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Teaching in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) - opinions and advice please!!

Discussion in 'Teaching overseas' started by Amandaimmie, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. Hi everyone,

    I'm a primary teacher considering whether to apply to a couple of jobs I've seen at British/International schools in Kuala Lumpur. However, I've read some really mixed things about working there both on this forum and elsewhere.

    Firstly, what sort of pay and conditions can I expect? I've read that the minimum pay for an expat is 5000R but schools pay 10000R and above (around £2000?) However, I've then read that this is very heavily taxed, and that if you holiday outside Malaysia then you get even more tax for leaving the country. Is this true?

    Also, in many countries they give you a housing allowance in addition to your salary. Would this be the case in KL/other parts of Malaysia (I'm not set on KL but it seems the best in terms of travel opportunities and the sheer number of schools!)

    Secondly, if I moved over, my partner would be coming with me. He is an intelligent guy in his mid/late 20s, but not a qualified teacher. He was considering looking for TEFL work, but we've read some pretty miserable things about the pay and we're finding it hard to . He has a BA and MA in the general field of politics and economics and experience in office/marketing type jobs, so should be quite employable in other fields, but we're not sure what sort of job he could get. Does anyone have partners/friends doing TEFL or other jobs that could shed any light on this? Also, to qualify for the 5000R minimum, does he have to be employed whilst living in the UK still, or would that be valid if we move over and he gets a job from there?

    If anyone has any advice at all about teaching in Malaysia, including what it's actually like overall (i.e. is there as much work to take home as I get here in the UK!) then I'd really like to hear from you.

    Thanks very much!
  2. (Sorry, don't appear to be able to edit - it should read that we're finding it difficult to see where to get TEFL jobs or much information about them.)
  3. migratingbird

    migratingbird Occasional commenter

    Hi! I live in Malaysia at the moment and have done for the last four years...will try and help...

    Pay - schools in KL tend to pay more than where I am currently living (I'm in primary too), however I tend to take home 6000RM. That's after tax (roughly 20% but I'll come back to that), EPF (pension contribution), and my accommodation is paid. Yes, you will get a housing allowance. Where I live, this pays for a big apartment with excellent facilities. I am rarely short of cash, in fact I'd definitely say my disposable income is much higher than it was in the UK. Electricity can be quite expensive, depends how much you use your air con, but gas comes from a bottle and lasts forever, and water costs me 1 pound a month! I have friends who live on the salary with non-working spouses. I wouldn't say they are well off but they can manage.

    Tax - The Malaysian tax year runs from January to January. To qualify for the 20% rate, you need to be in the country for 180 days or more. As most teachers do not start until August, that means they need to be in the country in the run up to January. I think you can have 14 days out of the country between that August and January. Any other years, you are generally fine as it's unlikely you will be out of the country for more than 170-odd days! In your final year, it becomes an issue again, and you need to ensure that before leaving (probably in July), you've done your 180 days in Malaysia. It's not as arduous as it sounds, but the paperwork you need to complete to prove it IS! The days that your passport is actually stamped don't count.

    TEFL work - there's lots of it about. Generally speaking, it's not well paid, but it would provide an extra bit of cash. Try having a look on dave's esl cafe for jobs, or else just wait till you get there, you should find something easily.

    Hope that makes things a bit clearer. I love Malaysia and think it's an amazing country, with fantastic travel opportunities. It's very easy to live here and safe. If you need any more info, feel free to PM me.

    Good luck!
  4. migratingbird

    migratingbird Occasional commenter

    Ah sorry! I did put paragraphs in there, forgot they don't come out with google chrome!
  5. 6000 a month equates to about 1,000 uk pounds. Doesnt sound much and I suspect that at the end of ones contract one can expect to have had an amazing experience with all the travelling opportunities etc and better for it. In terms of working internationally and paying off the UK mortgage I think one would need to think twice at that salary level. Is that about right as I understand?
  6. Peako

    Peako New commenter

    Would say you aren't far off with those comments Chips.
    As a single person on that salary you could save around half (500 pounds) each month if you didn't go crazy and ate street food now and then etc. However, a couple/family would have little left I would imagine.
  7. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    The OP has been misinformed on salaries; I don't know any school paying 20,000 for a main scale teacher. Typical salaries are 8000 to 12000 gross per month for non-leadership teachers, depending on age and experience. Three schools in KL pay a little more than that range, but it is doubtful they will be recruiting anymore for September.
    Tax is complicated. There are various allowances to claim, but 20% is very steep and really for the higher salaries 15,000+. Most will pay around 15% once resident status confirmed. A few pay into EPF, but that means even more monthly deductions and it is difficult to claim back when you leave.
    As to your partner; if unmarried leave him in the UK. If getting married; Some TEFL pay 5000 but it is no longer a requirement for married partners to meet the 5000 minimum. If he doesn't get a job and you're not married he will need to leave the country after 90 days.
    It is realistic to live on less than 5000; most Malaysians manage to do that and it is a fairly developed country. If you have debts and mortgages in the UK any move overseas is fraught with uncertainties.
    Malaysia is a great country. If you engage with the local community you'll love it, whatever your salary. If you prefer the confines of mixing only with fellow Brits, stay in the UK. Some teachers come here and miss out significantly because of their inability to mix. Many enjoy the experience to the max and some even marry locally (another reason to leave the unmarried partner at home.
    [This comment/image/section has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions]
  8. Thanks everyone for your comments and advice, this is all really helpful. I wasn't expecting 20,000R, it was £2000 (so 10,000R) I said but wasn't sure how much of that would be take home!

