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

The self-access center of a university in southern Taiwan. Students can come here to study English independently, through multimedia, interactive software, videos, and similar tools.

Getting Hired
The qualifications for getting hired at a national school are simple: PhD plus publications, same as in the US. A campus, empty during vacation.
The qualifications for teaching English in an Applied Foreign Language (AFL) Department in a University of Technology are simple: you need a masters degree. It can be in any field. A PhD is preferred, but if you can offer extensive experience, or are already in the system, or can speak Chinese, or have an array of publications, or have some other skill (business or translation background, for example), that will increase your marketability to AFL departments. Degrees like MFA or Philosophy will not be very marketable. Other kinds of teaching certification will carry no particular weight. It's lunchtime!
You CANNOT get a job as an instructor in the system with just a BA. It is technically legal but practically impossible. So don't send me a letter asking if you can. The only job you can get is a much less desirable one (though with higher hourly rates) at the university language center. 


The grounds of Fooyin University in southern Taiwan outside of Kaohsiung. A private nursing school that has upgraded to university status, Fooyin was founded more than 4 decades ago.
Distance degrees are not recognized by the Ministry of Education (MOE) here. A degree must be obtained from an accredited university in person. There are no exceptions, so don't write me with a question about it.
Mormon missionaries harass students on campus.
Currently there is no centralized system for finding job openings. You just contact, preferably in person, universities of your choice, or view their web pages.

Kenting National Park, one of the jewels of Taiwan. If you work in southern Taiwan, you will be only three hours away from this playground.
Once you have applied, the school will contact you. You will probably have to present your research, and perhaps demonstration teach. This will be done in person.
This terrifying piece of art "decorated" our campus for several months.
The hiring process consists of a series of votes. First, the department committee votes on you. Then the Department as a whole must vote on you. After that, the College of Humanities (AFL departments) must approve you. You then go to the university level for approval. Finally, the President must personally approve your hiring. You must pass all five levels (three formal stages of department, college, and university), and you can get killed at any one of them, for any reason, or no reason at all.

Good luck.

Lounging before class in preparation for lounging in class....
Students perform a skit in a conversation class.
A typical small buffet eatery outside a college in southern Taiwan. Thousands of such restaurants cluster around the entrances of the nation's higher education institutions. After you have been hired, you must process all the paperwork. This will take at least a dozen passport size photos of yourself, as well as copies of all your degrees (BA through PHD). You will also have to fill out an application form. 

A school foodcourt.
Certification is automatic with hiring. Once you are hired, you receive a teaching certificate. Congratulations! You're in the system. This will make hiring at the next university much easier.
Students line up at lunch time in the noodle cafeteria at Chaoyang. Chaoyang has four restaurants, including a cafe. The school will take care of your work permit and residency for you. You will have to get a complete physical at an approved hospital.  They will tell you which one is the correct one for your area. 
My listening class readies for another session in the lab. Complete with video screens, earphones, and other multimedia equipment, the language lab is one of Chaoyang's more useful features.  Because of the heavy factionalization of many university departments, it is best to have the support of someone who knows you. Many universities have informal but rigid screening systems. For example, at one southern university I know, it helps if you have a connection to Wen Tzao, a famous language school in Kaohsiung. Similarly, if the department is run by linguistics types, business professionals may face difficulties in getting hired. Bear in mind that whoever helps you get hired will be credited or damned according to your performance, and if they participate in faction politics, you will be seen as part of their faction. 
My advisees over for a barbecue. English department students tend to be largely female. In some cases you might actually be better off distancing yourself from an out-faction member. I lost one plum job at a local university for precisely that reason several years ago. 

At family-run universities hiring of relatives and friends will be the order of the day. 

Students sleeping during the break. Taiwanese students are night owls and frequently sleep in class. Personally I find it extremely disturbing to see young people sleeping at 11:00 in the morning.

Tips, Hints and Things to Watch Out For
When Applying for a Job Here

Don't believe any advertisements that claim they have tenure.  There is no tenure system in Taiwan.  What they might mean by that is that the position carries the possibility of promotion.  However, all positions carry the possibility of promotion. Hence, an advertisement for tenure is superfluous at best, misleading at worst.

The campus of Chaoyang University in Wufeng outside Taiwan. Several of the buildings here were badly damaged in the September 1999 earthquake. 
However, thanks to the changes in the laws in the mid-1990s, once hired, you cannot be fired. The MOE has even taken over schools to prevent a firing. So schools are very wary of who they hire on permanently.
Internship students with their charges.
Contracts are tricky. In all cases you will be required to sign one. They generally go for one or two years; after the university likes you, they will start giving you a two-year contract. Chinan University near Puli in Nantou.
It is unlikely that if they violate your contract you will be able to do anything. Remember you cannot get anything in Taiwanese society by standing on your rights, as the whole idea of rights is foreign to the local thinking. Technically you cannot be fired once hired (truth!) but there are ways to get people to leave, and why would you want to stay where you are not wanted? On the other hand, if they try to get rid of you, you can just...refuse to leave. There is nothing that they can do. Students at an evening buffet event.
Avoid schools in small towns. Many of them are bad.  Some are mere dumping grounds for future recruits for local organized crime gangs.  Further, Taiwanese small towns are generally dull, crime-ridden, dull, poorly-administrated, dull, dirty, dull, unsafe and dull.  Did I mention they were dull?  The one exception will be a small town in the mountains, which may have clean air to breathe, though it will have all the other problems. Students at Kaoshiung National University play basketball at night.
Do not work for a school with no other foreigners.  Demand to speak with another foreigner who works there, and call him at home.  Any place where foreigners don't work probably isn't a good place to work. The first floor of a college library.
Students congregate on the balcony between classes.
The food court of a local university, early in the morning before the shops open. Be sure to ask if your school has a policy that you must be on campus forty hours a week. I am on campus just 24 hours a week, the maximum load. You should be too. Avoid schools that demand a forty-hour week; they will load you with trifling "administrative" things like answering phones. In English. And often, night classes won't be counted in those forty hours.
As rain threatens, the campus is deserted.  As part of the reform program, schools must maintain a certain ratio of Ph.Ds to MAs.  Despite the fact that an MA in TESOL would be fine for teaching (a doctorate in TESOL is a research degree) the Ministry will not relax the rules, though foreigners have begged it to see reason.  The result is that in a few years it will be extremely difficult to get a job in the system without a doctorate.  The degree need not be in TESOL in order to teach English at a university, however. Bear in mind that each university has particular needs, and may turn down a PHD because it doesn't fit their program. 
A vendor frys up goodies. Vendors like this surround the gates of most colleges. Some private schools do not give new years bonuses (traditional in Chinese culture), so be sure to ask if there's a bonus at your school before you are hired.

Posing with some of my completely crazed Foreign Language majors.

Scott Sommers, who runs one of the best Taiwan blogs, has some good insights on getting hired here.
Relaxing with the students at a barbecue at my house. EVOLVING SCAM: At some schools they now beginning to offer a nine-month contract, with plenty of overtime. You think you're making a lot of money, but you're not. This is because a normal contract is for 13.5 months, not 12, and you miss the bonus equal to 1.5 months' pay. Despite what they tell you, it does not work out in the end. You're probably better off with the usual 12-month + 1.5 months' bonus.
Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System
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