Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Language schools may suffer teacher shortage over SARS

AT A LOSS FOR WORDS English instructors may not be leading a mass exodus of foreigners, but they're not exactly lining up to work in Taiwan

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

English-language schools are expected to see a shortage of foreign teachers this summer as many decide to leave or not to come because of SARS fears, industry professionals said yesterday.

"Over the last two months, an increasing number of foreign teachers said they don't plan to renew contracts and may leave earlier [due to the SARS outbreak]," said Jason Hou (侯光杰), general manager of Kojen Eng-lish Language School (科見美語).

Established in 1982, Kojen has 20 branches nationwide employing more than 300 teachers from Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. But most of these teachers' one-year contracts will end in next month or in July.

"We are very likely to encounter a teacher shortage this summer," Hou said.

Summer is traditionally the high season for the English-learning sector as many students take time out to attend language classes.

But the industry may undergo some changes this year, Hou said, adding that starting in the middle of last month, Kojen's head office has received daily reports that at least one teacher has quit or taken leave without giving notice. The company has also had difficulty recruiting new teachers from abroad.

"The number of foreigners expressing an interest in coming to Taiwan to teach English in our center is down 80 percent from the same period last year," Hou said.

In an effort to lure foreigners, the company is considering offering incentives including free plane tickets, airport pickup services and free accommodation, he added.

Kojen's recruitment agencies in the US said many candidates are concerned about coming to Taiwan after the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against all but essential travel to Taiwan, he said.

Chris Jordan, a director at Kojen's Fuhsing South Road branch, said yesterday that none of their foreign teachers in that branch had left, but two American teachers have cancelled their plans to come to Taiwan because of SARS.

In addition, "some teachers have become very concerned and mentioned if the situation got much worse, they may consider going back to the US or Canada," Jordan said.

So far, the only individuals that have actually left the Fuhsing South Road branch due to SARS are several Canadian-born Chinese who quit after their parents demanded they come home, Jordan said.

Other English language centers say the impact has been limited so far.

"About 90 percent of the foreign teachers who are expected to renew contracts within the next two months have decided to stay on," said Jeff Lu (盧佳宏), a section chief at Hess Educational Organization (何嘉仁美語), one of the nation's largest language centers with 160 branches and 500 foreign teachers.

However, the company is concerned that foreign recruitment may slow as online enquiries about the SARS outbreak in Taiwan surge, Lu said.

David Taiwan Inc (大衛美語), an English-language training center with 14 branches and some 100 foreign teachers around the country, is expecting a 10 percent drop in foreign instructors in the summer contract-renewal period, according to Joanne Tseng (曾 曉妍), a company official.

In the middle of this month, the company reported a 20-percent drop in student registrations compared to the previous month, Tseng said.

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