Teaching English in Taiwan

Taiwan has long been popular. Ever since the Portuguese first named it lha Formosa in 1544, the “Beautiful Island” has attracted more attention than countries twice its size. Today the island nation – also known as the Republic of China – continues to attract attention for many reasons. Home to some of the most sophisticated – and densely populated – cities in the world it is also a land of lush jungles and stunning mountains. This popularity, derived from businessmen and travelers alike, is also well reinforced by English teachers. Indeed, Taiwan consistently ranks at or near the top of any “best of” ESL employment list. Why, though, do so many want to teach English in Taiwan?

Why Taiwan?

For many ESL instructors the decision to teach English in Taiwan rests on two important factors: salary and stability. Teaching positions on the “Beautiful Island” typically pay quite well in general. This is especially true when cross country comparisons – a job in Taiwan pays better than an equivalent posting in South Korea – and the (low) cost of living are taken into consideration. More to the point, these high salaries include health care and do not come at the expense of quality of life (like in Saudi Arabia) or stability (like in mainland China). Indeed, many expats report that it was Taiwan’s relatively stable ESL industry that first attracted them. Less competitive than in Japan but better regulated than China, it offers many an oasis of calm –and makes moving halfway around the world for a job that much simpler.

What kinds of qualifications are necessary?

As in many other East Asian countries, in theory any applicant who a) is a native English speaker, and b) has a bachelor’s degree in any discipline is eligible to teach English. In the wake of the Great Recession (2007-2008), however, the supple of would-be teachers in Taiwan has increased dramatically. Although demand for instructors remains high, ESL schools in Taiwan have become increasingly selective. This has resulted in stiffer competition for jobs as well as a general drop in wages for applicants without relevant work experience but has left those with TEFL certificates and experience generally unaffected (and in high demand).

What kinds of opportunities exist to teach English in Taiwan?

ESL schools in Taiwan can be broadly broken down in two categories: public and private. Private schools in particular come in a number of varieties but these subsets nevertheless have more in common with one another than with their public counterparts.

Private Schools

The vast preponderance of English teaching positions in Taiwan can be found in private schools. From private day schools on end of the spectrum to afterhours buxiban (“cram schools”) on the other, the private sector generally pays better than the government. As a general rule, however, schedules do not conform to general 9 to 5 and class sizes are smaller. Smaller schools have a more personal approach but may be less stable than the larger ones.

Public schools and universities

English is a compulsory subject in the public school system from Grade 3 onwards, meaning that the demand for public school instructors is always high. Such positions generally pay slightly less than their private school counterparts and expect higher qualifications but (as they are not profit-driven) often offer a more relaxed work-life. Class sizes are typically quite large, however, and vacant positions in high schools and universities are few and far between. A 9 to 5 schedule, full weekends and regular (paid) vacations are almost guaranteed.

When is the best time to apply?

Because buxibans and other private academies do not adhere to a strict academic calendar, candidates can apply at any time. Public and private day schools, on the other hand, are usually looking for teachers in March and April.

How can I find a job in Taiwan?

The ESL market in Taiwan is fairly well developed. As a result it relies primarily on direct advertisements, recruitment agencies, and word of mouth to fill vacancies. It is possible to find a job teaching English in Taiwan from your home country but, as always, in-person applications give you the opportunity to make sure the position is right for you. Such follow-through is always a good idea.