Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year’s Resolutions

By Spencer McCall

My favorite time of year is here again, Resolution Time, December 31st, New Year’s Eve. And not a moment too soon. No matter how much I’ve F*#@ed up this year, I know I can change it. Goodbye 2007. We’ve had our differences. Welcome 2008; before we begin this relationship you should know I don’t like surprises.

I like New Year’s Eve because I can reflect on what has happened in my life over the past year as well as what has happened to others I care about, know or perhaps just read about in some juicy gossip magazine from the supermarket checkout line. One thought that always manages to cheer me is that whatever bad things have happened in my life over the past year, someone else has had it worse. So to those new ESL teachers who are thinking, “What the hell have I done?” Cheer up. There are those of us who have been doing this for a lot longer. And to those veteran teachers out there just remember what it was like when you first started teaching and the complete disoriented feeling you couldn’t douse with alcohol, though try you did. Cheer up! At least you’re not a newbie anymore. And there is always something you can change about yourself to make not only teaching, but also living in a foreign country a more enjoyable experience for yourself. Go explore a mountain or drink Sake for the first time. Get out of the house more and travel. Or perhaps say no to the fifth bar at the end of the night. These are all good ideas (careful with the Sake). So whatever you decide, we here at ESL Daily support you in your commitment to change because no matter how good the kids are some days and no matter how fine the weather may be on a Saturday, this is not an easy job. But for those of you considering Underwater Arc Welding as you sip champagne this New Year’s Eve, just try a making a resolution first.

As you read this list of resolutions, we here at ESL Daily hope they give you pause to reflect on your own life and the many changes you will make in the coming year. Please feel free to add any resolutions to this list in the comments section below the article.
And Happy New Years from everyone at ESL Daily!

Resolutions 2007

1. I will think more about the Earth this year, because thinking of sick people always seems to work (I’m not a hundred percent sure) so I’m going to throw some positive energy out there for Mother Nature and hope things turn out alright. (I want to give a shout out to Korea’s oil spill here).

2. I will pray for Al Gore to stop opening every speech with “We have an inconvenient truth . . .”

3. I will abstain from clear alcohols.

4. I will stop swearing under my breath in the classroom.

5. I will not give out my phone number at the bar.

6. I will learn more Korean (not really, but I just know this is a good idea).

7. I will actually read the books I buy and not just try to look like some old University drop out hippie who thinks it’s cool to read Freud for leisure.

8. I will stop relying on Yahoo! News for all my information on the rest of the world.

9. I will only watch three movies a week, maybe four, tops.

10. I will stop laughing at horror films and the many inventive ways they imagine people dying.

11. I will not cry the next time Will Smith dies in a movie, I swear.

12. I will stop trying to find porn on YouTube as it is equal to drooling over the Sears catalogue. (Anyone remember Fall ’98?).

13. I will continue to download as much music and as many movies as I can from Korea’s super cheap and super fast Internet.

14. I will work harder on remembering people’s names

15. I will pray people start forgetting my name so I don’t have to commitment to #14.

16. I will find a new hobby that does not involve money or alcohol.

17. I will become more interested in the culture of my host country.

18. I will not eat pork more than once a week.

19. I will cook for myself at least twice a month (This will be tough).

20. Oh yeah, I will stop smoking and drinking. LOL!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Benefits and Pitfalls of Freelance English Teaching: Part 2

By Jim Korea

The benefit of freelance English teaching is obvious, great pay. But the primary drawback of freelance teaching is its unpredictability. Freelance work of any kind, whether it is in teaching, photography or writing, is an unstable profession. It takes a certain personality to withstand the ups and downs of such work.

There are several circumstances that make freelance teaching unstable. One of the most common circumstances is a student quitting without warning. Freelance teaching can be very financially unstable. As well, freelance work can be emotionally stressful because students often don’t provide teachers with reasons why they have quit. Students call in sick and expect not to pay for the class, five minutes before the start of it. Most students want to be tutored in the evening, which makes scheduling very difficult if a teacher is working for a private institution because they often operate from afternoon to night. Finding time for friends is difficult and scheduling new students can be frustrating. Students also sometimes quit and don’t pay for lessons they owe.

But these are just some things to be aware of. Don’t be too discouraged when students quit. As long as the teacher is financially secure, they should be alright. Students always quit, and it is impossible to make every student happy. The average life of a private class is generally no longer than six months. It is common for students to quit before entering a different level of education or for a vacation period.

Avoid the problem of last minute cancellations by making it very clear to the family and the student that if they cancel they must call at least one hour before class so they don’t waste the teacher’s time. If they fail to cancel an hour beforehand they must pay for at least half of the class if not all of it. A teacher must remember that what they are doing is still a business and it should be respected as such by both the student and the teacher.

Rumors are hard to avoid and if they get out of control they can really have an impact on a teacher’s career. Just remember that it is just a rumor and in most cases it will go away. But the best thing to do is to avoid situations that start rumors. Teacher’s shouldn’t get involved with any problematic families and decline to volunteer personal information. Be the “happy” English teacher and talk about your family back home and your cute little puppy when you where six years old. Don’t talk about going out on Saturday. As well, if the teacher has the choice, they should try to avoid living too close to their students. A teacher’s private life should remain private.

It is difficult to avoid a crowded nighttime schedule. A fact of life is most people have to work or go to school during the day. The only time to learn English is in the evening or at night. In some cases, early mornings can work well for both the teacher and the student. One should remember to keep track of cancelled classes and changed times, i.e. don’t just loosely write a schedule on a calendar. If a teacher is teaching more than 15 hours a week they must be well organized. Using a diary to keep track of payments is a good idea. Or perhaps typing out a schedule in MS Excel will allow the teacher to save it for future reference.

It is quite common for teachers to have taught a student for a month and then have them disappear or refuse to return phone calls. This can be very stressful when trying to collect payment for a class. Ways to avoid this are to have the student pay at the beginning of each month, not the end, unless the teacher knows the family. If the family refuses to pay at the beginning of the month, request to be paid at the end of each week.

