Teaching English in Taiwan or other places in Asia like South Korea or Japan usually means teaching English in a buxiban in Taiwan or a hagwon in South Korea. It’s not always the case, but most westerners in Taiwan end up working at a buxiban at some point. Before you decide on moving to Taiwan to work as an English teacher, you should know what to expect from your potential future job.
Isn’t a School a School?
No! Teaching in a Taiwanese buxiban is not like teaching in a public or private school in your home country. Buxibans are supplementary education, and you get the students after they have already had a long day of classes at their compulsory school. A lot of the time, the students are either tired, uninterested, or both. You often end up having to take the role of teacher and entertainer.
Most buxibans prefer that each class is run at an upbeat pace, and that the teacher uses activities and games as part of their teaching style. Some schools, especially some of the well-known chain schools, absolutely demand it. There are usually a lot of songs and chants too, so don’t expect a lot of time sitting behind a desk while there are students in the classroom.
Did you really just say I have to sing and play games?
Yes! There are a couple of reasons why buxibans in Taiwan like this active approach. One reason why it’s typically preferred to have exciting classes that include games and activities, is that the students have generally had all the standard lecture based teaching that they can handle for the day by the time they arrive at the buxiban. No child likes spending their day in school only to have to go to another school afterwards. A fun and exciting atmosphere is intended to grab their attention.
Another reason buxibans like lively classes is that they have a lot of competition. There are buxibans everywhere. It’s hard to gain new customers, so they want to retain their current ones. If a student leaves their class with a smile, there is a good chance they will come back again.
Not every teaching job will require this approach, but it’s something to be prepared for, as most will. It’s good to be aware of the type of classroom you will be expected to run, as it will help you make a smoother transition into your new English teaching job. Also knowing what the schools desire will help you with your job hunt. And remember, it’s OK for the students and the teacher to have fun.