    We aren't married and aren't planning on doing so any time soon, so he would be moving over on his own back. It looks like that means to qualify for the minimum pay he'd have to get a job whilst still in the UK, is that right? Does anyone know whether that's possible for a TEFL job, or indeed another job? (He's well qualified, just not as a teacher, but doesn't really want to do anything too horribly corporate or salesy, hence the thought of TEFL being an option.)

    I presume it would be OK for him to live with me in the apartment my work pay for, of course we'd split the bills. Even if my salary would be enough to get by on, it's not really how we would want to live, he'd go crazy with nothing to do!

    Migratingbird, may I ask where you are living? I'm not set on KL, it's just where I've seen the jobs at the moment. Having said that, if I don't get it this time I might wait until next year because I understand that a lot of schools employ quite early in the year, so there might be more options.

    Finally, from any teachers out there, what is the job actually like compared to work back home? Is the pressure as high? I feel most of this comes from the constant threat of OFSTED so I'm hoping not!

    P.S. I'm on Chrome too, to get the paragraphs you have to type (but without the spaces)
  9. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Staying in your aparetment is fine - it isn't Saudi! However, the job front is hazy. With out and job and not married, he has a max 90 day stay, as mentioned.
    BTW: hear not here, careless me!
  10. I realise this didn't come out as I typed it! It should read "open chevron, capital P, close chevron". Obviously, I can't type it because it won't come out again!
  11. electricsheep

    electricsheep New commenter

    I know this is quite an old thread but felt I had to respond to it, having lived and worked in Malaysia. Leaving your home life to teach abroad is a gamble, but one you can assess if you like to hear the reality of it and not the dreamy fantasy! For one thing, it actually costs quite a lot to come abroad. In KL, you will find it hard without a car, taxis are not the best or most available here. Cars are expensive as they have huge import duty on them. Second hand cars are expensive too. You will need a hefty deposit to set up somewhere to live. Expect to have to pay up to three months rent worth of deposit, although this does vary - but it is still expensive. Living in KL is great if you are on two incomes. I would say, coming with a partner who cannot work here, you will find it tight. Any money you save will go on holidays. If you have big financial commitments back home, be aware you might find it hard to service these commitments if you are the sole earner. I would suggest a better route for your partner would be to do private tuition. But your partner's working hours will not tally with yours as he will be expected to teach after school hours, even some weekends.
    My final message is, yes, come to Malaysia, but be aware that you might not be able to enjoy it on the level you might imagine. The reality of living and working abroad is never the same as the dream of it.
  12. Why is the EPF or pension plan hard to get out when you leave? Wouldn't this be something a lot of people would be doing at reputable international schools? What are these rates like?
  13. EPF is not hard to get out when you leave; the accounts department should inform you of the process, and then it takes around 2 to 3 weeks to get the cheque in your hand. A good international school should be putting in 12% against your 9/10% monthly contribution. The cheque is therefore very nice!
  14. Totally agree, should be a fairly straight forward process. This time, our HR Department organised a bus and headed in to deepest PJ, the leavers emerged an hour later all smiles carrying their final statements. Money was in their bank accounts by the end of June. Some <u>very</u> happy staff.
    You can 'up' your own contributions too, which I've just done to 20%.
  15. nemo.

    nemo. Occasional commenter

    Hi as far as I am aware only one school pays into the EPF fund as it isn't a legal requirement for expats. If expats join the legal min is 5RM a month. Yes a pound a month! So pointless as no interest. The one I know that does it as a "stay in contract bonus" and is rare among the mass of third tier schools popping up all over the place. As the school I know gets loads of applicants for every post I actually wonder if they will realise one day it is pointless to offer this perk to all.
  16. nemo.

    nemo. Occasional commenter

  17. What school is that? The school I am considering says they pay into the EPF. How exactly does the EPF work? Say one made 10,000 would the EPF be deducted from that and then the remaining be taxed, or would the tax be taken from the 10k and then the EPF percentage? The EPF contribution from the school makes a huge difference!
  18. MrDoc

    MrDoc New commenter

    Sorry Nemo, don't think you have asked around enough. My straw poll of four schools finds three that include EPF employer contributions as part of the contract, and one that allows opt in. It's actually a pretty good deal and gives you a lump sum when you leave Malaysia. You can opt to leave the cash in the fund for as long as you want but, if you want to take it with you they will issue a cheque or pay it into you Malaysian bank account in a few days. The fund is currently paying a 6% 'interest' rate so it's not a bad investment.
  19. happygreenfrog

    happygreenfrog Occasional commenter

    Having married one of these delightful women myself, one would have to concur with your conclusion.
  20. happygreenfrog

    happygreenfrog Occasional commenter

    Really? I'd say it is vastly superior. Guess it is all about expectations and how you deal with opprtunities. For certain, I won't be returning to the UK if at all possible.

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