Freelance work has its benefits and pitfalls. If a teacher decides to undertake freelance work, they must be a strong and motivated person. But they shouldn’t forget to take at least a day off every week or two to relax and socialize with friends. And teachers should always keep up their health by exercising and eating properly. When there is a chance to take a vacation, they shouldn’t let the money go to their heads. Private tutoring can make teachers greedy because of the benefit of the supplementary income it provides, but it often costs them precious downtime for socializing or exercising. Don’t let this happen to you.

Benefits and Pitfalls of Freelance English Teaching: Part 1

By Korea Jim

Many ESL teachers practice freelance English teaching, also known as “private” tutoring. But before a teacher decides to engage in freelance work, they should consider the laws of the country in which they reside. Countries such as South Korea have laws punishable by deportation and high fines for working without a proper visa. And there are countries such as Japan and Taiwan where freelance work in encouraged and legal. There are still hundreds of teachers that continue to teach illegally in countries around the world, but they have made the conscious, albeit risky, decision the remunerations of freelance work outweigh the punishments.

The first thing a teacher should consider when engaging in freelance work is their schedule. Tutoring can have dry spells, when schools are on holiday or students cancel classes. Freelance work as a supplement to full-time income is the best situation to be in when these dry spells occur. It is inadvisable for a teacher to rely on freelance work as their primary income. Rent is expensive and with damage deposits, as well as first and last month’s rent, getting an apartment can be a large burden for a first-time English teacher. You should have enough money to continue with your daily routine without having to rely on income for a few months. You should also keep emergency flight money on hand, just in case you have to leave. You should also know your host country very well and understand the laws and risks you take by engaging in freelance work.

The second thing that you must keep in mind, you must be social and have many friends. You cannot make the transition into freelance work and expect many students without having a social network, because a teacher can find many students based on referrals by other teachers and their students. You should also socialize the local people of your host country when possible. Perhaps even have a “home stay” family to help you out for a few months.

Third, depending on your legal situation, you should advertise. Yes, word of mouth works best, but it can be slow in the beginning. Posting advertisements at local schools may help a little, but it’s the parents you need to focus on; they are the ones with the money. Leave a little leaflet with your information and experience in both your language and the local language, with little tear off sheets at the bottom with your phone number. You may even consider placing your picture in the local paper to help grab the eye of parents. Do not forget to ask permission before placing the advertisement.

Fourth, how much should you charge? You must consider your student and his/her financial situation and the local going rate. Check out the different Internet forums in your host country and ask what the going rate is. You don’t want to under-charge or over-charge your clients; this can upset other teachers or students. It is also wise to keep your dealings quiet and confidential. Only discuss your freelance work with those people you feel you can trust.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007’s Most Infamous ESL Teacher: Christopher Paul Neil (One Man Can Make a Difference)

By Jim Korea

2007 will most likely be remembered in the ESL world as the year Christopher Paul Neil was arrested. Neal will be remembered not only as being a terrible pedophile, but also as the individual responsible for governments across the Asia Pacific region changing and tightening their restrictions in regards to foreigners and working visas.

Neil, an English teacher who taught for the past few years in South Korea, instigated a huge Interpol manhunt this year under charges of pedophilia. Numerous disturbing photos of Neal with young children from Vietnam and Cambodia surfaced on the Internet more than 4 years ago, but Neal’s face had been purposefully distorted in all the photographs. It wasn’t until this year when German police reconstructed one of the images using modern software that Neal’s face was finally identified and arrested in Thailand on October 19, 2007.

Since the arrest of Neil, officials from around the world have been tightening their laws. Korea, the country in which Neil last taught, has decided to stiffen laws for all teachers. Visas now require (A slight delay to March 15th 2008) a police check, a criminal check and verification of degrees by the teacher’s university. In the near future, teachers may also have to undergo interviews with the nearest Korean Embassy. Thailand Police have posted 50 other photos of Western pedophilia suspects and they have cracked down on over 1000 teachers, verifying their documents and making sure they are abiding by the rules of their visas. In November, Japan began fingerprinting all foreigners entering the country. Japanese immigration officials claim that it is not a direct result of the Christopher Neil incident, but the timing of the law change makes many visitors question the motive behind it. China has always had strict laws regarding foreign English teachers, but they have certainly raised their awareness this year of the international community of teachers and earlier this year charged an ESL teacher under similar charges as those of Neil. Taiwan, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and even Mexico have been hard hit by the news of Neal’s actions and subsequent arrest.

Many ESL teachers feel angry about the shame Neil has brought on the international ESL teaching community and in some situations teachers find the finger pointing to them. Discrimination for some is at an all time high.

Currently Neil is facing numerous charges that can land him over 20 years in Thai prison. Thai police are conducting further forensic testing and Neal’s court date has been extended: Little else is known about the infamous Canadian who proved in 2007 that “One man can make a difference.”

Why Can't I See ESL Daily in China

By Jim Korea

The picture shows areas of the world where Internet access is restricted and ESL Daily may not be permitted for viewing.

Earlier this year, Chinese Internet Authorities closed access to about 18,000 websites. Nobody knows when or if access to these websites will be reestablished. The government blocked Blogs and any other sites that might contain public opinions. You can see it here: Unfortunately ESL Daily News is hosted through Blogger, one of the primary targets blocked.

The ESL Daily team is trying hard to find a solution to the problem; unfortunately there is no simple answer to this situation. However, those living in China (And other countries that block internet access) can view the site though a proxy server. That is, a site that masks the users identity. Rather than appearing to be in China, a proxy server masks the IP address of the user so it appears they are accessing the website from outside of the country. The following link should work for China:

Other Free proxy servers include: (Just include the URL in the field when asked)

Hide My Ass.
Ninja Proxy.
Shy Surfer.
Big list

I apologize for all Chinese viewers, and I hope Blogger will be reestablished in the future.

