Following our last blog post about preschools in Taiwan, someone approached us with their experience of teaching in a Taiwanese kindergarten that they would like to share. The following experience comes from a contributor who would like to remain anonymous. From time to time we allow guests to post their experiences on this site.
When I was training at a certain HESS branch my first year (I've been in Taiwan for almost a decade), the trainers told us that while teaching English to kindergarteners was illegal, it was culturally acceptable to do so.
For my first three years working at that HESS branch, I didn't have to teach kindy because I worked at a branch that didn't have any kindy.
(this is not a rant about HESS in particular, but it gives a good perspective because HESS is the largest English cram school brand in TW)
Related to that, my HESS orientation trainers at the time told us that it was ok for us to violate our working visas and tutor.
Their contract, if I recall correctly, has a non-competition clause and also tells us to stay within Taiwanese national law.
I was confused my first year, to say the least. The point of that is that some teachers at my HESS branch thought it was just fine to work at kindys in the morning and come back to teach cram schools in the afternoons and evenings.
My manager at the time prided our branch as being super legal, but we really weren't legal and the trainers were condoning illegal activities. Perhaps a lot has changed though since the manager was in training.
At some branches, I've heard they have what's called a "coffee break" for foreign kindy teachers.
Example: "Teacher Ryan, it's time for your coffee break." = "Get out of the classroom and/or hide, the police/immigration are here."
I've been told by other kindy teachers they were told to hide on the roof of their branch.
I work at a kindy for now, but I know how to get out if cops come (use the fire escape).
One of my friends, an Asian American, was told to just hide in the kitchen and look like a kitchen staff member,
Related to the above, the trainers showed my training group pictures of a foreign teacher taking kindy students to a police station for a field trip to show it wasn't a big deal.
Actually, most Taiwanese that I know don't know teaching English to kindy students is illegal
They are surprised when I mention it.
I don't work at a HESS branch now, but even one of the police officer bosses (I don't know his position, but it's higher up) in my town knows I work at a kindy.
I'm leaving my kindy job after CNY. I don't like other people lying on my behalf.
I wish there were some education reform, but it's kind of a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation.
I don't have any confidence in Taiwan's legal system. I'd most likely be treated better as a white foreigner, but I saw how they treated Southeast Asians, especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns. I ain't even "woke", but I saw some SE Asians get in trouble for violating their visas and Taiwanese law came down hard on them.
On the other hand, if you talk about it, you usually get one of two reactions from foreigners:
1) It's just part of Taiwanese culture. Can't change anything, so let it go.
2) Stop complaining. You have white privilege. Oh, but if don't have some level of disdain for your current situation, you're still a racist.
Woke people suck. Unmerciful and unforgiving hypocrites. Blunt enough?
So, that's the situation of kindy as I've seen it. Others have written about other things, but it's difficult to say things because it's pretty discouraging to speak out due to defamation laws and possible lawsuits (again, I'm not familiar with all the aspects of Taiwanese law and I certainly don't trust Taiwanese law).
You're also discouraged to speak out because then you get the "Trump" treatment. "If you don't like it, leave." I might, but I'll have a clean conscience.
If you have other questions or want to know about other illegal parts of teaching ESL in Taiwan, let me know.
Btw, on my manager's being proud of us being legal: obviously, I can't tell the internal workings of a person (or even myself at times for that matter!), but that's the impression I got. Not certain on that point.
The least we can do is tell the truth and try to give others the benefit of the doubt. That is also why I do not totally blame cram school bosses.
Thanks for reading! Happy New Year to you and your family (both here and abroad)!
You can see our previous blog which details our experience working in a cram school here.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.