Although TEFL qualified teachers are able to find work in a wide range of countries throughout Asia, there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of before you decide on a destination. In some countries a 4-year university degree is necessary and some will only allow native English speakers to teach in their schools. Another issue that is worth considering is your age as it can be a factor in some situations in Asia.
How does the local retirement age affect English teachers in Asia?
In some Asian countries there is a strict retirement age for local teachers that also applies to foreign EFL teachers working there. In popular teaching destinations such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, schools are unable to sponsor work visas for foreign teachers who exceed the local retirement age. This can range from 55 to 65, so you should contact the embassy or consulate of your potential teaching destination to check the latest regulations before making any final plans.
Are employers reluctant to hire more mature teachers in Asia?
While you might feel young at heart and more than ready for a new adventure teaching English overseas, it is true that some employers in Asia can be reluctant to hire teachers over a certain age. In contrast to Latin America and Europe, where the majority of teachers are hired in-person and are responsible for their own start-up costs, many schools across Asia prefer to do their recruiting in-advance which requires a considerable amount of time and finances on their part. Organizing visas and work permits and providing extra benefits such as airfares and accommodation can all add up to a significant outlay. For some employers, this outlay is seen as a risk with older teachers as they think that they might struggle to adjust to the new culture and busy lifestyle that is commonplace in many parts of the region. While this is often an unfair opinion, it is one that is relatively common among some employers.
Is it true that Asian cultures have huge respect for older generations?
While it is absolutely true that having respect for your elders is a common theme in most Asian cultures, this can lead to increased reluctance to hire older teachers. Many public schools and private language academies have head teachers or managers under 40, which can be a problem as it is often seen as disrespectful to correct or give orders to someone who is older than you. Because of this, some schools will not even consider teachers over 40 to avoid any awkward moments for local teachers and management.
Does the age of students have an impact on who schools employ?
A large percentage of teaching jobs in Asia will involve young learners, some as young as 3 or 4 years old. In these situations schools typically look for energetic teachers who can keep up with the class for as much as 8 to 10 hours a day. Whether it is justified or not, many employers consider that older teachers will not have the required stamina to teach in this environment for a full contract. On the plus side, if you are able to get an interview you can often convince the employer that you are fit, healthy and raring to go. However, as many positions are filled in advance, it is not uncommon for employers to look at the age on the CV/resume first which can make getting an interview difficult.
Are there any positives for older teachers looking to teach English in Asia?
While all of the above factors can make it seem as if Asia is off limits for the over 40s, this is certainly not the case. Although countries such as China and South Korea often have restrictions on age, there are plenty of other great options such as Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam where employers are more than happy to take on teachers in their 40s and 50s. There are also a few factors that can significantly increase your employability as a more mature teacher in Asia. Any previous teaching experience will always put you in a good position in the job market, regardless of your age. Also, employers who only cater to adult students will often favour mature teachers as it can be a big help in building rapport in the classroom. The bottom line is, as long as you do a bit of research so you understand the market and any local restrictions that are in place, you should be able to make an informed decision on a TEFL destination that is right for you.