Speaking English doesn’t mean you can teach: Saudi Arabia

By Jim Korea

Saudi Arabia continues to grow in popularity as an ESL destination because of its high salaries. Some jobs pay over $4000 (US) per month, much higher than jobs in Japan, the previous leader for ESL salaries. Saudi Arabia also offers numerous benefits including, but not limited to, furnished housing. But with the growing demand for native English teachers, many schools are becoming less concerned about experience or even qualifications.

Arab News.Com states, “This tendency to hire English native speakers regardless of qualifications is, in [Muhammad]Altaweel’s view, encouraged by Saudi employers. These employers, as well as students and their parents, are usually more impressed by nationality and accent than by qualifications and experience.” Altaweel is the general manager of Al-Faisal International Academy in Saudi Arabia. This attitude is reminiscent of several Asian countries that hire unqualified teachers on a regular basis, example Thailand, Vietnam and China.

The country predicts to increase their foreign teachers 30 % in the next year. And there is a burgeoning awareness of the poor quality of English education. A teacher stated that if they [Saudi Arabia] wanted more qualified teachers they would simply have to pay for them. In the future, with the expected growth of the industry and already the highest salaries in any ESL market in the world, teachers are sure to come. It’s just about hiring the most qualified teachers.

However, Saudi Arabia is still rather new at the booming ESL business. Granted, they have been studying English for many years, but an ever-flowing community of English teachers is still a new concept for most businesses. Once teachers realize the demand and benefits of working in the Kingdom the market will grow. But what should be the standard qualifications for teachers, a 2 or 4-week TESOL/TEFL certificate, a University degree in English Lit or Education, 3 years teaching in China? Once a more uniform system of qualifications is implemented among the majority of schools, Saudi Arabia will have a stronger, higher quality education as well as being very attractive to international ESL teachers.

Speculation: Korea’s Visa Regulations Delayed

By Spencer McCall

Although the new E2 visa regulations were to come into effect on December 17th, there is growing speculation the Korean government will possibly delay the deadline until March 15th, 2008. The cause for this delay has not been publicly announced, but on December 17th, the Korean Herald published an article detailing the possible problems of implementing the visa changes and the anger of foreign instructors over the new rules. The Herald stated, “Critics [of the law changes] suggest that the Korean government did not make sufficient preparations before implementing the rule, as in publicizing and explaining the changes to teachers, and coordinating with foreign governments.”

The administrative task set before embassy and immigration officials, not to mention police services and hospital staffs, in Korea and internationally, is daunting. Given the speed and zealous nature at which these new changes came into effect it is little wonder the deadline will be pushed back. For a detailed report of what is being changed with the E2 visa, read the press release of the Ministry of Justice here:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Don’t Let the Winter Time Blues Get You Down

By Korea Jim

As Christmas quickly approaches, most ESL teachers will have more time off or leave for vacations. Being outside of one’s native country and apart from one’s family can be difficult during the holiday season. Having few friends, and often friends of different backgrounds and interests, can also be difficult. You may or may not be clinically depressed or have a disorder, but being isolated for a long time and suffering the affects of cabin fever can have some serious impact on your mental health. True clinical depression should be diagnosed and treated by a physician or psychologist but here are some simple signs to be aware of:

• A persistently sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
• Loss of appetite and/or weight loss, or conversely overeating and weight gain
• Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
• Restlessness or irritability
• Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
• Difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
• Thoughts of death or suicide or attempts at suicide
• Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies
• Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down" or sluggish
• Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

If you or anyone you know continue with these symptoms, seek professional advice. I would recommend seeking an outside opinion, preferably from your native country. Privacy issues in some countries, like Korea, reveal your diagnosis to your employer and this may adverse consequences for your employment.

Don’t let the wintertime blues get you down! First, get some sun. If you can’t travel to a warmer place, perhaps get some time under a tanning light. Don’t let sunny days waist away, do some hiking or skiing if available. Second, turn off your TV, computer and set down your book. Get some exercise, join a gym, play basketball, even play with your students if you can, or if your school has a gymnasium use it by trying to organize sports events with other teachers. Third, socialize. Don’t just go out to drink with your comrades, do something together. Go shopping, see some local museums, or just play some cards or Monopoly. Fourth, pickup a hobby. In my experience a lot of ESL teachers drop a lot of the contacts they have from home, even dropping hobbies. This only leads to picking up bad habits and not pursuing interests. Perhaps, make a model, go out and collect stamps for your nephews, check out comics in your host country even if they are not your language or even start a blog.

There is a name for the Wintertime Blues, SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Remember, you may not be seriously “depressed” but because of your particular situation, your feelings may be intensified. Stay active and get off the TV!

For further information please resort to the following websites

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Volunteer At Own Risk

By Spencer McCall

If you’re an English teacher thinking of heading down to Mallipo beach to help clean up Korea’s worst ever oil spill, don’t let your goodwill get the better of you or you might just be deported. Unless you fill out the proper form and pay a certain fee, the Korean government would much rather you stay home. There are rules for foreigners volunteering, and the rules mean paying for offering a free service.

As surprising as it sounds, under the Immigration Control Act of Korea, “it is punishable that you [a foreigner] engage in the activities beyond your current visa status without permission” from the Ministry of Justice. This includes volunteering, not just at the oil spill disaster, but also for any work or event outside of the school that is sponsoring your E2 visa. The documents you require to volunteer include:

A travel document (passport)
Alien Registration Card
Application forms (downloadable from
Fees (60,000 won)

The government crackdown on volunteering extends far beyond the recent natural disaster relief effort, a particular event that has drawn dozens of English teachers to the beach in a genuine gesture of goodwill. For more on the extent the government has gone to pursue E2 violations check out an article by Carli Brosseau on Empas News <Click Here>

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Look Ahead for 2008: ESL Hotspots

By Spencer McCall

Looking to teach ESL in 2008? Asia is still the largest market in the world for teaching English. But the ESL market in Asia has changed a lot in the past year. More changes are promised for the New Year. Knowing what those changes are and where they're happening is vital for the inexperienced teacher to make an educated choice of where to find the teaching job that will best suit them. (ESL Reform).

