When it comes to going abroad and teaching ESL, Indonesia is probably not the first place that comes to mind, however, if you do get the chance to visit, you’ll quickly learn that it is one of Asia’s hidden gems. For teachers in Indonesia there’s so much to discover and it’s impossible to explore the entire country with its 17,000 islands plus. Those who have traveled to Indonesia before will be quick to tell you how stunning and diverse a place it is. It’s certainly a country you’ll never grow bored in. If you’re the type who loves to explore and travel, Indonesia is great. It is home to the second biggest tropical rainforest in the world and with its pristine beaches and crystal clear waters, Indonesia is a haven for those who enjoy diving and surfing. And if you’re not into your water sports, you could always try your hand at hiking Indonesia’s amazing peaks and exploring its active volcanoes.
Spanning over a number of different time-zones due to its vastness, you’ll be able to see the different cultures from one end of the country to the other. You’ll be able to explore the spiritual island of Bali, you could try your luck at spotting a Komodo dragon or you could just sit back and relax in one the many resorts and enjoy tasty and very affordable Indonesian food. Backpackers in Indonesia enjoy heading off the beaten path and exploring, but what is there for the ESL teacher in Indonesia?
There are many English language teachers in Indonesia who love teaching there; however, like in many non-western countries there are those few who have negative experiences working in Indonesia. There have been a number of reports of Indonesian bosses exploiting their ESL teachers, but in this case it’s better to be aware so you can research your choice more before packing up all your summer clothes and heading to Indonesia for work.
Indonesian employers often fail to tell their teachers that once they’ve employed you and obtained the necessary papers and work visa, you’ll also have to obtain an exit visa which requires the Indonesian employer’s permission. Immigration won’t allow you to pass through any Indonesian airport without it. Upon leaving the country, the Indonesian immigration office will require you to have a signed permission of leave from your Indonesian boss, your passport, your Indonesian ID card, and your immigration book. Many ESL teachers teaching English in Indonesia have been caught out by this, especially if they wish to leave the country earlier before the contract is up.
It’s also important to read your contract with your Indonesian employer first, and very carefully. Most contracts are for one year with most of these stating that the English teacher is required to pay a fine (2 months wages) to their employers if they want to break the contract. This to non-Indonesians may seem harsh, but it’s also important to bear in mind sponsoring a foreigner in Indonesia is very costly and it’s more than likely they spent quite a lot trying to get you there in the first place.
Despite some of the teething problems there are in Indonesia, it does continue to remain a popular destination for ESL teachers. Perhaps you’re wondering why – a lot has to do with the fantastic all-year climate, the delicious Indonesian cuisine and the friendly locals who genuinely love foreigners.
It’s true that ESL/EFL teachers working and living in Indonesia have an amazing lifestyle filled with more luxury than one could afford at home. Almost all employers in Indonesia will offer their English teachers some form of accommodation – single if you’re lucky or shared accommodation with 2-3 other foreign teachers. Most teachers’ accommodation is in middle-upper class neighbourhoods and teachers are often spoilt with various maids for cooking, cleaning and even washing the teacher’s clothes. It will certainly take some getting used to, but this is one of the major cultural differences between Indonesia and the West. This action of having not one, but many maids may seem extravagant to non-Indonesian people, however, this is an important provider of income to the rural community of Indonesia.
Another great reason to have a maid do your shopping in Indonesia is the bartering system that’s in place – this is the norm in Indonesia and retailers and market stall owners expect you to do this, however, this is not something we’re used to. There’s no bartering in Indonesian supermarkets – they have a fixed price (harga pas), but it’s the more expensive option and most people will shop at smaller markets where the goods are less expensive and are of better quality.
There are jobs everywhere in Indonesia and they’re not just reserved for Indonesia’s major cities; however, there still tends to be a larger concentration of good ESL jobs on Java. More than 50% of Indonesia’s population (of 200 million ) resides on Java and this is where the majority of Indonesian students go to university. Bali is very popular too; so many people want to go there, but because of the popularity and number of foreign expats already living in Bali, preference is usually given to those native English speakers who live there. Sumatra is also a popular destination and there are a number of employers always on the lookout for ESL teachers there.
The biggest and most reputable English language school chain is EF English First. You can find branches on almost every island and they’re always looking to recruit new ESL teachers. EF English First are the largest employers of teachers and because of their reputation, there’s a great chance you’ll advance your career as an ESL teacher with the constant further training that’s offered to teachers. Many teachers who remain for a number of years are known to go onto holding greater positions such as the DOS (Director of Studies).
In the past it was much easier for those English teachers working in Indonesia to obtain all the right paperwork, however, of late, the Indonesian authorities have attempted to restrict the heavy flow of ‘backpacking’ teachers. As of 2012, all ESL teachers wishing to work in Indonesia must have obtained a 120 hour TEFL certification of some sort and hold a 4-year BA or BS.
In addition to the above, Indonesia’s Immigration Authority can only issue special teaching visas to those who hold passports from the following countries: UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
It is the school’s responsibility to process the teacher’s Indonesian working visa and at the same time issue them with a KITAS, a special identity card for non-native Indonesians living in the country. Additionally, once you arrive in the city, island or town where you expect to work in Indonesia, you’ll be required to sign up with the police. Most schools hire the help of agents to process all the necessary documents for working in Indonesia as it’s usually a lot quicker. Most visas are processed in Singapore, which will require the teacher to make a quick trip to pick it up.
Leaning the English language is a way of life in Indonesia as its part of the National Curriculum. This is great for the ESL teacher as it’s extremely rare that you’ll ever have to teach absolute beginners.
Most Indonesian English students will learn their English after their normal school hours in a private language school. There has been a great emphasis recently on the importance of learning English therefore the majority of students will have private lessons as well as learning English in their regular schools. There are a number of adult learners; however, the majority of your students will likely be under the age of 16.
If you were to compare Indonesian teenagers to those of the West, they’re very well behaved and generally a pleasure to teach. Indonesian teenagers really get into their English lessons and are especially interested in popular culture. Speaking English is considered to be the ‘Cool’ thing, so the majority of your English language students in Indonesia are going to be well engaged.
Indonesian employers have good reputations. If you do your job properly, they’ll do summersaults to keep you. ESL wages in Indonesia tend to vary as do the hours, however, you could expect to earn around £900 per month give or take for 20-25 teaching hours per week. Despite thousands upon thousands of foreigners flocking to the glamorous islands of Indonesia each year for tourist purposes, Indonesia remains relatively cheap to live in especially if you learn how to barter well.
Cheap meal for one: £1.30
Average priced meal for two: £7.80
Pint of local beer: £1.30
Regular coffee: £1.20
0.33l Bottle of water: £0.20
1-Way ticket on local transport: £0.20
Taxi starting tariff: £0.30
1-Bed modern apartment in inner-city: £240
1-Bed apartment in suburbs: £105
There are so many reasons why you’d want to consider working and living in Indonesia. In Indonesia, you’ll be given the royal treatment and become the local celebrity despite living among 200 million others. You’ll have the chance to do and taste so many new things. You can see a Komodo dragon in the flesh, you can explore the coral reefs and snorkel, you’ll be able to sample some of the most succulent food and amazing coffee in the world, you’ll be able to explore Mount Bromo and Indonesia’s other volcanoes, and most importantly you’ll be welcomed with open arms by the friendly and very curious Indonesians.