I'll continue to edit this initial post as I gather more and more information. In the meantime, this is what I have... Please feel free to post anything else you think would add to the knowledge base. I've got a few blanks I'd like to fill.
Forumosa member testimony: "ESL Dewey used to be great but now they're cashing in on their reputation. I know - I've worked for them twice. Last time I had no problems. This time, if I hadn't audited everything carefully - and more recently taken them to the CLA - I would have been out nearly 100k, over a 10 month contract. It was mostly due to over taxing and keeping the difference (and trying to), and some strange deductions ("mistakes") from time to time. "
However, in the end it seemed like the positions offered by Dewey were kind of the bottom of the barrel -- really strange schedules spread out from 9am-9pm with below average pay. The latest jobs email from Dewey listed really horrible positions for Taichung City/County. I would say post your resume on Dewey but treat it only as a last resort."
"I got my job in 2007 through de-wey agency. It was in a small boring town in Taichung county, but the school offered free accommodation and didnt demand office hours or other fluff like that..
Problem is the agent was not totally honest.
I was promised social activities because I was worried about the remoteness of the town and lack of social options (not one bar in the whole place!). The boss was apparently going to take me sightseeing and arrange outings with coworkers etc.. To be fair the boss did take me shopping 3 times throughout the year which was nice.
Was also promised an airconditioned apartment. Ended up being put in an old office building with a bed shoved in the corner. No aircon and had to buy my own.
Training and support was also offered but did not materialise despite many requests. I sat in on one class on my first day and had a 'review' of my teaching about 10 months into the contract.
So - dont believe any of the extra stuff that is offered to 'sweeten' the deal. Check the contracts and so be it."
EU Growth Education Group
Forumosa member testimony:
Asian Consultants International
Forumosa member testimony: "A number of years ago I took a part-time job through this agency. As with all agencies you must beware, make sure you get all the info from them up front and you are happy with the terms. Usually they just place the teacher and as far as I'm aware they charge both the school and the teacher. A number of years back I was charged $8000NT for their service, this was only for a part-time job as I said and I think they charge much more for a full-time job.
As for their placement service they placed me with a school I paid them and never heard from them again. Luckily the school I worked for had a great boss and I stayed for over one year but as we all know there are some horrible stories out there."
International Avenue Consulting Company (IACC)
Forumosa member testimony: "Don't even think about using IACC."
"I remember arriving in Taiwan for a 'guaranteed' position at a high school in Taiwan, arranged by IACC.
It was not guaranteed. You people lied to me on numerous occasions, I don't recall ever once being paid the amount I was expecting to be paid, and it took 5 months for your 'help with ARC' to materialise. As I recall, my ARC stated that I was living in a different city, doing a different job, for a different company. "
Reach to Teach Recruiting
Forumosa member testimony: "I came to Taiwan through Reach to Teach and had no problems with them. They found contracts for my friend and I at a well-established school and they were helpful when we were preparing to come over here. They always answered all my questions, and from what I understand, anytime I have a problem I am still free to call them. I recommend them. I don't know much about any of the other agencies, although I know someone who came here through Footprints, and he said that they misled him about how much our school was going to help us find apartments. But R2T I recommend. Good luck."
Teach Away, inc.
Forumosa member testimony:
Foresight International Education Center
Forumosa member testimony: "Yes. It was a mixed experience. Would I go back? Unlikely. I was happy to leave."
Forumosa member testimony: "I met a woman on a train today from the US. She came with footprints recruiting and had only good things to say about them, from hiring right through to support well into the job. She came in August (now Feb) so it's long enough that one could expect things to have gone wrong if they were going to.
She is a qualified teacher, and was hired on those terms, so I'm not sure if they hire in country and if so whether that makes any difference. But if you're overseas (maybe just US?), a qualified teacher, and wanting to come to Taiwan, they could be a good option. She was placed in a public school in a small town somewhere in central Taiwan, if I remember right."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RECRUITERS AND AGENTS
I've heard many stories from people who have used agents to get their job in Taiwan. In many cases, agents are contracted by schools that are too small or unpopular to reach applicants through their own website, or schools with no reputation at all. Make no mistake, by taking an agent's job you are taking a risk. The agent doesn't tell you the name of the school for two reasons: often the school's name is not famous and researchable, which would scare away applicants and, if you found out the name and location of the school yourself you could apply personally and avoid losing a chunk of your salary to the agent.
