The Differences In Teaching In Taiwan Compared To South Korea – 2023

The Differences In Teaching In Taiwan Compared To South Korea – 2023

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What are the differences in teaching in Taiwan compared to South Korea? After 20 years, this question still gets so much attention. It deserves a fresh approach as teachers start making decisions on where to teach after three years of pandemic living. Teaching in Taiwan and South Korea can be different in several aspects. This includes the education system, teaching culture, and overall lifestyle.

Here are some key differences to consider about the differences in teaching in Taiwan compared to South Korea.

Education System

South Korea: South Korea has a 12-year compulsory education system. The Korean education system places a strong emphasis on academic achievement and is highly competitive. Students often attend private after-school academies called hagwons to supplement their education.

Taiwan: Taiwan has a 12-year compulsory education system. It consists of six years of primary school and six years of secondary education including junior and senior high school. The emphasis in Taiwanese education is on rote learning and exam preparation. Students often attend private schools called buxibans to supplement their education.

Teaching Culture

South Korea: South Korean students are known for their intense focus on academics. There is a high level of competition among students. Teachers in South Korea may face more pressure to ensure their students excel in standardized tests. Saturday classes are still somewhat the norm in South Korea with many schools.

Taiwan: Taiwanese students are generally polite and respectful towards teachers. Teaching in Taiwan is often considered less stressful than in South Korea due to a more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom. I’ve also experienced less time in front of the class in Taiwan with more reasonable teaching hours in general.

Having lived and taught in South Korea and Taiwan, I’ve talked to many teachers who moved to Taiwan from South Korea. I’ve heard that Taiwan seems more inviting and liberal than South Korea. I also feel that there is less pressure to perform in Taiwan. During my chats with teachers, I’ve learned that teachers who have moved to Taiwan from South Korea end up staying longer in Taiwan. Like myself, they often remark that they feel the work culture in Taiwan is less stressful and not as busy.

Work Culture – The differences in teaching in Taiwan compared to South Korea

South Korea: In South Korea, teachers often work longer hours, including evenings and weekends, especially if they are employed at a hagwon. There may be more rigid guidelines for curriculum and teaching methods. Korean public schools and private schools usually have a Monday to Friday schedule. Private school hours are 2-9pm and 40-hour workweeks. I’ve also talked to teachers in South Korea who teach from 10am to 8/9pm on weekdays. Public schools offer a typical 40-hour workweek.

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Taiwan: Work hours in Taiwan vary depending on the type of teaching position you get. Teaching hours in public schools in Taiwan are relatively standard with a typical workweek of 40 hours. Teachers usually have more autonomy in lesson planning and classroom management. Some private schools will also offer you a 40-hour work week.

If you are teaching in the private sector at buxibans, you can expect to be paid by the hour and guaranteed 20-25 hours per week. The work/life balance with 20-25 teaching hours is much more manageable and allows teachers more freedom in their lives. Many teachers seem to like this option best because it offers better work/life balance at a good rate of pay.

Teaching in Taiwan tends to be more easy-going with no classes on the weekend! That said, most teachers do work weekday evenings and your work hours are usually Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 5pm to 9pm. Elementary students get off school at noon on Wednesdays. Private school teachers can expect a longer day that is usually from 1-9pm.

Language

South Korea: English is in high demand in South Korea, and many teaching positions require English fluency. Learning Korean is often seen as an advantage and can make daily life easier. However, we’ve seen a downward hiring trend with ESL teachers in the past five years. Simply put, programs like EPIK and SMOE have been hiring less teachers each year.

Taiwan: While Mandarin Chinese is the official language, English is widely taught, and there is a demand for English language teachers. Fluency in Mandarin is not always required, but it can be helpful for daily life. Taiwan has also adopted a policy to become a bilingual English-Mandarin Chinese nation by 2030, which means the demands for English teachers are high despite a declining birth rate.

If you’re intending to learn the language while you’re abroad, you might want to keep in mind that Korean is spoken by 80 million people. 1.3 Billion people speak Mandarin.

If language learning is important to you, that is something to keep in consideration. Having taught in both countries, I also feel that Taiwanese people speak better English than Koreans.

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation for teaching positions can vary widely in both countries, but Taiwan offers slightly higher average salaries to first-year teachers that do not come with benefits. South Korea schools may offer more benefits, such as housing and airfare.

Average salaries in South Korea are between 2.1 Million Won  to 2.7 Million Won per month.

This works out to US$1,579 per month to US$2,030 per month.