Japan is Asia's largest and longest established ESL market, but the country is tightening its security measures on foreigners entering the country and the job market has been dealt a major blow with the closure of Nova, a franchise that had at its peak close to a 50% share of the marketplace. The wages for teachers are still higher in Japan, but the cost of living (especially in rent and food) outweighs most of the benefits from the high salary.

Tainted with fake-degree scandals and new restrictions on E2 visas amid a run-up to presidential elections, Korea is certainly not as attractive an ESL market as it was a year ago. Wages here are still quite high and the cost of living is manageable in comparison with monthly salaries. This is the country many teachers still come to with the intent to pay off student loans or save for graduate school. But this will likely change in the coming months, at least in terms of the influx of teachers common to Korea. Visas will take longer to process in the New Year and fewer private schools will be able to meet the demand of increased wages for experienced teachers. Regardless, for most of 2008, Korea will still be the place to go for many teachers because of the relatively high salaries.

Taiwan is gaining more attention these days as teachers are looking for alternatives to Japan and Korea, but to be sure, the country's ESL market is past its prime. It's illegal to teach kindergarten as a foreigner in Taiwan. This doesn't stop almost every private institution from running one and hiring foreigners for it. Also the visa process now requires a bank statement showing $2,000 or more in available funds. Yet, even with this statement, there's no guarantee the consulate will approve a teacher for the extended visa necessary to get an ARC card (Alien Registration Card). Wages are competitive, but lower than Korea and the cost of living is slightly higher than Korea as well. Taiwan is still a viable option for many teachers, but do the homework before moving there.

Southeast Asia has several countries that will likely surpass the ESL markets of Korea, Japan and Taiwan combined in the coming years. Wages are still relatively low in most of Southeast Asia, the highest being somewhere between a $1000 and $1500 US in Thailand for a reputable school. But the most attractive thing about Southeast Asia right now is the low-cost of living. Vietnam gained a lot of attention in 2007 for its competitive wages and cheap living costs. Laos is poised for the same attention in 2008. Teachers who are tired of the hectic, expensive lifestyles of Japan, Korea and even Taiwan are leaving the long-established ESL markets. Expect 2008 to bring many changes in foreign employment in Asia.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Laos on the Rise for ESL

By Jim Korea

The New York Times recently ranked Laos as the number one country to visit in 2008.

The paper stated that both Cambodia and Vietnam were the best choices for “2007” while Laos was the number one place to see this upcoming year: View Article Here. Looking through several resume databases where teachers place their resumes for overseas ESL work, one can see a definite interest in Laos. At least 2 or 3 people are searching daily for work in Laos. The online forum community has also begun talking more about finding work in Laos. Not even two years ago, only a handful of people were searching for work in Laos. News of teaching in Laos has definitely been passed around.

One teacher remarked, “The first time I went to Laos, there were only a handful of teachers. But the teachers that lived in Laos definitely enjoyed it.” However, being one of the lowest paying countries for ESL, it makes it very difficult to save <Asian English Language School Salary Comparison>. “Food and rent are cheap, but don’t expect to pay your student loans,” another teacher once told me on a bus ride from Thailand. Things to keep in mind about Laos if finding work include:

Don’t expect to find work outside of the capital (Vientiane). Don’t expect to negotiate for more pay, school directors in Laos are known to think ESL teachers are already over paid. Don’t expect to find work while outside of Laos; you should be in the country to find work. Expect to find several part time jobs. Expect to pay for your own accommodations (very cheap). Expect to make frequent visits to Thailand for visa purposes and other needs. Expect to be paid in cash in either Thai Baht or USD, (Laos money – kip does not come in large denominations)

Laos is a very untouched country in terms of ESL and the modern traveler. However, over the past few years the country has opened up a lot. Returning visitors and interested teachers are beginning to frequent the country. Laotian’s are friendly and open and the country is beautiful. As long as you have no financial obligations, Laos can be a very rewarding experience for an ESL Teacher.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Teachers Making a Positive Influence

By Jim Korea

Teachers from around Korea are gathering to help relief efforts from the oil spill just off South Korea¢s Western coast (Taean, South Chungcheong Province). On Friday morning, December 7th 2007, a Samsung barge rammed into an anchored oil tanker 8km off the Western coast, spilling over 10,000 tons of oil. This is Korea's worst ever oil spill in history.

Without much thought or hesitation, members of the foreign teacher community immediately began organizing efforts to help. As most teachers must travel to the coast by bus, Saturdays and Sundays are the only available times for teachers to assist in the cleanup. However, their efforts will definitely help in the cleanup and at the same time vastly improve the reputation of the foreign teacher community, a reputation that has been tarnished in recent months by the arrest of the pedophile Christopher Neil.

In the proceeding months, teachers will work alongside officials to assist in the coastal relief efforts. The cleanup will likely take decades until the coast returns to pre-spill conditions, but the teacher's efforts will be dually noted.

Foreign groups such a Socius and FLEA have organized previous fundraisers for Korea. For further information please visit One can find ways to either donate time or funds through the expat community in Korea.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Age Discrimination in the ESL Market Place

By Jim Korea

The general age limit for ESL teachers in most countries is in the early sixties. More and more, teaching English as a Second Language is becoming a young person’s game. For example, Saudi Arabia and South Korea both stipulate sixty-two as the retirement age for all teachers. This includes ESL teachers as well. Nevertheless, one would be hard pressed to find employment after fifty. It is a common demand that foreign English teachers be in their twenties or, at the least, early thirties. One colleague recently remarked to me, “I turned 40 today, its time to start looking for a new job.” And despite his sardonic humor, his comment contains some truth.