Also, schools scouted by agents rarely guarantee hours. Some give you free housing, but most don't train you. Many cater to first-time teachers, but most of those jobs are illegal and you will find that your ARC will have the address of a school other than the school you teach at. This means your job is ILLEGAL! Mostly this comes from teaching kids ages 3-6, which is illegal for foreigners (but large chain schools like Happymarian and Hess can get away with it), but if you got a kindy job through an agent, you are at a much greater risk for being discovered and deported.
Many people also have wonderful stories about their experiences with agents, on the other hand. Agents can be useful in placing people with minimal experience and qualifications. They can be very courteous, friendly, and helpful. Agencies cater best to people who don't know any better and have no idea how to find a job for themselves. Usually a smart applicant can find work for one of the better schools without too much trouble, so I recommend not putting all your eggs in the "agent basket".
Still, it is very smart to send all your information and materials to every agency you can and let them start chucking jobs at you so you can see what sort of options you have if you can't get Hess or Kid Castle to throw you a bone. Kid Castle, a reputable school to some extent, by the way, uses Reach to Teach (I was just informed this in an e-mail from Kid Castle's personnel department), so you may end up with a good school.
Some questions you might want to ask your agent:
- Are you being paid a portion of what might otherwise be my wage?
How close is the school to the MRT/Bus Stop?
Is this a chain school? (Yes is better than no)
On average, how long do teachers stay at this school?
Can I see a few pictures of the classrooms?
How many foreign teachers work there?
Will I have an assistant teacher (native Taiwanese)?
How many kids will be in the class?
What does the hourly wage end up being for teaching hours? Office hours included?
Is this job legal? (Be careful with this question)
Is the management foreign or Taiwanese?
Another list of questions (by Kingruei)
There are several things you need to know before you sign up:
1. How do they charge? Do they charge the school or you? How much do they charge? This is a tricky question because your agency will probably not tell you but at least you should know your money is not taken away by them.
2. What kind of services they will do for you: pickup,temp accommodation, apartment, moving, setup utlilities, visa, ARC, health insurance, etc. They would probably not do them all for you, but make sure they help you with first three and visa, ARC and maybe visa run if needed.
3. Read through the contract and have someone review the Chinese version for you: majority contracts are cited in both Chinese and English but they all say that Chinese one is the one they follow once disputes occur. For your best interest, you should review them both before you sign. If you could not find someone to review it for you, you should have them translate the Chinese one for you and watch their responses in case they fool you.
4. How far would they negotiate for you when you have a problem with the school? An agency should be the liason for both parties. You shouldn't argue with the school yourself, have the agency do it for you. The agent probably speaks better English so they should be quite helpful for this kind situation. But keep this in mind: agency makes money from the school, not you. They usually take the side of a school unless you are absolutely right. If you are legal, remember you can always call the hotline and the Labor Bureau should be able to help you.
5. How much would you lose if you breach the contract?
The normal lenghth of a contract is 12 months, which is required by the Labor Bureau. Yea, you could get a shorter work visa but the fees are the same so why get a shorter one? The best way is to make sure you would not lose your pay when you resign, but you will have to review your contract before you do anything.
6. Could your agency help you if you are unsatisfied with your school?
Would they charge for the relocation? Would they help you to start over? This is quite common at your first school. It's like you need to put up more for your first job because your immune system hasn't built up yet. Make sure your agency helps you to deal with the relocation, then your life would be much easier.
Experiences shared by Kingruei Enterprise
You may come up with your own questions. It is wise to use your powers of inference to make judgment calls; for instance, lots of schools offer you a contract renewal bonus equal to one month's pay. Does this, given what information you have about the school, make the school desperate or confident? You may notice some job adverts say "We cover ARC and health care!" Usually that is a given and if it isn't mentioned, you probably don't have to worry about it that much. You may want to mention it, nonetheless.
In any case, I don't wish to deter people from using agents altogether. I'm merely suggesting you exercise extreme skepticism and caution. Remember, if you accept a job on crappy terms, it contributes to messing up the market for everybody, and if every newcomer to Taiwan does this, you can expect lots of schools to lower their standards for treatment of foreign workers.
Good luck! I'll add on to this as I get more information from my research and from other members.