Taiwan is a modern, industrialised megalopolis of big cities that benefit from booming trade with the US and other countries. Its thriving cities skirt glorious mountain ranges, and despite the hi-tech, developed aspect of the country there are still grass-skirted, indigenous tribes slightly at odds with this image.
The official language is Mandarin, and twenty-three millions squeeze into an area of fourteen thousand square miles. Religions practiced include Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity.
There is such a wealth of opportunity for TESOL teachers in Taiwan that it is hard to describe. For example English kindergartens are highly fashionable, and the trend for English goes from there up in the education system. In addition to this there are many corporations that need English to do business. One of the great plusses of Taiwan is that the wages are comparable to Japan, yet the cost of living is much lower.
With a TESOL qualification alone, it is possible to get work teaching ‘privates’; however, you may not as easily find a company to sponsor you for that all important work permit, which permits you to stay longer than sixty days.
Rather like Japan, it is a country where you can really make your qualifications work for you. A BA or BSc is really a requisite to a decent job with a company that will sponsor you. MA, PhD, and PGCE qualifications are also highly prized. Really good jobs that pay really good salaries, and provide good working conditions are the objective, and you have to do the best you can to make your qualifications and work experience work for you. In addition to this presentation counts for a great deal, and, perhaps, outweighs some qualifications in some cases. Dress smartly, and don’t forget that this is a shoes-off culture, so holes in socks or tights don’t speak well of candidates.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching those who work in business or those cramming for exams, 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 varied student body. Some will have very little experience; however, others, privately educated, will have many years experience in studying English.
In almost every circumstance you will find highly motivated students, expecting well-structured classes.
Visas and Regulations
Taiwan only offers fifteen-day tourist visas. A better bet is to get a visitor’s visa, available from any Taiwanese embassy, which is good for sixty days. This gives you ample time to find an employer who will be willing to sponsor you. It is best not to indicate on your visitor’s visa application that you are looking for work.
Once you have found a school willing to sponsor you, you then need to obtain an Alien Resident Certificate. Your school or institute applies to the local education authority for a working permit, for which they will need a copy and a translation of any educational certificates you have, a contract, a medical certificate requiring various tests, and your passport. Once that is processed you can apply for a Resident Visa at the Ministry of Foreign affairs. The fee is around $70. About two weeks later your resident visa will be stamped in your passport. You are then obliged to apply to the foreign Affairs police, at a cost of around $40, for an Alien Resident’s Certificate. Think about whether you want a multiple entry visa or not. Multiple entry costs a bit more.
Barely a century old Taipei has rapidly developed from rice paddies to a thriving metropolis. There is no shortage of great sights to see, and the city is a marvel of modern architecture. Fantastic restaurants and great nightlife is on offer, but it all comes at considerable expense. Nevertheless, on the salaries available a TESOL teacher should be able to live well in the hustle and bustle of this modern city.
Getting a Job
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 opportunities will vary from country of origin to country of origin, Asian embassy to Asian embassy. In addition to this you should have copies of all your educational certificates.
It is by no means a requisite to find a job before you arrive, and one must weigh the pros and cons of security, against being able to examine first-hand what a prospective employer has to offer.
There are a number of recruiting agencies looking for teachers to work in Taiwan: www.taiwan-teachers.com; www.tealit.com offers jobs and plenty of information; www.taiwanho.com is also a good place to do research; TESOL Network actively recruits teachers from abroad.
On the spot, the best time to arrive is the summer - the end of the school year. Finding an institute willing to hire you is not nearly as easy as finding a good institute to hire you. It’s a good idea to scout prospective employers well, ask to have a look at what teaching materials are available, and ask about amongst the ex-pat community.
One can look for jobs in the English language press, the China Post, and the China News. Taipei hostels and pubs are also a good source of information, and it is a good to talk with ex-pats about what is going on in the local scene. This will provide you with up-to-the-minute information.