More school art from our school in Hsinchu.
Teaching is a great profession. I have learned this over the last 6 months, even if I was a teacher in part in Canada, it isn’t the same when you are a full time teacher.
I have been asked what the good points and bad points of teaching are, and not only in Taiwan, but in general. I will limit most of my opinions on things that I have experienced.
- Paid summer vacations (not in Taiwan except at International and American schools).
- Interesting salaries for foreigners in Taiwan.
- No income tax in Taiwan for grade school and junior high school teachers.
- The possibility of supplementing your income by tutoring or working at language schools.
- Interacting with the kids.
- Good hourly pay available at language schools, especially foreign owned language schools.
- The chance to continue your education while working full time.
- Dealing with parents.
- Dealing with Taiwanese administrators.
- No real benefits, except health care.
- Discipline problems in most schools, especially private day schools where the parents are catered to.
- A lot of extra paperwork
- Long office hours, that might be illegal for foreign teachers, varying from 10 to 20 hours a week. (I have checked with the Labor Department of Taiwan, and they told me that there is no such thing as office hours for foreign teachers. Only a maximum of 32 teaching hours per week)
- Stuck at school for the whole day, even if you are only teaching one hour.
- Doing illegal stuff without knowing it (teaching at a Kindergarten, which has been illegal for foreigners since January 2003).
- Dealing with needy parents.
A language school or buxiban is a school that operates outside the normal day school hours. It will function from 4 to 9PM every day, and the whole day on Saturday. Language schools exist for children to perfect their language schools. There are Mandarin based language schools and English based ones. The foreign owned schools insist heavily either on phonics or grammar and drill their students until they get it right.
Non-foreign owned language schools… Well, it’s a different story. You do not get paid training, which is pretty standard in foreign owned schools. You do not get trained in some Chinese, which is also needed at most foreign owned schools.
Having worked at a day school and a few different buxibans over the last few months, I have come to notice that you do not get as close as you do with students in a buxiban than if you teach in a day school. In a day school, you will teach your classes a few hours every day of the week. In a buxiban, you will see your classes either once or twice a week.
The thing is, that you get your class for a year in a day school. And then they move on. Personally, because of the long office hours that most of the time are a total waste of time, I would not suggest working at day schools. You will make more money working at a language school, tutoring and working at another school, if that is what you are looking for.
And if you are dealing with an agency, don’t. It is illegal for them to ask for money from you. They do this all the time. And they will try to move you around, if the school isn’t a good fit. Agencies are actually placement agencies that are paid by the schools themselves to find appropriate teachers. The agencies receive a certain amount each month that you stay at the school as well, this varies from 8000 to 10000 NTD. This is not taken off your salary, though some school will try to do this to you. This is paid by the school directly to the agency, each month.
Most hourly paid positions pay a base of 600-650 NTD per hour. Any less, and you are not getting a competitive salary, even in Taipei. You can find positions that pay over 1000NTD per hour, but those are at foreign owned buxibans. The median is about 650-700NTD per hour. Over that, and you are getting a good salary from a language school. Make sure you ask about promotions, bonuses and increases in pay. Make sure these are written into your contract.
If you do any private teaching, the rates are a lot higher. Generally, 800 NTD per hours is acceptable. Personally, I do not accept any less anymore. And for that salary, you are not tailoring a curriculum or handing out materials, just helping with reading, reading comprehension and their homework.
I work on a sliding scale, the more students that I teach at the same time, the less it costs per child per hour. I have been informed that most foreign owned buxibans charge between 200-250 NTD per hour per child. It is good to remember this when you are making your own rates.
Depending on the amount of work that is required, the hourly wage goes up. I have run classes of four children for 400 NTD per hour per child, but for that price, I was doing a lot of work. Generally, it’s best not to over charge. Most business English classes will charge around 1000 NTD per hour.
Most adult buxibans will offer more interesting salaries, but interview processes are longer. Salaries at adult buxibans vary between 650 to 1000 NTD. The topmost bracket is reserved for IELTS and TOEFL accredited teachers. It is hard to get more than 800 NTD per hour for these positions and generally, they do not offer a lot of hours.
The key in hourly positions is block hours. It doesn’t matter if you are paid 1000NTD per hour if you only teach an hour a week in a remote area. It’s better to teach 3 hours a week at 750NTD with 10 minutes travel time. Lower wages can be accepted for block hours.
I have found myself refusing tutoring clients because they have been either too far away or hadn’t been the right fit for me. Make sure that you explain your rates before you start any discussion with the prospective parents and meet in a neutral place, such as a coffee shop and explain what you will do and listen to the needs of the parents.
I find that I need to make parents pay in advance for my lessons. It makes it easier for the parents and students to be at the lesson. I have waster time over the last few weeks because I had not done this for all of my clients.
If this is brought up immediately at the beginning, it’s no problem. But once lessons have started, it is almost impossible to change the way they are laid out and payment is made. I am always direct and honest when it comes to salary negotiations. Getting paid 600 NTD per hour for a tutoring job once a week isn’t worth my while.
I know that in part I am different in this from the other teachers I met, since I have a strong background in business. And in Taiwan, education is a business, never forget it.
The key to education in Taiwan, is efficiency. Try to minimize your efforts while maximizing your salary. As much as some people will try to convince you otherwise, most foreigners come to Taiwan to save money, in some form or another.
From what Mark has told me, it’s no longer looking as good for Americans in Taiwan, but for Canadians, it’s still a good opportunity. The exchange rate is better than it was 6 months ago and the chance to pay no taxes, literally or no income tax is a welcome change from 43-55% income tax.