Am I too old to teach English in Asia?

Due to the large amount of jobs on offer and good potential for earning a competitive salary, Asia is currently the top region for teaching English abroad. However, before you book a seat on the plane there are a few restrictions that you need to be aware of. Certain countries require foreign teachers to hold a full degree and some also restrict their teaching jobs to native English speakers only. One other issue that can be a problem for some teachers is age.

What are the retirement rules for English teachers in Asia?

Certain countries in the Asian region have strict retirement laws that apply to both local and foreign teachers alike. This restriction can be found in several of the most popular teaching destinations, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. In these countries schools are not allowed to sponsor working visas for any teacher who exceeds the maximum age which can range anywhere from 55 to 65. The best advice here is to contact the relevant embassy in advance to make sure you are aware of the specific laws in your destination of choice.

Do employers overlook mature teachers in Asian countries?

Regardless of your personal fitness or experience levels, it is a fact that many employers across Asia have some reluctance when it comes to employing older teachers. This is partly down to the fact that many positions are filled in advance, rather than through local recruitment as is common in much of Europe and Latin America. Unlike these areas where most teachers are responsible for their own start-up costs, in Asia many employers have to invest a considerable amount of time and finances during the recruitment process. Arranging the necessary visas and work permits, as well as extra benefits such as airfares and accommodation which are commonly included in contracts all add up to a large investment on the part of the school or language center. Many of these schools, rightly or wrongly, consider that hiring older teachers is a greater risk as they might struggle to adapt to the hectic lifestyle that is often the norm in many Asian teaching locations.

How does Asian cultural respect for older generations affect English teachers?

It is a well known fact that Asian cultures typically have a great respect for older generations. However, this cultural feature actually makes it harder for more mature teachers to get hired. Many head teachers or center managers are under the age of 40 which can be an issue as it is often seen as disrespectful to give orders or to correct people who are older than yourself. This is one common reason why some employers prefer not to even consider hiring anyone over a certain age.

How does the age of the students affect who schools employ?

Across the Asian region a large percentage of teaching jobs will involve young learners from as early as 3 years old, right through to university age. For these positions it is common for employers to target teachers who they think have the energy to keep up with their students from eight to ten hours a day. Rightly or wrongly, many employers have the opinion that more mature teachers will be lacking the stamina required to see out a full contract in these situations. However, if you are able to arrange an in-person interview it is often possible to demonstrate that you are fit and healthy and therefore land a role that you would likely be excluded from when applying from overseas.

What are the upsides for older teachers who want to teach English in Asia?

Despite all these issues regarding age and teaching English in Asia, it is certainly not an off-limits region for teachers of any age. Outside of the biggest markets such as China and South Korea there are several other great destinations that offer plenty of opportunities for older teachers. In countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam demand is very strong and restrictions are low making them all popular with teachers in their 40s, 50s, and beyond.

If you have previous classroom experience you should find your employability is greatly increased in most countries, whatever your age. It can also help to specialize in teaching adult learners as many schools that offer courses in this category will be more open to employing older teachers as they often find it easier to fit in and build rapport with the class. In summary, as long as you are aware of any restrictions in place in the areas that interest you, you should be able to make an informed decision on which TEFL destinations are the right fit for your circumstances.