Finding an English Teaching Job in Indonesia
The English Teaching Market
Indonesia is one of the easier Asian countries to live and teach in, with plenty of opportunities, flexibility, and eager students. Many beginning teachers who head straight for Japan or Korea find themselves frustrated by visa and employer requirements, culture shock, and competition. As we’ve discussed, many schools in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have stringent hiring criteria, ranging from teaching experience to ESL certification. Other requirements can include lengthy contract periods, interviews, a letter of guaranty, or an HIV test. In addition to the effort required to secure a position, the cost of getting settled in a city like Tokyo or Taipei can amount to a small fortune before you’ve seen your first paycheck.
But there is good news for Westerners who set their sights a little further south. A low cost of living, friendly and helpful locals, and less rigid rules mean new recruits will have more energy to concentrate on teaching. Indonesia is also ideal for travelers passing through the country who want to earn some extra cash, try their hand at teaching, or simply want a more intimate look at the country and its people. Some long-term overland travelers use Indonesia as a pit-stop to rest and refuel before continuing north to mainland Asia or south to Australia. Of course, there are also plenty of positions for experienced English teachers who prefer higher pay and more structured employment.
Though we have said it before, it can not be stressed enough that teachers should dress conservatively. Dresses, skirts, and pants are just fine. For men, ties aren’t necessary but could be worn if desired. During the wet season, dress for downpours and be prepared to get soaked. Keep a change of clothes at school if possible. You’ll need a raincoat and rubber thongs.
If you have photos from home, games, American paraphernalia, maps, songs, music, and so forth, bring them. One teacher who recently returned from Indonesia prepared a “backpack classroom” that made her teaching experience come alive.
Indonesians are very lively and energetic in class. Students love to talk, and while they’ve had plenty of grammar, they crave English conversation. In the classroom, they love participatory learning and welcome the use of games, media, and interaction. Be creative and active. This is very well received and you will get great results.
As with the other countries covered in this site, it is possible to arrange a teaching position in Indonesia before leaving home. This is the best route to take if you prefer a more structured program, have strong qualifications, and are willing to commit to teaching for a certain length of time – usually a year to eighteen months. Although this is not as big an industry as in Japan, Korea, or Taiwan, many schools – particularly those associated with private companies – do recruit overseas. Write or fax your resume and credentials to these types of schools well in advance of when you would like to begin teaching.
Being in the country to apply for jobs has the most advantages. Simply calling or showing up at a school is the most direct path to a job, and you won’t have to look far. As one Westerner who spent a year teaching in Central Java pointed out, while you try to arrange a position from home, a traveler knocking on the school’s door could be hired instead. You could simply get a copy of the yellow pages and look up “English schools.” In a big city like Jakarta you could be turning pages and jotting down phone numbers for quite some time!
Wages at English schools may range anywhere from US$1,000 – $2,000 per month. Schools outside of Jakarta may pay slightly less, but the smaller schools may offer a more challenging experience and the cost of living will likely be less than in Jakarta or Surabaya. Salaries vary according to experience, performance during a sample teaching session, how many hours you work, how popular the school is, and how many branches the school has.