Eastward left behind the confines of a Fortune 500 company office to explore and experience Asia. He hasn't looked back since.
Government schools in Asia typically offer a Monday through Friday schedule. However, it's not uncommon to have special activities on Saturdays. The workday begins around 7:30 a.m., and you'll be required to sign in at the office. You'll also need to sign out before leaving at 4:00 p.m. After signing in, you'll have a little time to begin preparing for the day and then will attend the flag-raising ceremony. You'll listen to the national anthem either via recording or played live by the school band. At times, a teacher may be assigned "gate duty" where they will greet parents and students coming to school in the morning at the front gate.
A teacher will usually have 18–20 contact hours with students in class per week. One class contact hours is actually 50 minutes. The remainder of a teacher's schedule will consist of lesson planning, grading, filling out progress reports, and other duties as requested. A teacher will normally teach one or two age groups but may have even more at some schools. A normal lunch break is one 50-minute block long and there are 10-minute breaks in between each class. In China, lunch may be extended to two hours, with the day finishing later accordingly.
It is common to have a local teacher in the classroom, though this can vary by school. The duties of the local teacher can also vary greatly. Some will teach alongside you, some will let you take the reins but offer assistance, some will observe your class and give feedback, and others will simply observe you without offering feedback.
Another area that differs from school to school is discipline. In some schools, you'll be completely responsible for classroom management. It's not uncommon for a foreign teacher that sends a misbehaving student outside to find the local staff bringing the student right back in. In other cases, such as I experienced in my first government job in Thailand, punishments can be quite severe.
My first job was in a government school in a suburb of Bangkok. If students were late for school, they were caned. I found this quite surprising and a little disturbing. I don't think the students were severely abused, but it was a far cry from what I was used to in the US. If students didn't complete their homework, they received a ruler across the knuckles from the Thai staff. I should note that foreign teachers were never involved in this sort of punishment.
Colleagues used to joke that some of the staff members admired their canes and competed to see whose was the most impressive. They told me that if I could manufacture a better cane, I could make a fortune. Perhaps weathering the situation with dark humor was the only option aside from quitting that was available to us at the time.
Government schools generally have the least to offer in terms of resources. Teachers often share one large room for an office and may be expected to bring their own laptops for any computer-related tasks. There may or may not be textbooks available for classes. If there aren't, that means the teacher will be responsible for creating all the course materials. Classrooms may not have doors on them and frequently lack air-conditioning or heaters. Most will have at least a ceiling fan and a chalk or whiteboard. Minimalistic conditions can make it a real challenge to keep students focused and on task. These conditions should improve in institutions where tuition is collected, as in the case of universities.
A government school may or may not be the best place for a teacher to get a lot of time off. Some government schools give you months of free time without any responsibilities and others may require you to sign in at the office, complete staff training, or complete other duties throughout scheduled breaks.
To work at a government school, a teacher will need to have at least a bachelors degree in any subject. Some experience and a TESOL certification will be an advantage.
Language schools can offer an experience quite different than government schools. A language school typically has peak hours outside of a Monday through Friday daytime schedule. This means that there is the most demand for teachers willing to work weekday nights and full days on the weekends. This might not be the best job for a weekend warrior, although it can provide one with a schedule absent of too many early mornings.
Language school schedules can vary from part-time to full-time hours. A teacher will need to make sure the school can provide them with the necessary amount of teaching hours or a base salary that is sufficient. Also, if the schedule is part-time, it is important that the school can still offer support for a visa and work permit. Language schools can be found everywhere in Asia, from private locations to high-traffic shopping malls. Locations near subway stops and other public transportation are also prime real estate.
Language schools generally have higher standards than government schools as the students are paying significant fees to attend. This means that language schools also offer better resources in terms of offices, computers, and textbooks. It's rare to find a language school classroom without adequate heating or air-conditioning. For the teacher's part, more personalized and detailed feedback will be expected.
Classes can range from one-on-one classes to small group classes and may be arranged by subject, language ability or age. It's common for a language school teacher to teach a variety of class types and to teach students of all ages—from pre-K to retired adults.
Vacation and holiday packages for language schools generally reflect those in the corporate world. One might expect 10 personal holidays per year along with national holidays.
