Originally published Sunday, March 8, 2009 in The China Post
By Trista di Genova
Google Scott Sommers, and you’ll get over 2.2 million responses. Why? His blog covers a litany of subjects affecting both Taiwanese and foreign teachers, from job-search strategies, to education policy.
Scott came to Taiwan from Toronto, Canada with a Master’s degree 13 years ago. The focus of his site has changed as his career evolved. “In 2002, I was teaching company classes, so I posted on [jobs and employers]. What I know about now is teaching at universities.”
“I write a lot about teaching at universities and what I consider education policy. In my reader surveys, what they wanted to read more about was policy — how decisions in the Ministry of Education affect university employment or what goes on in schools, how language policy is formulated in Taiwan.”
So, what about teaching at university in Taiwan?
“I was hired seven years ago as a full-time permanent faculty member by Ming Chuan University, the largest [university] employer of foreign teachers. This is primarily because we have a language center staffed mostly by foreign teachers. There are two kinds of university teachers in Taiwan: staff and faculty teachers. I’m a faculty teacher, which means I’m part of the promotion system in Taiwan universities. I work for the MOE and was hired for Ming Chuan.”
“Historically, the longer you’ve been teaching, the harder it is for them not to renew your contract, because they have to explain to the ministry why you’re suddenly unsatisfactory. It’s been very difficult to remove people once they’ve had a few renewed contracts. Generally the only people who haven’t had their contract renewed have been people charged with criminal acts.”
“This appears to have changed a lot since last March,” he continued. “There have been a number of professors who’ve had numerous renewals of their contracts, and were dismissed with no problem at all.” “A couple things are going on here. Around 2002, the DPP began a wave of university reforms. One thing they started which we’re starting to see now is elimination of automatic contract turnovers. My interpretation is there are enough PhDs around that the MOE can start demanding what they want.”
Scott sat on hiring committees in the past. What are they looking for?
“Hiring an ‘energetic teacher’ is not an issue that ever comes up. We’re looking for older, experienced people who bring maturity to the classroom. Right now, the number one thing we’re looking for is having a PhD, although effectively we have a hiring freeze because it’s hard to find PhDs to teach in a language center. There’re two kinds of teaching situations for English teachers — department jobs and language center jobs. Department jobs are teaching English majors conversation, writing, literature. At a language center, the students are non-English majors.
For those seeking a university post, here’s Scott’s advice:
“You’ll hear a lot of discussion that you need a PhD. That’s more true than ever, but not entirely. There are still lots of jobs available for Master’s degree holders. They are increasingly found in rural promoted junior colleges (second-tier universities). They’re not what you’d think of as typical university jobs, but they’re still better than teaching at a bushiban.
Where do they publicize these positions?
“This is a mysterious question that nobody really quite knows. You can find them on my site, Michael’s [Turton], even tealit.com, forumosa.com, or davesESLcafe.com. What I would recommend is getting hold of the MOE list of schools and quite literally, write every university.
Read more on Scott Sommer’s Taiwan Blog