Malaysia represents one of the world’s most exotic destinations for would-be EFL teachers. It’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is a heady mix of soaring skyscrapers and fascinating temples and mosques; ultramodern shopping centers and Tudor-style buildings left over from British colonial days; hi-tech driver-less trains and charming rickshaws. The country is also blessed with a tropical climate, spectacular scenery and a rich cuisine.
Although the demand for English teachers is not as high as in Japan, Korea and China, there are opportunities, especially if you are willing to go that extra yard to secure a position. Many people simply travel to Malaysia and begin looking for work after they arrive. Jobs are advertised all year round in local newspapers but it’s quite acceptable to walk in off the street and approach schools directly. Be sure to dress smartly; men should wear formal pants, shirt and tie, although a jacket is not necessary. You should also carry several copies of your resume.
Jobs can be found in various types of education establishment, including language schools, government-sponsored schools and universities, private schools or through home-schooling. Salaries can vary considerably between different employers and types of school, ranging from RM 1,500 (US$ 410) per month at the lower end of the scale to RM 10,000 (US$ 2,730) in the more sought-after positions. Realistically, you would need a salary of at least RM 2,000 per month in order to live comfortably in Malaysia. Unlike many other countries in Asia, universities do not offer the most competitive salaries. The most lucrative positions are generally offered by The British Council or international schools.
Many schools in Malaysia offer free or subsidized accommodation, which is a major perk. Free accommodation generally involves two or three teachers sharing an apartment. After completing a probationary period, some schools will also offer a housing allowance for those who prefer to find their own apartment. Completion of the probationary period (usually three months) also entitles the teacher to around 18 days paid holiday per year, in addition to the average 17 days of annual public holidays. Some schools will also reimburse air fares to the teacher’s country of origin upon completion of a one year contract, usually up to $US 1,000. It is important to take all these additional benefits into account when weighing up job offers.
Job requirements are a little more demanding in Malaysia than in most other Asian countries. In addition to a 1st degree, you will need to have a recognized TESOL qualification and at least two years English teaching experience. Greater experience and a post-graduate degree in either TESOL or linguistics will likely be necessary to secure more competitive positions. Work visa requirements also mean that prospective teachers must be at least 26 years of age and many schools will be reluctant to hire those over the age of 50 unless they are already working in Malaysia. It will also be difficult to find work if you have previously spent time in Israel.
In most teaching establishments, your work schedule will be around 30-35 hours per week. For public schools, the education system is highly centralized. Local authorities have very little input into curriculum design and classes are geared towards passing standardized examinations. Foreign English teachers will largely be responsible for conversational classes although you may be asked to participate in other classes, such as sport, drama and music, particularly if you have an interest in these areas.
Although most jobs are to be found in and around Kuala Lumpur, it is likely that you will have plenty of opportunity to explore other parts of the country while you are there. With long coastlines and a multitude of islands, there are great opportunities for those who enjoy water-sports, particularly scuba-diving. There are several national parks scattered across the country, with tropical rain-forests that are home to rare animals such as the Indochinese Tiger, the Sumatran rhinoceros and the Asian elephant. In these places you can enjoy jungle-trekking, rafting and bird-watching. 150km south of Kuala Lumpur you will find Melaka, the oldest city in Malaysia. The city offers an eclectic variety of architecture and culture including Cheng Hoon Teng, the oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia.
Malaysia’s tropical climate is humid but not overly hot. Annual temperatures usually range between 20-30°C, except in the highlands, which can be cooler. The monsoon season generally runs from September to December on the west coast, and extends from October to February in the east.
Malaysia is a multi-racial nation, so you can expect to find a range of South-East Asian cuisine, especially Chinese, Indian and Indonesian. Korean and Thai food is also widely available, and western food can be found in restaurants throughout the country. Malay dishes are centered around a blend of spices, ginger, coconut milk and peanuts. A popular national specialty is Satay, which consists of a variety of meats barbecued on small skewers and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce and a salad of cucumber, onion and compressed rice cakes.
Kuala Lumpur has a bustling nightlife with a variety of nightclubs and bars. Nightclubs generally stay open until 5 or 6am, while almost all bars have a long ‘happy hour’ between the hours of 5-8pm, offering two drinks for the price of one. You will also find plenty of concerts, dance performances, theater, and art shows. Movie theaters show western, Chinese and Malay films, and often have English subtitles. Once you’ve become acclimatized, it’s likely that you will eat dinner at local food stalls more often than at home, as meals there are extremely cheap.
If you enjoy shopping, then you will love Malaysia. Whether you are looking for designer brands in multistory shopping malls, or prefer bartering for goods in the lively bazaars, you will notice that shopping is a national past-time. Western goods are widely available and prices are competitive.
Malaysia benefits from one of the finest and most extensive road systems in Asia, so it is easy to get around the country on your days off. There is also an extensive rail network, a variety of bus services, metered taxis and, particularly in the provincial areas, the quintessentially Asian mode of transport, the rickshaw.
Malaysia has a relatively low crime rate, but incidences of street-crime, including pick-pocketing and bag-snatching, have been on the increase in recent years. However, as along as the usual precautions are taken, ones that you would expect to bide by in major city, you are unlikely to experience any major problems.
For those with some background in teaching and basic TESOL qualifications, Malaysia is a choice destination, offering a vibrant lifestyle and an exotic cultural experience.
TEFL English teaching job listings in Malaysia
Detailed living costs for teaching English in Malaysia
Information on visa requirements to teach English in Malaysia
Malaysia Tourism Page
The Star (News Site)
Malaysia News (NST) (News Site)
The Sun Daily (News Site)
Bulletin Malaysia (News Site)
The Borneo Post (News Site)
Malaysia Classifieds (jobs)
Malaysia Classifieds (jobs)
Malaysia Classifieds (jobs)
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