Tuesday 1 April 2014

Teaching in Asia

Updated 2 December 2014

Asia is a popular place for newbies and oldbies alike. The vastly different culture and language attracts people from around the world. Salaries and benefits vary widely within Asia so be sure to check out your options.

Below you can find a simple summary of what the most popular countries offer to help you choose an Asian country to teach in. You can also find a comparison of Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and China in this guide. Here's a thread with more information about teaching in Asia at Dave's ESL Cafe.

If you're looking for adventure, you might want to check ou the Bhutan Canada Foundation programme. Whereas most people who visit Bhutan have to spend $250 a day, you'll get to experience the real Bhutan.

Where To Find Job Adverts
ESL Cafe has been a long time favourite to search for job adverts. There are also many, many job sites out there. You can find a comprehensive list here at TEFL Tips in the job sites section

Salaries and Benefits
Salaries vary widely, from $500 in China to more than $3000 in Korea and Brunei. Korea is probably the best place to make money for newbies. If you have experience, head to Brunei. Licensed teachers can work at international schools anywhere in the world. You might also be interested in and teaching exchanges and fellowships. As far as benefits go, you could get nothing (which is pretty common in Taiwan) to nearly everything (more common in Brunei and Korea).
  • Furnished housing (or a housing and furniture allowance)
  • Flights home
  • Medical insurance
  • Yearly bonus
  • Contract completion bonus
  • Medical /health insurance
  • Contract re-signing bonus
  • Paid vacation
  • Relocation allowance
  • Tax free salary
Where to Go
Asia is huge and the opportunities are limitless. Jim Rodgers says that Asia is the place to go if you want to become wealthy. Here's a discussion about the most popular Asian countries TEFLers go to. Read the country profiles below to find out more information. Here's a list of the best schools I put together.

Who You'll Teach
From kindergarten through secondary school, university, and language schools, there are chance to teach learners of all levels and ages.

What to Expect
Culture Shock tends to hit people pretty quickly in Asia. Communication is strained and Asians have a different way of doing things than Westerners. Read the article culture shock to find out more. Religion is very different in Asia. There are Buddhists, Ancestory worshippers, Muslims, Christians and more. Being tolerant of religion and respecting laws that go along with their religion is necessary.

Face is something very common in Asia. You don't want to lose face or force someone to lose face. This can cause problems. Rather than saying "no" or "I don't know", your boss may say "yes" or "We'll see". This is to save your face and his face. Patience is definitely needed!

Class sizes tend to be larger in Asia. Some people may have 40 students in a primary class or 70 or more in university classes. Be sure to ask about class size before accepting job.

Asia is wonderful, the people are kind and eager to learn about your life, and the culture is like nothing you've seen before. As with all areas of the world, some people love it and some people hate it. I personally love Asia and hope that I'm here to stay. There are SO many interesting things to learn about Asia. Try checking out a culture book or a book on how to do business in Asia before coming over.

Brunei is a little known secret among TEFLers. A small, Muslim country near Indonesia, it has strict requirements for its residents. You'll need to be a licensed teacher in your home country and have 3 years teaching experience in primary or secondary schools. If you fulfill those requirements, then you can make between $37,000 and $57,000 a year plus benefits. Salaries aren't taxes and you get great benefits such as furnished or subsidized housing, insurance, interest-free car loans, settling-in allowance, and allowances for your spouse / children. CfBT (not open to Americans) and Teach Away recruit for Brunei. Teach Away also has an online TEFL cert from the University of Toronto. The general Asia discussion forums have more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Brunei.

With the Khmer Rouge, the Killing Fields, and Poi Pot, Cambodia hasn't had the best reputation. Things are changing though and the country is opening up. A positive is that a business visa is easy enough to get at the border. You'll just end up paying a bit extra that what tourist visas cost. You can renew it in country and stay and teach. The Cambodia discussion forum has more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Cambodia.

China usually has a lower salary than many places, but if you can get 8000 - 10000 RMB a month plus benefits you probably will be able to save a decent amount due to the low cost of living. Contrary to fact, there are places in China that pay well.
IELTS testing with the British Council can bring in some extra cash. Job openings are often placed on Dave's ESL Cafe or contact the nearest British Council. Here's a description of the requirements. Be aware that China is a very popular place for newbies and as such as earned the reputation as having teachers fit into one of the 3M categories: mercenaries, missionaries, or misfits. Not saying that all teachers are like that in China, but I've met my fair of odd teachers there. The China discussion forum has more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in China.

Edit: It seems the British Council will be phasing out part-time weekend examining.

