Indonesia is a large and heavily populated country comprising some 17,508 islands with a population of 230 million people. It consists of many diverse ethnic, linguistic and religious groups (with a majority Muslim population).
Working there you’ll enjoy a typically tropical climate. The capital is Jakarta (pop 8.5 million) which is the cultural and administrative heart of the country whilst Bali is one of the major tourist areas.
Indonesia is a common destination for tourists and this means English is in demand both from school children and older people in the tourism industry. Jakarta is also home to the country’s thriving oil industry which means there are several multinationals there and if you teach Business English you’ll find work easier to pick up.
TEFL Schools in Indonesia
Demand for English teaching is high in Indonesia (it’s the fourth most populous country in the world with great emphasis placed on English by the government). This means that schools are springing up all over the country and conditions and quality vary greatly.
There are a dozen or so large language school chains which hire TEFL teachers, paying them well (in comparison to local wages). Some will offer up to a 3 year contract with return flights paid. However, these schools are looking for professional, experienced and well qualified teachers. You’ll usually need a degree and a TEFL Certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate to find work in Indonesia.
However, there are a lot of smaller schools. These tend to be less well paid but are often a useful ‘in’ into the teaching system in Indonesia. Although you may find work in one of these places without a degree, most will ask for at least a TEFL Certificate.
The biggest chain is EF which is a franchise. This means there is a variation in standards from EF school to EF school with some being very well run and regarded, and others having a bad reputation. They use their own materials which, in some cases, are less than perfect.
If you are in Indonesia and looking for work, the best time of year for you to turn up is September or October when the school year begins. The Yellow Pages will have a list of local schools to try and you can also take a look in the Indonesian Observer newspaper.
A lot of teaching is with young people (4 years and up) who are usually extremely polite and courteous but the biggest group is teenagers.
Visas for Indonesia
Indonesia has a strict policy regarding work permits. Many teachers arrive and begin work on a tourist visa (costing a small amount on arrival), however this needs to be converted as soon as possible to a work permit. Good schools will help arrange your papers either before you arrive or soon after; often this can mean flying out to Singapore in order to leave the country and then flying back in to collect it.
Note that your visa is valid only if you remain with the school who organized it. Note also that at this time teachers who are non-native speakers of English cannot officially teach in Indonesia.
TEFL Pay & Lifestyle in Indonesia
As you might expect, the best paying jobs can be found in Jakarta. A reasonable job will pay about $1000 USD (€791, £636) per month. Remember, however, that the cost of living in Indonesia is considerably lower than in most Western countries. Accommodation is also quite cheap so you will find that teachers live relatively well in comparison to the locals, often able to eat out during the week and have a good time (the expat communities are strong in the major cities like Jakarta).
For example, a cheap and cheerful meal at a local restaurant can cost 1 – 2 USD.
If you are lucky you may find work teaching business English to one of the large multinational companies; this can pay up to 3 times the usual school salary.
Note that drugs are heavily proscribed in Indonesia. Trafficking can lead to a life sentence or even the death penalty and even possession of a very small amount can incur heavy penalty. In 2013 an English teacher was found in possession of 1 gram and two marijuana joints and faced a sentence of up to 12 years.