A private study posted on in 2007 studied the effects of age discrimination in the South Korean ESL market place. The study involved posting on numerous Internet job sites the resumes of several men and women who shared an average appearance, education, experience, native country and skin color. The only thing that varied between them was their age. Information was then gathered based upon the number of email responses returned for each prospective teacher. The results clearly showed that the number of job offers was directly related to the teacher’s age, regardless of experience or other factors. The full study can be viewed at: KOREAN SCHOOL

Most Western countries do not require teachers, or other professionals, to state their age or provide a photo in the initial resume process. However, many foreign countries that desire ESL teachers do require the teacher disclose his/her age, sex and other personal information. When searching for a job as an ESL teacher, you can avoid a lot of prejudice by not immediately stating your age, sex, or even revealing your picture. Although employers will eventually ask for this information, by delaying, you give yourself a slight advantage by connecting with schools that might have initially overlooked your application based upon a quick, first glance. This gives you an opportunity to talk to the school and sell yourself to them before they brush you aside based upon a poor first impression made by a photograph or birthday.

A few months ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to speak with a very successful recruiter who recruits teachers primarily for Korea. He shared with me a simple trade secret, “Any job applicant that is over the age of 45 goes in the garbage. Teachers between 35 and 45, we generally find work at remote schools that are desperate for teachers, we do not spend too much time with them. We generally look for teachers between the ages of 22 and 30.”

A simple method that can help a teacher find a job, if he/she is over a certain age, is to show up in person at the school; this action puts the interviewer on the spot and makes it difficult to say no to experience and education. If you cannot have a personal interview, call the school prior to sending personal information, inform them of your full name and your experience and education, and that your resume will soon be sent. Age discrimination in ESL markets is a fact, but a teacher should always stress their strengths prior too revealing their age.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

English Teacher Brain Drain

By Korea Jim

With news of NOVA in Japan closing its doors (an English language academy chain) and the changes in Korean immigration policy, foreigners are flooding to new areas of Asia. Japan and South Korea, known to be the most lucrative English teaching countries, are now loosing many of their more experienced foreign teachers. Nova has let go of hundreds of their foreign teachers and now the teachers are faced with either returning home unemployed, or trying to quickly find a job in another country. Some distressed teachers have responded to Nova’s closing in online forums. One teacher stated “Originally I had my heart set on Japan, however, with the news of a major school like NOVA closing shop, with little or no warning to its employees, think again. How can such a large school just let all its students and employees go without any form of protection…” Granted, not every Language school in Japan is having financial difficulty, but news like NOVA is not giving a good name to Japan’s ESL market.

Next to Japan sits Korea, known for hiring thousands of ESL teachers every year. However, with new strict visa procedures hiring teachers in Korea will be more difficult. For expatriates of some countries it will take over a month to organize the appropriate documents, i.e. Police Check, Medical History Check, University degree, transcripts and proof of alumni. Further, teachers who have not taught for more than 8 months are required to have an in-person interview at the nearest Korean embassy nearest to their hometown. Experienced teachers with years of teaching will unlikely want return to their home country and wait for anywhere from a week to a month or more for the appropriate documents. Few will also want to wait unemployed. Public schools and smaller private institutes will not be able to afford sending these experienced teachers to their native countries and pay for hotel or rent plus their monthly salaries. Schools will find it more feasible to let the experienced teachers leave and find new inexperienced teachers to replace them, or refuse to hire foreign teachers in general.

If you now look through the Internet online job boards you can see such a variation in teachers. However, one distinction that differs from just months ago, where people use to write “absolutely no China” or “Only Korea/Japan” you now see people requesting Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Taiwan and other countries. One teacher wrote in his application “Looking for work that will sponsor new visa process and salary over 3 million won.” Countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan may not pay as much in monthly salaries, however, teachers can find work without having to return to their home country and can easily change jobs if their employment becomes endangered.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Japan Fingers Foreigners

By Spencer McCall

On November 20th, 2007, Japan implemented a regulation to fingerprint and photograph all foreigners entering the country. This new regulation extends not only to short-term visitors, but also permanent residence, work visa and spouse visa holders.

Once a foreigner enters any airport or port of entry, they must wait in the foreign immigration line to be fingerprinted and photographed. Once this has been done, their information will be cross-referenced with an immigration blacklist, which will determine their eligibility to enter the country. The main goal of the program, the Japanese government contends, is to bar entry of suspected terrorists or criminals. However, this is the first time an all-encompassing approach is being taken in fingering foreigners as they enter a country. Even the United States, the only other country currently fingerprinting foreigners, still allows visas and residency holders to enter the same way, as do American citizens. Japan, so it seems, has made no such distinction.

This is yet another blow to the ESL market in Japan, which has been reeling from the recent scandal of Nova Corp., the nation’s largest ESL franchise. The new immigration regulations will most likely further decrease the desirability of the country for teachers. Coupled with Korea’s upcoming regulation to ban visa runs to Japan, these new steps leave little doubt that both Korea and Japan are becoming less interested in supporting an ESL market as both governments continue to pass laws which restrict foreigners in entering, leaving or staying in their countries.

For further details on the new Japanese regulations, read The Yomiuri Shimbun, of Nov. 19, 2007

Both Japanese and foreigners have begun to speak out on the new changes. Several foreigners have expressed their outrage at the new treatment. To see what two have had to say in the Japan Times, click on the links below:

Not all Japanese consider the new changes negative. To find out what some Japanese people think of the new system, go to Japan Today at:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sexual/Gender Discrimination in the ESL Market Place

By Jim Korea

For those of us few males who took English Literature at University, we can attest to the overwhelming appeal of this degree to women. A quick glance around the classroom always confirmed this.

For first time ESL teachers, an initial observation would suggest males dominate the market place. Males do form a majority of teachers in many of the largest ESL markets, like Korea and Japan. However, this does not mean that males are in more demand than female teachers. On the contrary, the opposite is actually true.

A quick glance at ESL web ads and it is easy to find numerous jobs requesting "female teacher wanted" or "looking for female teacher only." An independent study published anonymously on the web this year, sought to show the true demand and preference for female teachers in the ESL market place.
( full study)

The group posted a number of teacher’s resumes on the Internet looking for work. The number of emails that were returned was then compared. The replies to women teachers greatly outnumbered the replies to men and in most cases the women had over double the amount of job offers. Some young female teachers were even asked for “friendship” from prospective employers while applying for work. Male teachers were not extended this curious and inappropriate familiarity.

