TEFL Success Stories – Part 13

Indonesia – Andrew

Part 1

I started teaching here in 1996 at an English First school and I was very nervous because it was my first teaching job. I soon realised that my students were even more nervous than I was because Indonesians have a strange sort of respect for foreigners. The educational system here is rather old-fashioned and learning ‘by rote’ is still the accepted method. I found that all my students knew about the irregular verbs and what we know as the infinitive, past simple and past participle are know here as verbs 1,2 & 3. This actually helps a lot.

School in Indonesia is still a privilege. It costs money to send your children to school and many kids don’t make it beyond the elementary level. This doesn’t have to be a disadvantage as the former President Suharto left school after completing just his elementary education and he went on to be one of the most corrupt dictators the world has ever known and made a huge fortune.

I worked for just over four years in Jakarta and finished as a Director of Studies in a large school in West Jakarta. This sort of position is what prospective teachers should be aiming for, as the salaries can be very rewarding. $2,000 a month may not sound like much but in Indonesia, it is a lot of money and you will be regarded as a wealthy person.

In a language school, you can expect many of your students to be from upper-middle class families and many of them will be Chinese Indonesians as these are the people with the money. Others will be the children of Government officials whose salaries are very small but, because of the rampant corruption, they are enormously wealthy.

The education system in Indonesia is very old-fashioned and the official curriculum is much the same as it was in western countries in the 50’s. As a teacher of English here, you will have to break through barriers but it is not difficult.

After working in Jakarta for over 4 years, I felt I had had enough of the big dirty city so I moved to Bali. I had, by this time, formed my own company specialising in language services via the internet, so I was able to work from wherever I happened to be.


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For the last two and a half years, I have been living in Bali and I make a living from a little ‘in-house’ teaching, writing articles for magazines, copyediting other peoples’ articles and writing for CD Roms.

I don’t say that I have achieved everything I set out to achieve but I have done reasonably well so there is no reason for other people not being able to do the same thing. I am really quite lethargic and I don’t push myself too much but I still make a good living.

I have learned a lot in the past 8 years so if you want to ask me for advice on living and working in Indonesia, I will be happy to give it.

Good luck to all of you.

Part 2

A few months ago, I wrote about teaching in Indonesia and I hope that what I said at that time was useful to some of you who are regular readers.

I told you about my experiences in Jakarta as a newly recruited teacher and went on to talk about how I ended up as a Director of Studies and then moved to Bali to start my own business.

Well, a lot has changed since 12 October when a couple of bombs stole the lives of over 200 young people in Kuta and I would now like to write about the prospects for teaching in Bali in the future .

I am very fortunate in that none of my personal friends were killed or injured in the bomb blasts but, as a community, we all feel very sad about the useless loss of so many lives.

As a result of this tragedy, the number of tourists coming to Bali has plummeted so any schools which depended upon ‘in-house’ training are really suffering losses of work. My own private teaching work was orientated to the tourist trade and it all stopped a couple of weeks ago.

Despite dire warnings from many governments, I don’t know of any ESL teachers who have left Bali. We are all hoping that there will be a recovery very soon and that the work will return. My writing work has actually increased since the atrocity occurred but that may be coincidental. It does accentuate the fact, however, that if you are thinking of living and working in a developing country, it pays to diversify.

We expatriates in Bali, together with the local people, are very positive about Bali ‘s future so, if you are offered a job here, don’t be too worried. It is a fabulous place to live and work in and no more dangerous than any other place in the world, I have recently been approached by some General Managers of hotels saying that maybe while their staff are not so busy, this could be a good time to start an English Language course. You see, there is still optimism here.

If you would like any information or advice about working in Bali see below.

Part 3

I receive so many enquiries about living and working in Bali that I have decided to put some of my thoughts together in this document.

The majority of questions I receive are about teaching English in Indonesia and I have to say that at the present time, this is a bit of a problem as very few schools are recruiting new teachers. The demand for jobs currently far exceeds the availability so schools are able to be very particular about whom they employ.

To work as a teacher of English in Indonesia, the Government requires that you are a national of the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada or the U.S.A. No other nationalities are accepted so if you hold an Irish, Nigerian or Indian passport for example, there is no chance.

If you qualify on nationality, you will also need to have a valid qualification as an English teacher and this means something such as a CELTA from the University of Cambridge and the Royal Society of Arts. Some schools accept a TESOL certificate but this is regarded as a very basic qualification. Experience is also a good point in your favour so if you can prove that you have been teaching for some time elsewhere and can provide good references, this will help you.

For people particularly interested in Bali, I have to say that my comments may seem rather negative. The economy of Bali was very dependent upon tourism but the bombing last October, the war in Iraq and the current worry about SARS means that the number of tourists here has dropped significantly. Many language schools here depended on ‘in house courses’ in hotels etc. but, with so few guests, many of the hotels have cancelled their arrangements.

Bali is a wonderful place to live in if you can afford the lifestyle but if you have no money, it can be a very bleak prospect.

My advice to anyone wanting to come and work in Bali is to forget it at the present time. As the situation improves, hopefully soon, we will update our company website ~ www.fullproof.org. For information on what is happening in Indonesia and a host of useful links, please bookmark our site.


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