Average salaries in Taiwan are between NT$60,000 and NT$70,000  per month.

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This works out to US$1,874 per month to US$2,187 per month.

*Please keep fluctuating exchange rates in mind. 

That extra difference in pay makes a big difference overall with an average of earnings at approximately $300 more per month, which works out to an extra $3,540USD per year. That difference will cover your housing for a year in Taiwan. Keep in mind that the cost of living in Taiwan is lower than South Korea. Additionally, most teachers in Taiwan can expect at raise at the six-month mark if they are doing well with their classes.

Benefits in Korea have been shortened. Many schools in Korea aren’t offering up front tickets anymore. Teachers might get paid out for their flight to Korea at the six-month mark or at the end of your contract.

In Taiwan very few schools offer any benefits such as free housing, but your salary covers the difference. Schools affiliated with Reach To Teach offer NT$700 per hour. At 25 teaching hours per week, that means you’re earning NT$70,000 per month. I’ve also noticed more schools are offering a contract completion bonus and a re-signing bonus to entice teachers to stay on for a second year. Staying for another year in both countries should include a pay raise.

A salaried position in Taiwan is set at NT$60,000 to NT$70,000 with many schools going higher than that depending on a teacher’s experience and qualifications. Public school teachers make around NT$65,000-75,000 which include benefits such as flights, a housing stipend, and paid vacation.

Start Up Cash

In Korea, you still need to bring start-up money with you. No teacher should ever expect to move to another country without some savings/start-up money for their first three months abroad. Most schools will no longer pay for flights up front. You will not be paid for your ticket until at least halfway into your teaching contract.

In Taiwan, you will need significantly more money to get started for your move to Taiwan. You will need to pay for a ticket and other start up costs. However, life in Taiwan will even out at your third month of teaching and by that time, you’ll be able to start saving from each paycheck. It is entirely possible to save US$10,000 a year in Taiwan.

Qualifications

The qualifications to legally teach English in Taiwan or in Korea are that you need to be a native English speaker and to have university degree. In both places you need those qualifications to obtain a work visa.

I haven’t heard of any schools hiring teachers with associate degrees in a long time. More and more schools in both countries are requiring teachers to have a 120-hour TEFL certification, with preference being given to teachers that have in-class TEFL courses.

Korea: There is one program in Korea where you can teach legally if you have an associate degree. Additionally, all TEFL teachers are eligible to teach at public schools in South Korea if you have a degree AND 120-hour classroom based TEFL.

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Taiwan: To teach in public schools in Taiwan, you must be a certified teacher in your home country with a valid teaching license. If you are a new English teacher with an Education degree, be prepared to teach outside of the main cities in Taiwan. Additionally, public schools require teachers to have a year of formal teaching experience in your home country and at least two years of post graduate work experience,

Visa and Legal Requirements

The visa and legal requirements for teaching in each country can change over time, so it’s essential to check the latest regulations and consult with the respective embassies or government websites for up-to-date information. The process for entering South Korea to teach is significantly more confusing, requires more time spent in collecting documents, securing an apostille for required documents, and more money is spent in advance in gathering the right documents for your visa.

In Taiwan, there isn’t much prep work involved with documents. The most expensive document you’ll need to obtain before you leave for Taiwan is a national criminal background check. The government does not require documents to have an apostille for work permits in Taiwan.

Both Taiwan and South Korea offer unique experiences for teaching abroad, and the choice between the two should consider your personal preferences, teaching goals, and lifestyle preferences. It’s important to research specific job offers and regions within each country to get a better understanding of what to expect as a teacher.

Cost of living

The cost of living in South Korea is higher than Taiwan by an average of 17%. Have a look at this site which breaks down costs of living in both countries across many cities. Here’s another great site (Numbeo) that illustrates the cost of living comparison between Taipei and Seoul.

“The average cost of living in South Korea ($1138) is 17% more expensive than in Taiwan ($969).”

So, I think that’s about it. I’ve tried to cover as much as possible for you while giving you some additional resources to look at. Overall, a teacher’s decision on where to teach depends on many different factors as you can see. I hope today’s post helps you make your decision on the differences in teaching in Taiwan compared to South Korea.

Further Reading

About the Author: Meghan has been teaching in Taiwan for five years through Reach To Teach. She has several years of experience teaching in Seoul, South Korea as well via Reach To Teach. She loves early morning hikes and visiting Taiwan’s night markets. Day trips in Taiwan are a regular part of her weekend routine.

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