Michael A. Turton

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Teaching English in Taiwan

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Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System
Students at Asia University  ham it up for the camera. 

On one hand, the Taiwan college system has never been so full of opportunity for employment. On the other, things have really started to tighten up.
Your trusty writer lounging between classes at a new university in central Taiwan.
Generally, Taiwan's educational system, like everything else Taiwanese, is incredibly hierarchical and rigid. At the apex of the system is National Taiwan University, known simply as Taita (tai-dah) which attracts the best teachers and students and gets a disproportional share of national education funding.  At the bottom are the five-year vocational colleges. The latter are being phased out. Typical student foods.
The system has two fundamental dichotomous divisions, first into the academic and vocational tracks, and then into public (government-run) and private. National schools like NTU are government-run academic track schools generally similar to four year colleges in the States in organization and functions.  They attract the best teachers, set high standards, and have good students. They also offer graduate programs.


  Night speech class. Night classes, with demanding, experienced students, can be challenging and fun.
The apex of the vocational track is the "University of Technology," which offers both two- and four- year degrees in applied disciplines. Whereas at a National school the language department will be a full-blown four-year program featuring literature, history, and linguistics taught by highly-qualifed scholars, the language department of a University of Technology will offer low-grade English for Special Purposes: business, teaching, sometimes translation. Many ahve started to offer graduate programs.
Housing at the new Mingdao University in Central Taiwan. The interiors are wood-finished
At the bottom of the higher educational system are the five-year junior colleges. These are 3+2 systems, three years high school plus two years undergrad. Subjects are ruthlessly limited to applied fields, like applied engineering/sciences (gong jwan). The applied disciplines include English (basically training for secretaries). The junior colleges will offer a two year associate degree (er jwan) and many also offer the er ji, the second two years. The two together equal a poor 4 year degree.

The junior college system is being phased out, and most junior colleges are set to upgrade to universities of technology.

  The English Department language lab at Chaoyang University in central Taiwan.
Night school students prepare for class. At universities of technology like the Overseas Chinese Institute of Technology (OCIT) shown here, most night school students are female adults in their twenties finishing a four year degree. They are generally more interesting and work harder than the day school students.
Students at THMU in Wufeng outside of Taichung. Most foreign teachers will be teaching in the universities of technology or in junior colleges, in the Applied Foreign Language Departments. These schools will take people with just a masters degree, who have no English major, to teach English. The National schools require a doctorate and serious scholarly output. 
This pressure will only increase, since the government has begun to rate schools by their publication output in foreign journals. Thus, opportunities for foreign masters degree holders will shrink as time goes on.
The grounds of  the private Taichung Health Management University, still unfinished. THMU is one of an exploding number of such institutions. Most will be gone in the next decade. In addition to the academic-vocational division, Taiwanese universities may be public or private. A key difference between Taiwan and the US is that the private universities are often for-profit institutions, either formally or informally. 
Chaoyang University in Wufeng outside of Taichung. Located on slopeland above the town, the views of Taichung are spectacular when the pollution cooperates. Private universities are often owned by families, or by large conglomerates, especially construction companies. Some companies, such as the one that owns my university, Chaoyang (pictured at left), are professional and keep the accounts strictly separate. At others the Presidents are instructed to return a fixed percentage of funds to the parent company each year.
Mingdao, a new university located south of Taichung along Highway 1. A key trend in recent years is the explosion in universities opening across Taiwan. Because the government pays out subsidies when a university reaches certain minimum facility, equipment and size standards, large industrial conglomerates are opening universities as subsidy farms. The result is colleges sprouting up everywhere they can obtain cheap land, like mushrooms on a rotting log. Sooner or later infinite demand will bump up against limited budget, and all of these universities will close.
A partially finished university in central Taiwan. Most new universities are located either on rural land far from anything, or on slopeland. The city of Taichung is in the extreme background.
Currently demand for foreign teachers in English departments is at all-time highs. The new universities all need native speakers, the government is encouraging the hiring of foreigners, and the students want to be taught by native speakers.  The grounds of the Overseas Chinese Institute of Technology.
There are few foreign teachers in departments outside of English. It is difficult for foreigners to get into such departments, though it is not impossible.  I know several such professors, and Chaoyang has a foreigner in the Design Department. It is also more difficult to get into a national school than a private school. Out with a teacher friend and kids. On your salary, meals like this can be a regular treat. 
If you are coming with only a masters, your goal should be a university of technology. However, because the university must maintain a ratio of masters to PhD holders, PhDs have much better job opportunities.  My wife relaxes outside the bookstore at Chaoyang University. One of the better-run institutions on the island, the Campus boasts an outlet of a prominent local English bookstore chain.
Keep in mind that at many schools, foreigners are there as tokens to placate the students. Foreigners are widely regarded as troublesome and difficult to manage (in Chinese society interpersonal relations are regarded as difficult and troublesome in general, and squared for foreigners).  There are exceptions. The pool at a university in southern Taiwan.

Recently I gave the URL for my Taiwan website to a friend at another university. She replied with the following email:

"Tried to get in the websites and was told there might be some "unappropriate" content for Taiwanese academic environment.  This is hilarious!  Never knew we are so PROTECTED!"

So be careful! "Unappropriate" content ahead!

At many universities next to each room there is a chart showing who uses it and when. If you get lost, just look for your name on these.

Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System
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