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The Best Places for Teaching English in Asia

Demand for English Teachers Plays a Huge Factor in Job Satisfaction

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Photo by peruisay,

In addition to sharing vast areas of the world's largest continent, quite a number of nations in Asia are also sharing another striking similarity: most are continuing to experience an acute demand for English teachers. From South Korea to Vietnam, Asian countries remain very highly motivated towards getting their population to learn the lingua franca of globalization. In fact, learning English is required by law in several Asian countries such that English is now being taught as early as the primary grades in many Asian cities.

According to many recent reports coming from worldwide ESL training organizations, database job posting websites and forums, and important reports by actual teachers out in the field, Asian countries offer some the absolute top job opportunities worldwide for native English speakers who are qualified to teach English as a second or foreign language. Given that English has become a mandatory subject in grade schools in many Asian cities, many native speakers of English have flocked to teaching institutions to learn the basics required for teaching a foreign language. The aim of many prospective, and even experienced teachers, is to travel to and temporarily live in key Asian destinations in order to teach different levels of English. For many of these native speakers, teaching English in exotic Asian locations is not only a financially rewarding career move but also an opportunity to experience fascinating and varied cultural environments with very long histories. English teachers often take into account the advantages of living and traveling in Asian countries as motivations behind making location and career moves. In fact, many ESL teachers still have not left their adopted country, provided long-term visas and work permit renewals are possible.

Asian countries vary in their adopted strategies concerning English learning, however. Furthermore, Asians across the region radically differ in how receptive they are to learning English. These two factors, plus the varying levels of economic development and industrial sophistication among Asian countries make the process of choosing the country in which to teach English a bit tricky. The following are tips that should provide prospective English teachers some idea regarding what we consider some of best Asian locations to ply their trade, based upon cultural, economic, or other factors. Nevertheless, we strongly advise visiting a country where you might consider teaching for as long a period as possible in order to be sure that the match and way of life is best for you.

Malaysia and Singapore

Malaysia and its close neighbor, Singapore, are probably the top active users of English in the region, based upon average scores on online tests conducted by language-learning organizations. Both have also experienced periods of British rule such that English has a secure place within both countries' communication infrastructure. Malaysia now implements a balanced language policy between Malay and English, such that educators are encouraged to use media and the Internet as tools for teaching English. One ad for an English teacher in Malaysia highlights a hefty package of US$2,000 a month, including accommodations, food, and other in-country support. Many Malaysian locations are great for would-be language teachers who appreciate a laid-back, unhurried, and nature-inspired lifestyle.

Malaysia flag
Singapore flag
Malaysia and Singapore map
 
Vietnam

Since its open door policy (doi moi) was institutionalized in the mid 1980's, Vietnam has been in the process of transforming its economy into one of the most promising in the region. Its society has also regained its former vibrancy such that the country's welcoming people now ranks with its natural beauty and cultural heritage as the key attractions that draw in millions of tourists annually. In 2012 alone, disclosed tourism receipts reached US$ 6.6 billion and growth is only expected to continue. Many factors, including the steady influx of tourists and the globalization of its industries have necessitated the need for qualified English teachers in the country. In fact, English is now considered as the second language with a deeper and more practical influence than did French has historically. Today, proficiency in English is increasingly becoming a critical requirement for employment in many of the country's business sectors. Given this demand, English teaching in Vietnam provides a huge opportunity for native speakers who, in turn, can benefit from the rich cultural immersion the country offers.

Vietnam flag Vietnam map
 
Thailand

Thailand has one of the most robust tourism industries in the region, making the country a melting pot of different cultures. Compared to Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, however, Thailand's average English proficiency is very low. Still, the country and its population recognize the need to learn the lingua franca of globalization, making the demand for English teachers on the uptrend. In addition to Bangkok, several other Thai cities such as Hat Yai and beautiful Chiang Mai has been experiencing a healthy demand for English teachers. Unlike in Bangkok, competition is less steep in these areas. Most native speakers of English, especially those with college degrees and English teaching certifications are certain to find a favorable employment in Thailand. Given the huge demand, even those less qualified can find good job offers, though you are always safer with a certificate of some kind.  

Thailand flag Thailand map
 
Japan

Given the postwar relationship between Japan and the U.S., English is well-respected by the Japanese. The demand for qualified English teachers still attracts many native speakers to set up residence in this culturally rich nation. However, the prolonged economic recession diverted domestic funds that were formerly allocated for English learning to more basic necessities. As a result, fewer English language schools are currently operating compared to their number a decade ago. This makes the top English jobs very competitive, and only the most qualified practitioners of TESL/TEFL usually get a position. Down the line, however, there are still vacancies with acceptable benefits. The cost of getting the job, however, can become prohibitive as costs-of-living in Tokyo and several other Japanese cities are some of the highest in the world. Yet schools and companies are some of the best employers. Native speakers who dream of teaching in Japan can also try out the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.

Japan flag Japan map
 
South Korea

South Korea is among the best places in the world to teach English. Culturally rich and economically advanced, South Korea is among the most technologically innovative nations as ranked by many research organizations. Korea is also vibrantly cosmopolitan with thriving entertainment and tourism industries. Given the decades-long U.S. military presence in the country, English has been an entrenched language in the northeast Asia peninsula.  Native English speakers who are also qualified as teachers are in high demand in South Korea. Even native speakers who have very little training or no teaching experience can travel to Korea and help meet the demand for private English tutors. Reportedly, more than 60% of the available English teaching jobs are for teaching the basics of written and conversational English to Korean children and adolescents. A typical employment arrangement of this type includes a monthly salary of US$1,500, airfare, accommodations, holiday benefits, and bonuses upon contract completion. Generally, a work visa, a college degree, and certification from an accredited TEFL organization are required.

Korea flag Korea map
 
China

Long on the road to becoming the next economic powerhouse, China cannot open its doors fast enough to English teachers with the goal of equipping their next generation of entrepreneurs, diplomats, scientists, engineers, artists, and businessmen to better engage the global community. In addition, the growing number of middle class families are willing to spend on private language lessons for their kids. However, China's labor market is yet to become lucrative for the employed even when its national economy is slowly exceeding that of the U.S. So salaries for English teachers still tend to be lower compared to other countries such as South Korea and Japan. Taiwan generally offers much more lucrative benefits and is almost comparable to South Korea in that regard. On the plus side, getting immersed in the culture and language of the world's next most powerful economy can have potentially rewarding advantages in the long run. Common requirements for securing a work permit in Taiwan include a college diploma, and relevant health documents including HIV test results and chest X-rays.

China flag China map

It is worth noting that Cambodia and Laos are quickly becoming more attractive as teaching desinations, so you should research and visit these countires as well. Who knows which other countries may soon become great places to teach English in this rapidly developing economic region?

One thing we do know: Asia is clearly emerging as the world's economic and demographic center for this century. With English now entrenched as the language of globalization, the demand for English teachers in Asia can only parallel the continent's phenomenal economic growth. For those interested in teaching in Asia as a way of living and immersing themsleves in a variety new cultures, the many and varied countries offer enough in the way of cultural and historical attractions to justify a move for those reasons alone. 

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