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The biggest problem I've encountered with language schools is being requested to fill-in for teachers at multiple locations. This can put a real crunch on a teacher's time schedule and one will often need to press to make sure that the transportation allowance adequately covers travel expenses. The last situation you want to find yourself in is being hurried and at the mercy of taxi drivers. Although, with apps like Uber and Grab, this is becoming less of a problem in areas where service is available.
As with government schools, a teacher will be expected to have a bachelor's degree in any subject. Experience and TESOL certification are also desirable.
Private schools include pre-K through high school and offer courses similar to government schools. The private schools will generally be working towards the same educational goals but are charging a premium in excess of what students would have to pay to attend a government school—if there is any fee. Because the school is charging more, the expectation of parents and students will be higher.
In a private school, a teacher is more likely to find conditions that are more in line with language schools. It's likely that there will be better access to computers, textbooks, air-conditioning, heat, etc. The classrooms themselves are likely to be in better condition and have some extra bells and whistles in terms of posters, flashcards, projectors, TVs, and other visual aids.
Vacation and holiday schedules tend to follow those of government schools and disciplinary procedures are more structured. It's not uncommon for a teacher to be presented with documented formal procedures for classroom management, discipline, and other duties.
Private schools can be a way to get the best of both worlds, a generous holiday schedule along with good working conditions. However, keep in mind that there are fewer private school positions available than there are government and language school positions.
To work at a private school, a teacher should have a degree in the relevant subject matter, TESOL certification, and some teaching experience. Volunteer teaching should suffice.
International schools follow the internationally recognized curriculum of another country, the UK or USA, for example. These schools are the most formal, expensive, and usually, have the highest standards among all the school options. Salaries are fairly comparable at government, language, and all but the most revered public schools. However, international schools offer the best chances of a teacher doubling or tripling the average salary.
Here teachers can expect to have the most rigorous schedule, extending the government school schedule by an hour or two per day. Lesson planning will be more meticulous along with student feedback. The teacher will be expected to meet with parents and discuss student progress. The teacher will work more closely with the students, will monitor and measure progress, participate in clubs and activities, etc.
Academic calendars will generally follow those of the country the curriculum is based upon and holidays will follow accordingly. In addition to the best salaries, international schools also offer the best benefits packages. Such packages may cover all the costs of visas and work permits, accommodation, travel and relocation, health benefits, and spousal benefits.
To work at an international school, a teacher should have a degree in education along with experience in their particular area of study. Advanced degrees from well-known universities will be an advantage.
There are a lot of variables to consider and it's best to evaluate your qualifications, skills, experiences, and preferences to see how they match up with each type of school. A government school might offer the most immersive cultural experience while a language school could offer the best work-life balance. A private school gives you weekends off and quality working conditions while an international school offers the best salary and most career development. With a little planning, you are sure to find the right fit for you and have a great experience teaching abroad.
For more information on TESOL certification, click here.
Best of luck and safe travels!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Eastward
Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on February 16, 2018:
You're most welcome, Natalie. VIPKID got a lot of press with Kobe Bryant being an investor. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and questions! I'll keep the articles about my experiences in Asia coming.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on February 16, 2018:
Thanks for the detailed response. I've heard of VIPKID but not the other one. I'll take a look and see what's out there. I'd love to read more articles like this one!
Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on February 16, 2018:
Thank you for reading and commenting, Natalie. The caning really surprised me. Shortly after my experience, there was a story about caning that made international headlines and it seemed schools dialed it back a bit.
There is a huge demand for foreign teachers to teach Chinese students online right now. There are other opportunities as well but the vast majority of jobs available are for teaching young Chinese learners. I'd recommend going with one of the big companies like VIPKID or DaDaABC to minimize the risk of issues with payment.
There are some companies based in western countries as well that would offer better protection. I'd also note that a lot of the online teaching jobs for young learners expect you to be a bit of an entertainer as well as a teacher.
They love to hire teachers living in the US or other western countries. Better Internet connections help with multimedia lessons too!
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on February 15, 2018:
Interesting article. I can't believe they routinely cane! That seems quite severe for being late! Do you know anything about online teaching opportunities for Asian schools.