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Indonesia has placed the turmoil of the nineties firmly in the past. The currency has now stabilized, and once again Indonesia is a hot destination for TESOL teachers. The archipelago is a world of contrast. Rapidly evolving big cities, stand in stark contrast to the seldom travelled, unspoilt, tropical wilderness. Home to a wealth of cultures, the colors, smells, and the people all make for a kaleidoscope experience.
A population of two-hundred and thirty four millions fit into a landmass of seven-hundred and forty thousand square miles. Indonesian is the official language, with Javanese, Sudanese and English spoken by a minority, though one shouldn’t expect English to be widely spoken outside of the big cities. It is a predominantly Muslim country, with a minority of Hindi devotees, and Christians.
Teaching opportunities abound, and there is great enthusiasm for learning English. In many cases presentation will outweigh qualifications. It’s important to dress well - particularly in Jakarta. Students are accustomed to learning by rote, and seldom wish to be taken of the well-beaten track. Most teachers report few problems with discipline. Petrochemical wealth, has led to great demand for teachers within corporations, and this pays a far higher wage than working in a high school!
Whilst it is possible to get a job on the basis of a TESOL qualification alone, some employers prefer an undergraduate degree. Having said this, one does not face, for example, the rigors of Europe, where two years’ teaching experience is sometimes a must.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching those who work in business or tourism, less so those doing it just for fun. This ‘needs-driven’ market makes for sharp, well-motivated students. Don’t expect to find people dozing at the back of the class. Commensurately, these people are paying for the privilege, and will expect a respectable, well-turned out, professional teacher.
Because of the huge variety of standards in education you can expect a commensurately patchy student body. Some will have very little experience; however, others, privately educated, will have many years experience in studying English.
In the main students are enthusiastic and well-behaved. Teaching hours are carried out between 3:30 in the afternoon to 8:00 in the evening.
Indonesia is not one of those countries where you can work, untroubled, without a work permit. Indeed, the Indonesian authorities declare ‘Please be informed that Indonesia has very strict and complicated immigration/visa requirements and the process can be very long.’ Enough said! At time of writing work permits are only available to citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. This may change, and one would do well to check with the Indonesian embassy in one’s country of origin.
In order to get a work permit you must be offered a contract by an employer. This can be done in advance by contacting either the British Council or your local Indonesian embassy, which may yield a few leads.
Perhaps more practically, one can enter Indonesia on a sixty-day tourist visa, and then scout around for work, and get a contract. Once this is in place the school or institute can apply for a visa on your behalf. You will need photocopies of all your certificates and your passport. Once all of your paperwork has been processed, your passport is then sent to the nearest Indonesian embassy, normally Singapore, to be stamped. You must then do a visa run, collect your passport, and then re-enter the country as a naturalized worker.
Working on a tourist visa is a very serious offence and will get you in jail, deported, and blacklisted so that you cannot re-enter the country. It will also get your employer in big trouble. Hence, it is best to do things by the book!
Jakarta, the capital, is Indonesia’s boomtown and, as such, is one of the most lively and exciting cities in the region. Bali is extremely picturesque and varied, offering everything from beautiful tropical beaches to volcanoes and paddy fields. The natives are warm and friendly, and the area is recovering from its tragic recent history.
Java is the most heavily developed island in the archipelago. The countryside and temples are truly breathtaking, but then so is the pollution of the big cities. Nevertheless, a fascinating place for a visit. Sumatra offers a quite different prospect. Rugged hills, restless volcanoes and tropical rainforest abound. One of the last habitats of the orang-utan.
A modicum of preparation prior to setting out will pay dividends. Think of not one country, but the continent of Asia. You may come to value mobility once you hit this part of the world. Hence, it is a very good idea to contact all of the Asian embassies your country of origin, enquiring about teaching and visas, and see what you get back. You will find that you have a nice big file folder of leads and information, but will vary from country of origin to country of origin, Asian embassy to Asian embassy.
There are avenues that can be utilised to gain a placement prior to setting out. Princeton (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Stanford (email@example.com) Universities run volunteer programmes in various countries, a component of which is TESOL teaching. Stanford’s programme, for example, is open to graduates and graduating seniors, and charges a fee of $1,975 for one year, and $975 for two. This covers the cost of flights, training, visas and insurance.
The English language newspapers, the Jakarta Post, and the Indonesian Observer, are good places to look for jobs. It is a good idea to contact the local office of the British Council, since they often have dealings with schools looking for teachers.
It is a good idea not to go for any old job. With most schools you can expect your accommodation costs to be reimbursed at the end of your contract. Similarly at the better end of the market you can expect your airfares to be reimbursed.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors - hence, there is a need to have copies of your certificates at the ready. You can get some help from a local to go through telephone directories seeking out universities, schools and language institutes, etc, which are often only too willing to interview candidates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organised and enthusiastic teachers are in short supply. If they like you they will most certainly find some teaching for you!
Hence, one of the best and most realistic propositions is to build a working life around a contract, on whatever basis, bearing in mind that revenue from ‘privates’ can double a teacher’s income, one should always be on the lookout for private students, whatever one’s employment or visa status. The market for those wanting private tuition or conversation practice is huge, and potentially very lucrative, therefore, not be neglected. Give yourself time to build a portfolio of work. This is best safeguard to both your income, and employment status.
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