Hong Kong may be a more difficult market to get into, but if you can get in, you can earn a very good salary. The NET (Native English Teacher) Scheme is the best, money-wise, but you will need experience and a background in teaching. Since the British only recently turned Hong Kong back to China, the atmosphere is East meets West. Many nationalities make HK their home and you can hear different languages being spoken. You can find businessmen chatting on cell phones and Chinese men squatting on the side of the road playing mahjongg. Start-up and living costs are high, but this is balanced by the higher salaries. Teach Away recruits for NET. They also have a TEFL cert from the University of Toronto. You can make from $3000 to $6500 a month. The Hong Kong discussion forum has more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Hong Kong.

If the Far East is calling you, then Indonesia is perfect. A country reputed to have the highest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia will allow you to see a world completely different than your own. Plus, it's a tropical island, what more could you ask for? Stay out of Jakarta and you might want to avoid the party island of Bali, but other than that, the world's your oyster. Expect between $500 and $800 usd a month for teaching about 20 hours a week. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Indonesia.

Japan was a popular TEFL destination back in the 1990s, but even though things aren't what they used to be, you can still save money. Typical starting salaries are about 250,000 yen a month, which roughly works out to about $2550 usd a month. Debito has a greenlist and a blacklist of Japanese universities.

Take into account that you won't be getting free housing. The school might pay for a portion of it, but that will be your biggest expense. Due to key money (the deposit you put down on an apartment), start-up costs are high. Living costs are also pretty high. Added to that is the flooded teacher market which makes for more competition and allows for employers to ask for more experience and more qualifications.

One of the biggest benefits of working in Japan is that you own your visa, so if you lose your job, you can still legally stay in country. Another added plus is that Japanese is easier to learn than other Asian languages. You can get your own work visa or get a working holiday visa. See this article about working holiday visas, or contact the nearest Japanese embassy for visa options. The Japan discussion forum has more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Japan.

The Korean won isn't worth as much as it was a couple years ago. The ebooks Coming to Korea and Living in Korea have lots of good info. While the days of easily saving $20,000 usd a year are gone, you should be able to save $15,000 usd.  $20,000 usd isn't impossible if you budget. Getting severance and your pension back at the end of your contract really helps. There's a lot of paper pushing going on, Korea has the lowest productivity rate in the OECD. So that means long hours, with little getting done. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Korea.

Take into account that visa laws are very strict. If you're on an E2 visa, you can only work for one institute and even teaching private classes is illegal. If caught, you could be fined or deported.

If you're looking to teach at a hagwon (institute) you should look at the Reliable Teacher Hagwon Review. Public school jobs are also popular and if you're interested you should apply to EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, TALK, or GNUCR. If you're looking to teach at a university, try Joe Seoul Man's blog. The Korea discussion forums have more info.

If international schools are more your style try looking at Konglishman's post, Olivencia's post, PsyGuy's post, and Kikomom's post on Dave's.

Singaporeans, Chinese, and Indians live here along with Malaysians and expats from around the world. Malaysia is a melting pot of many religions including Christianity, Buddism, and Islam. It's a fantastic place to visit and even better if you're able to live there. Although it's in SE Asia, it's not a third world country so that means that cost of living is higher than what you would pay in Thailand or Vietnam. Teach Away has many teaching positions ranging from ESL teachers, subject teachers, teach trainers, advisors, managers, and more. They also have a TEFL cert from the University of Toronto. The General Asia discussion forums have more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Malaysia.

Taiwan tends to pay higher salaries than China, but less than Korea. Taiwan has a high start up cost as well. But if you're there long term, you can save. Another benefit is that you can usually work for more than one employer legally. The year-long hot weather is another perk to living in Taiwan. The Taiwan discussion forums have more info. The ultimate guide to teaching in Taiwan also has lots of tips. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Taiwan.

If you're looking for a laid-back atmosphere, try Thailand. Although you will probably be paid less, sometimes a more relaxed atmosphere outweighs the pay. You can probably make about $1000 usd - $2000 a month, but due to the fact of cheap living costs, some TEFLers have been able to save a couple thousand dollars a year. Thailand is located in South East Asia, has great weather year round and lots of beaches. It's also a top tourist destination, so you'll find many of the amenities there that you will find at home. The Thailand discussion forums have more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Thailand.

Since costs of living is so low, your salary lasts longer. Language Link, ILA, Apollo, and RMIT have decent paying jobs in Vietnam. Most people are able to make between $1500 and $3000 usd a month. Typical benefits include relocation allowance, health insurance, paid vacation, contract completion bonus, and renewal bonus. There are lots of jobs out there for people who want to teach VYL. Try checking out New Hanoian or email teflersanonymous@yahoo.com

People have reported being able to find pretty nice apartments for only $300 a month. Most can also afford a cleaning lady a couple times a week and to eat out in restaurants as well as save a bit of cash at the end of the month. Vietnam is in the heart of SE Asia, so you can take trips to surrounding countries very easily. The Vietnam discussion forums have more info. Here's my list of the best schools to work for in Vietnam.


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