Perhaps it is because the majority of English schools that look for native English teachers are managed by men, or it is because of the lack of native English women teachers in foreign countries that females teachers are preferred in ESL schools. One can only speculate. Regardless, this preference, or prejudice, does exist and women do possess an upper hand in job offers.

Some easy solution to avoid the problem of gender discrimination is to avoid revealing your sex. A teacher can easily post a portrait accompanied by friends, family or, even better, students, thus concealing his/her true identity. You can also avoid checking the male or female box that is provided on some websites. Don’t be too quick on sending personal information such as a copy of your passport or other documents. Send a few letters first and have the school learn more about why you would be a great teacher without revealing your gender. Call yourself by your initials and family name H.J. Smith. But one of the most effective methods is to perhaps test the market out first with a female friend or family member. Gather all the emails you can through her and then reply to them under your own name.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

British English teacher faces deportation or lashing in Sudan

A British woman, Gillian Gibbons, was arrested this Monday, November 27 in Khartoum, Sudan for insulting the prophet Mohammed. Her students named a stuffed animal after their profit, Muhammad. The act may result in the teacher’s deportation or worse, 40 lashes. The instructor has been given legal support from her Christian High School; however, the majority of parents who send their children to the school are actually Muslim and they are taking this matter very seriously. For the full story please read: SUDAN

The majority of countries that support ESL schools are safe. However, every country has some laws that may conflict with our beliefs or are perhaps unanticipated. Customs may also come into play that may make your job more difficult. Singapore used to have a law against gum chewing, Tylenol is illegal in some countries, blowing one’s nose is rude in Korea, women smoking in public is illegal in many countries… the list goes on. It is best to do research prior to your journey. Regardless, sometimes your best intentions can have serious consequences. Hold your ground, but remember you are in a different country with different laws.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Change is Imminent

By Korea Jim

The Korea Herald stated "According to a Ministry of Justice press release, foreigners who apply for teaching visas will have to submit a criminal background check and a medical check, and must undergo an interview at the closest Korean consulate to their home town. Visa runs to Japan will also be scrapped. Teachers must now receive and renew visas in their home country."

Regardless if you disagree with these policy changes, the visa process in Korea are changing. It should be noted this information comes on the heels of the announcement made by the Minister of Education and Human Resources Development, Kim Shinil, that in 2008 the number of foreign teachers will increase in the public school system and that English education will be made more of a priority, both increasing the number of hours of English class and number of foreign teachers.

One teacher I talked with, who did not wish to have his name disclosed, was not happy about the recent changes. "I have been in the country for over 5 years," he stated. "However, why would I return if it takes my whole vacation time just to renew my contract? I would have to travel to a city that I don’t live in [and] wait for an interview and visa to be processed. The trip would set me back too far. There are many other countries I can teach in, without the hassle of this change." This is a reality many teachers, both new and experienced, will face in the coming year.

Though some teachers are finding the positive side of these changes. One teacher I spoke with, who is married to a Korean woman, believes the new E2 visa requirements will mean "fewer teachers, greater demand [and] more money." Which is very likely as private schools will be forced to offer even more incentive to returning teachers, or even first-year teachers, to go through the hassle of the application process. "This is the change I have been waiting for," he said smiling. However, his F2 visa, which he received upon marrying, precludes him from having to submit to any of the new requirements to obtain employment. He is definitely a minority among foreign teachers.

Korean private schools pay thousands of dollars in recruiting fees to attract ESL and EFL teachers. The extra expense to return a teacher to their home country on a round trip for an interview with a consulate will probably force some smaller schools to shut down. These expenses will also likely affect public schools, which operate under strict budgets. This will hinder public schools in providing for their classes native English instructors, the very instructors the government wants more of in the coming year. It’s not clear whether the government will provide extra financial assistance to public schools to cope with the added burden of this expense, but at the moment they have not discussed the issue.

One outcome of the new changes could be foreigners working illegally on a visitor visa, something that already occurs and though the numbers of teachers doing this has declined recently, they could easily spike again in 2008. Fake marriages to obtain an F2 visa might also transpire. Another scenario could see a drastic drop in teacher recruitment as a result of teachers who simply refuse to work in Korea and submit themselves to a laborious application process.

The Korean government is pushing these new policies to increase the number of qualified, experienced teachers in the country; however, the consequences of these policies may discourage them coming in general. It will most likely increase the people who are willing to take the risk to come and work illegally without proper teaching credentials. Especially if private institutions are willing to increase the pay of illegal ESL instructors in order to avoid the new changes in the visa process.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Illegal Blacklist: Korean Foreign Teacher Recruiting Agency

By Spencer McCall

Even as restrictions for E2 visas become increasingly more rigorous, one Korean organization, the Korean Foreign Teacher Recruiting Agency, is taking a step they feel will further ensure the security of ESL schools from unqualified or dishonorable teachers. Only what they have done is illegal.

They have created their own, independent blacklist of foreign teachers they feel should be barred from teaching ESL and perhaps even entering the country. Such requests to have teachers banned or blacklisted have to be processed through immigration at the behest of a lawyer. The Agency has taken no such steps, but proceeded to post on their website a list of almost ten pages worth of foreign teacher names.

In most cases, the Agency’s grievance with the foreigner also includes other sensitive information pertaining to the teacher’s identities, including full names, nationalities, E2 visa and passport numbers, sex and age. Under Korean Law, this is considered libel and defamation and is illegal. However, many teachers are unaware they are on the list. And if they feel they might be, for whatever reason, there is hope to clear your name.

Recently, a teacher successfully removed her name from the list after a lawyer from the Korean Bar Association threatened to sue the owner of the website. She was not charged any money for this service and would not have had to pay if any action was further pursued.

