Here is the blog post I waited to post until I left, because it’s something that needs to be out there for people coming to teach in Taiwan. It’s something that I looked for more information about before I came here, but I couldn’t find any details beyond the blog post title. What I am about to reveal is the comedy of errors that this country has going. It’s a pantomime of many parts, try to keep up.

Legally, foreigners aren’t allowed to teach Kindergarten level kids, we’re only allowed to teach from grade 1 up. A quick scour of most of the blogs about Taiwan, though, including my own, will quickly reveal that his is most definitely not a law that’s adhered to.

To get your ARC (resident working visa) you have to have a sponsor. Legally, this requires a minimum of 14 hours a week of work at that school. You are not only registered to that school, but you are registered to a particular part of the building. This ensures, in theory, that one school doesn’t hoard foreign teachers for illegal teaching, using them for teaching classes that aren’t supposed to be learning English. When registered to part of that school, you are supposed to stay in that part of the school and not leave, wander into the Kindergarten, and then wander back. If you’re caught in the kindergarten while the government is visiting, questions will be asked.

No books in English may be in the kindergarten. No pencils may be in the kindergarten, because the kids that age shouldn’t be learning to write yet. No whiteboards are allowed in the classrooms, because you’re not supposed to teach children that age. They should just be playing. There are different zones, the play zone, the reading zone, etc.

Getting this? Have you spotted the problem yet?

This is Asia, the continent where the school systems make the rest of the world cringe in fear. I teach children from the age of 2… Actually, I know for a fact at least 5 of them weren’t 2 when I started. And I actually do teach. These kids are learning English, and they have to sit still for 40 minutes to have flashcards put in front of their noses so they can learn basic sentence patterns about fruit, the weather, feelings, etc. Kids from about the age of 4 are expected to be able to use scissors and to write their ABCs, their names, and very basic words. Who sends their children to this type of kindergarten? Rich people. Official people. Doctors, diplomats, business men and, you guessed it, government officials. The same people who made the rules saying that the kindergartens should be a place for playing.

Until I manage to work out how to insert one, please imagine a facepalm gif here.

The crazy thing (as if this wasn’t enough) is that all of this is, to a level, enforced. I’ve been around for several government raids where I’ve been hurried out of the classroom and sent to hide in the bushiban. One person I know at a different school, who hadn’t been teaching long, had to hide in the toilet. Unfortunately they then forgot he was there until four hours after the government had left. In my first few weeks of full time teaching, before I got my visa, I was in the illegal part of the school (yes, an entire part of the school shouldn’t even be there because it’s a fire hazard) when the government officials downstairs heard us stamping around and got through the door. We, myself, my kids, and two other classes with their teachers were all hurried into the tiny end classroom and the kids were told to be silent. A government official burst through the door with one of the head CTs shouting “you can’t do this” or similar in Chinese, and throwing herself in front of him as he took pictures on his iPhone. He didn’t seem to concerned about the fact that he’d just walked in on an Anne Frankesque scene of three white teachers and a lot of confused children huddled into a tiny space.

The reason he wasn’t concerned is becasue he wasn’t looking for foreign teachers that day, he was just looking for illegal parts of the building. Same as the people who come to look for foreign teachers aren’t concerned about illegal parts of the building or whiteboards and books in the kindergarten.

There’s only one time I’ve witnessed a full raid, but luckily we were given about a week’s notice so a ‘field trip’ was organised for me and my kids. And the illegal kindergarten teachers who don’t have early childhood degrees. And another class of kids. Because not only do we have illegal white teachers, illegal Taiwanese teachers, illegal books and whiteboards, we also have an illegal number of children and an illegal number of classrooms. So I watched for two days as Uncle stripped all signs of English from the kindergarten, and all signs of children from my classroom. Then on the day, we were shipped off to a different part of the city, ushered in, and left in a classroom for 3 hours with nothing to do. Then we were taken back to the school, and everything continue as normal.

It’s not all fun and hide-and-seek-games, either. At a different one of our branches, government officials dressed up as parents, came in, and took pictures of a girl teaching. She was deported. If you ask your recruiter before you come (because the illegal thing is mentioned on the internet, and you may have seen something about it) they’ll laugh and brush past it. If you ask your school, they’ll laugh and brush past it. But it is real, and it is scary, and it was very stressful to teach in that environment for a year where suddenly everyone would be shouting at you to run as music went off and people hid. Okay, it may not happen too often that people get deported, but all it needs is that one time and it could be you. The fact that the schools don’t seem to consider you may not be happy with this is, frankly, just disrespectful. A lot of teachers aren’t even aware that their job is illegal. To reiterate, go through this flow chart:

Are you teaching children younger than grade 1?
|                               |

yes                             no
|                               |

illegal                         legal

Simple as that.

I quite frankly don’t understand it. If it seems confusing and farcical, it’s because it is. But teachers have been deported, the government are getting sneaker, and it is a risk. Even if the manager of all the branches of your school does take all the local police out drinking.

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