered destinations.
Although you might be full of energy and raring to get going in the classroom, it is a fact that some employers across Asia are not keen on hiring teachers over a certain age. One issue behind this is unlike Latin America and Europe where a large percentage of teachers are hired face-to-face and are therefore responsible for their own start-up costs, many schools across Asia tend to hire their teachers from overseas which inevitably incurs significant amounts of time and money on the part of the employer. Sorting out the necessary work permits and visas and providing additional benefits such as plane fares and accommodation on arrival can all add up to a big investment in each teacher they employ. Many employers are reluctant to make this investment in teachers over a certain age as they consider it a risk as they might struggle to cope with the demands of adjusting to a busy work schedule and a new culture and climate. However unfair this outlook may be, it is a reality in many parts of the region.
Although it is certainly true that many Asian cultures put a high importance on respecting your elders, this can actually further increase many employers reluctance to take on older teachers. The fact is that many schools are run by head teachers or managers that are under the age of 40. This can be an issue as it is generally seen as disrespectful to correct or give orders to people who are older than yourself. To avoid any embarrassment, it is not uncommon for schools to only consider teachers under the age of 40 or even 30 in some cases.
Across Asia a large percentage of TESOL jobs involve young learners from as young as 3 or 4 years old. In this type of job it is common for employers to look for young, energetic teachers who they feel are capable of maintaining a lively atmosphere for up to 8 or even 10 hours a day. In reality, many older teachers would have no trouble keeping up with this environment and if you are able to secure an interview it is certainly possible to convince an employer that you are fit, healthy and young at heart. However, as a large number of jobs across Asia are filled from overseas rather than in-person, it is common practice for many employers to look at the age of each candidate before anything else which can make it tough to secure an interview.
By taking into account all the issues raised above, you would be forgiven for assuming that Asia is essentially out of bounds for teachers over 40 years of age. Thankfully, this is far from the truth. While countries such as China and South Korea typically have some restrictions on age, other countries including Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam have no concerns about employing more mature teachers. Whatever your age, there are certain factors that can often have a big impact on your employability. If you have any form of previous classroom experience you will find your options are greatly improved in many countries. You will also find that employers that cater to adult students rather than school children often prefer older teachers as they feel they have a better chance of building a strong rapport within the classroom. Taking all of this information into account, by researching the requirements in place in different locations you should be able to make realistic decisions on the best destinations to suit your own situation.