To read more about the successful teacher go to Koreabridge Job Advice

The Korean Bar Association is located in Seocho in Seoul

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Education in the Korean Presidential Elections

By Spencer McCall

Whoever wins the December 19th elections, one thing is for certain, Korea’s public education system is going to receive some significant changes under the new administration, particularly in English education.

Front-runner nominee Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party, is proposing, among other things, to add more English classes to public schools to narrow the disparity gap between the nation’s wealthy who attend high-priced private English schools (Hagwons) and the underprivileged who cannot afford such luxuries. It is part of his larger economic reform policy intended to make the country more competitive in the global market place and is reminiscent of American President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

More hours in school will require more teachers. Lee intends to train more Korean teachers to have a high degree of English proficiency to fill this gap. Whether this will push foreign teachers out of the job remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a possibility. By January 2008, the process of applying for an E2 visa will be stricter (extensive criminal background checks, medical histories and physicals and further verification to authenticate degrees) and will likely take a considerable amount of time longer to receive.

Add them together and one can easily see the strain these proposed reforms will have on the private sector of the economy, particularly the private schools who rely on foreign teachers to add expertise and prestige to their businesses. Job loss in this market is a real possibility not only to business owners, but to Korean and foreign teachers as well.

Other candidates Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party, Rhee In-jae of the Democratic Party, and Moon Kook-hyun, an independent, all promise economic reform and growth.

However, the E2 visa reforms were introduced by current president Roh Moo-hyun, so either way you slice it, education reform, and in particular English education reform, is on the mind of everyone in or near the president’s seat.

For an extensive review of the candidates go to

In a Teacher’s Opinion

By John Pipes
The following is a composite of “types” a friend of mine and I compiled over an afternoon spent discussing the ESL industry in South Korea. The conversation revolved around a central question: Whom are the people today choosing to be ESL teachers?
We are both concerned in the direction the industry is taking. As ESL teachers of many years and experience in South Korea, we have both noticed changes throughout the years, not only on the business end of things, but also changes in the different personalities and backgrounds of the teachers coming to work here.

The teacher “types” we have compiled in this list, by no means comprehensive, but hopefully insightful, are based on teachers we currently know or have been colleagues of in the past. And though it is based solely on our experience, many of the "character types" that we came up with seem to hold true.

I felt so strongly about this topic and the conversation we had that I felt by sharing it some people might find it educational, especially those who are considering a career in ESL. And perhaps it will be humorous to those professionals who have encountered these “types” during their career.

See if you can spot yourself in any of these descriptions.

The Backpacker/Adventurer The backpacker or adventure has no real interest in quality education or doing a good job. He/She is looking for adventure or excitement in foreign lands and teaching English is a free ticket for a long trip. Though a few of these types do make good teachers, this generally has more to do with their personality and genuine interest in people and other cultures than any desire to provide quality education.

The LBH: Looser Back HomeAlthough this is a harsh title, many teachers will be able to recollect encountering people such as these. They are people who usually couldn't survive in "the real world,” i.e. unable to survive in a competitive job market, lacking social skills, unable to network to advance their careers. He or she would probably be skipping from one minimum wage job to another. They most likely couldn't hold down a job for a long period of time and perhaps are still living at home with their parents. Many such types may be carrying a lot of emotional baggage. They may even be sociopaths, alcoholics or drug abusers and unable to "fit in" with their peer group. Many will have an "I don't care" attitude. Asia is a place where they can lose themselves while running away from their problems.

The Escapee The Escapee has a lot in common with the LBH, but isn’t quite as pathetic. They may have run into insurmountable business or personal problems that force them into a decision to teach ESL as a last ditch effort to start over. He or she may feel that by escaping their old life, they can start afresh and begin to build anew. Unfortunately, with such excess of emotional baggage, it is questionable whether or not they would make decent teachers.

I Don't Care/Just give me the money People with this attitude don't have any interest in teaching English whatsoever and would be seen as lazy. They don't care about the job or the students they teach. A lot of these types may not have all their qualifications such as a Bachelor's Degree or College Diploma. All they're looking for is a "free ride" and are wandering through life aimlessly. With no interest in education or even doing a good job, all they will most likely do is photocopy articles and say "Let's talk about this today."

Doors Closed Back Home A large number of teachers fall into this category. Though a person may be well educated and have a bank of life experience and knowledge, they find it difficult to secure a decent job back home and are unable to establish a life for themselves. A feeling of limbo is common. In choosing ESL teaching, he or she may feel it is a way of moving forward. Unfortunately, many also share the feeling that in deciding to move to Asia, there is nothing to go back home to except family. Some may have feelings of leading a "wasted life" or are afraid for their future, having cut themselves off from connections at home. On the positive side, quite a few from this category become genuinely interested in ESL teaching and do make good teachers.

The Professionals These individuals are genuinely interested in ESL teaching and are concerned about being the best teacher they can. They bring with them good degrees and in most cases backgrounds in Education. People from this group make excellent teachers through their genuine and conscientious approach to doing a good job. They have a positive impact on their student’s lives and the ESL industry in general.

The Ex-teachers This category is somewhat smaller than the others. The Ex-teachers are usually retired teachers themselves who are not ready for "the rocking chair" or after having worked in the regular public school systems back home, want a positive change. They quite often make excellent ESL teachers. However, there is a danger they have become disillusioned with teaching or are cynical towards students. Unfortunately, with a few of these types, they go around bragging that they are "real teachers", isolating themselves from the rest of the ESL community by their "all high and mighty" attitude.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

ESL Instructor Killed in Afghanistan

Terrorism quite often reaches out to civilians and this time extended out to an ESL teacher. On Wednesday November 14, 2007, an Afghan English teacher was killed in Kabul. For full story please read: ESL Instructor Killed in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, having a huge demand for English and English teachers, but in the midst of a civil war, generally pays quite high for ESL instructors to work at Universities and other educational institutions. The English teachers from foreign countries are faced with the complications of the war and in some situations be a target for Taliban terrorists. A teacher looking to work in a particularly violent country should first research the country and the conditions of the particular job. How secure is the instructor’s home and school from violence? High pay has its advantages but ones security should come first.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Asian English Language School Salary Comparison

Coming to Asia to teach English has a lot to offer. Each country has different Salary and benefits. Keep in mind that the benefits and salary varies depending on what city you are in. Some of the major Countries are as follows (money is in US dollars).

South Korea: Average Salary: $1900 - $2500, Housing: included,
Health Care: 50/50 Airfare: included.

Thailand: Average Salary: $400 – $700, Housing: Sometimes,
Health Care: Usually Not, Airfare: Usually Not.

Japan: Average Salary: $2000 - $3000 Housing: Sometimes,
Health Care: Usually, Airfare: Sometimes or partial.

China: Average Salary: $400 – $700, Housing: Included,
Health Care: Included, Airfare: Partial.

Vietnam: Average Salary: $800 up, Housing: Most include,
Health Care: Partial, Airfare: Sometimes or Partial.

Taiwan: Average Salary: $1500 - $2000 Housing: Most places,
Health Care: Most, Airfare: Partial or in full.

Hong Kong: Average Salary: $1200 - $1700, Housing: Included,
Health Care: Sometimes, Airfare: Partial.

Laos: Average Salary: $200 - $400, Housing: No,
Health Care: No, Airfare: No

There are many other Asian countries offering ESL jobs such as Malaysia and Cambodia. Each country has it’s own pay rate. Some countries have higher expectations of it’s teachers than others, be aware of the criteria. You can find jobs and their criteria through websites like or Many contracts now require you to send a copy of your university degree (if not the original) and other documents to process your work visa. Visa work can take up to or more than a month, it is best to start your search early.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Korean Paradox

The Korea Herald News paper stated in the front page today that:

“Regulations on foreigners set to be eased… Government looks to make the life of foreign residents in Korea easier.” The Korean Herald, Monday October 29, 2007. However, the Korean Herald also reported on the same day by the same author “Entry requirements for foreign teachers to be toughened… Starting in December, foreign English teachers coming to Korea will be required to submit their criminal and health records when applying for their visas…” The Korean Herald, Monday October 29, 2007.

People who wish to teach in Korea will soon be required not only to submit their original degrees, sealed transcripts, photos, and scanned passports, they will also have to submit a police background check along with their medical history. Furthermore, the Gyeong-gi Board of Education now demands teachers give further proof of their degrees and transcripts, i.e. verification of school alumni.

Speaking from experience, it is difficult to receive a criminal record check while outside your native country. Teachers already in Korea may be expected to give criminal and medical history checks from their native country upon finding a new job in Korea, adding further stress in applying for employment.

Perhaps the relaxation of “regulations on foreigners” as stated earlier will push more and more foreigners to teach privately, rather than dealing with the tougher policies for legal English teachers.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Nova a Dying Star

by Spencer McCall

Nova Corp, Japan’s leading ESL franchise is set to close as many as 200 of its 900 branches in an effort to cope with an escalating scandal that began in June of this year, as Japan Today newspaper reported, when “METI [Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry] ordered the school . . . to suspend part of its operations for lying to consumers in advertisements about its services.” Japan Today, Wednesday, October 10th, 2007. Before the scandal broke, Nova had roughly 480,000 students enrolled in 900 schools throughout the country.

Foreign instructors have not received their wages since autumn. Nova Corp has delayed paying wages to their 4,000 foreign employees since September, “and the company has notified the instructors that payments for October will also be delayed until Friday [Oct. 19th].” Japan Today, October 16th, 2007. Decreased student enrollment and canceled contracts have added to the company’s woes. Although there are reports of unions and individuals threatening criminal charges, no charges have been laid against Nova Corp.

Some embassies, including Britain and Australia, are offering assistance in the way of cheap flights to their nationals who wish to return home.

The impact of Nova Corp’s scandal will most likely be felt regionally as well as nationally. As the company’s troubles continue, hundreds of experienced teachers, low on cash and desperate for work will influx other markets, most likely Korea and Taiwan where the highest wages for teaching outside of Japan are there to be found. But significant changes will not likely be felt until 2008.

For more details, follow the link and search Nova.

Paper No Longer Proof – By Spencer McCall

On July 11th of this year, a scandal erupted when it was reported Shin Jeong Ah, an art history professor at Dongguk University and a prominent member of the artistic community, had lied about her Ph.D. from Yale as well as degrees from the University of Kansas. It sparked a widespread investigation that has to date uncovered the lies and fake degrees of several of Korea’s leading artists, celebrities and academics. For more information on the individuals involved in the scandals and the continuing investigation, visit the International Herald Tribune at

What is gaining less press is the recent widening scope of the crackdown on fake degrees, which is not only effecting prominent Koreans, but foreign ESL teachers as well. Across the country, ESL teachers are facing intense pressure to produce further proof their degrees are genuine. At first, this verification process was relegated only to Public Schools and their foreign teachers in the area of the Seoul Board of Education. But as of October, Busan and Daegu were beginning this process.

The initiation of this verification process is understandable given that Korea has faced many problems with fake degrees in the past. And now, it seems the problem is spreading. In 2005, over a hundred foreign teachers were detained and deported after it was discovered they possessed fake degrees. That incident was later traced back to a Seoul recruiter who had for months been promising naïve and perhaps financially desperate teachers a way of skirting the system. After that incident, papers from immigration were sent to all Hagwons and Public Schools, asking for more transcripts and re-inspections of degrees.

However, the Public School teachers now face a tougher challenge because neither the government nor school boards have clearly stated what they will accept as proof of an authentic degree. Among the teachers I have talked with, stories vary as to what the authorities are willing to accept. A Canadian teacher in Seoul was told to get a list of alumni from her graduating class. Universities, of course, do not allow disclosure such lists without prior consent because of privacy laws. Another teacher, an American working at a Public School in Busan, obtained a personal letter from the Dean of her University stating she had indeed matriculated and graduated from the University. She was promptly informed the letter was not enough proof. Nor did she receive any further instruction in how to follow up the matter.