Teaching English in Indonesia

Indonesia Overview

Indonesia is one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in the world, consisting of a spectacular archipelago studded with active volcanoes. There are many language centre franchises including English First in most of the congested cities of western Indonesia. National Plus schools pay more and offer good holidays although you generally need previous teaching experience in Indonesia.

In the last five years or so, the TEFL industry in Indonesia has reduced in size despite there still being very high demand for English language tuition. Sadly this reflects broader political and ideological issues in Indonesia as the authorities have been making it much more difficult for companies to employ foreigners (the expat community has almost halved), whether in the education sector or elsewhere. The time required to process a KITAS is now several months and as a result many language centres have either folded or have been putting teachers on 60-day Business Visas. Do not work on one of these under any circumstances as it is illegal and you may be fined and deported. It is simply not worth it when you can legally earn a similar or better salary elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Type of Institution Typical salary (USD/month) Typical hours Typical annual leave
Language centres (e.g English First) 1,000 – 1,500 (DOS) 2pm – 9pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 2 weeks plus national holidays
National Plus schools 1,200 – 1,800 7am – 4pm Monday to Friday 7 weeks plus national holidays
International schools 2,000 upwards 7am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 10 weeks plus national holidays

Main places for jobs

Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Surabaya (all cities in Java) and Medan (in Sumatra).

Typical requirements

Degree (preferably in English or Education), TEFL certificate.

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1. For inexperienced English teachers, a job at English First makes for a decent first year of teaching in Indonesia. However you need a KITAS to do this legally.

2. When searching for accommodation, look for ‘kost’ or ‘kos-kosan’ which are inexpensive boarding houses which can be paid for on a month-by-month basis.

3. In Java, it may be a good idea to choose a city or town served by Kereta Api, the national railway service. This way you can enjoy frequent and inexpensive trips away at weekends.

Red tape

Your employer should sponsor you and pay for a KITAS (temporary stay permit) to be issued for you. This will probably entail arriving on a tourist visa and then flying out to Singapore for the day whilst it is processed.

Once resident, you need to report to your local RT or RW (neighbourhood security man). As an utterly antiquated and confusing system to the inexperienced, it may be a good idea to ask your employer to send someone who speaks fluent Indonesian to join you when you fill in the forms.

In 2011 it was announced that language centres were only allowed to employ teachers who have a degree in English, Education or Linguistics. However, the reality is that many employers ignore this totally unnecessary new rule.

If you wish to leave Indonesia for a short holiday you will have to pay for an exit permit in advance. These can be either for one trip or several trips – the latter costs rather more.

Cost of living

In Jakarta you can rent a room for around 200 US dollars per month or an apartment or house from 3,000 US dollars per year (payable in advance). Prices drop significantly outside the capital although there are very few apartments to be found.

Local food is incredibly inexpensive so if you enjoy chicken, rice and tropical fruits then you can eat very cheaply. Western imports can be expensive and most expats shudder at the price of a bottom-of-the-range bottle of wine.

Tax and salary information

Your tax will normally be paid by your employer so you don’t usually need to worry about that. However, you should request a copy of relevant paperwork (and your NPWP tax number) when leaving the country in order to have proof you have paid all due taxes. Most language centres pay you cash in the local currency – the rupiah. Some schools operated by foreign nationals prefer to help you open a local bank account and pay you in US dollars.


Very friendly and welcoming people – your students are very likely to be pleasant, calm and eager to learn May be increasingly difficult without an English or Linguistics degree
Slow, relaxed pace of life (and work) High levels of ineptitude, nonsensical bureacracy, ingrained corruption and growing mis-placed nationalism
Once you get out of the cities, Indonesia is a genuine tropical paradise of stunning beaches, jungles and volcanoes. Navigating the congested cities of Java can be rather difficult at first and holidaying abroad is a costly business unless your employer pays for an exit/re-entry permit for you

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  1. willi_c126 says:


    I was wondering where the Indonesia education system is on English classes in 2014? I’ve been reading about their desire to cut English and Science from the national curriculum.


    Any information on this would be valuable!

    Thank you!

  2. Aldrich2195 says:

    Hello there. This is very informative! I am a Filipino who has a degree in English language Teaching (I’m also thinking of getting a TEFL/TESOL certificate). What’s in it for aspirants like me who is a non-native speaker?

  3. Woodg95 says:

    Hi, I’ve been applying for jobs teaching English in Indonesia. However I’m being told that 24 is the lower age limit to get a work permit? Is this correct?

  4. Dan says:

    Hi Georgia. As far as I am aware, the mimimum age is actually 25 and in some cases 27. You are also supposed to have 5 years of relevant work experience. Quite honestly, Indonesia is a difficult place to find decent work without lots of prior experience and local contacts. Several of the schools that advertise online will not actually provide you with the proper visa or at least not for several months after you arrive. Unfortunately, things are much less stressful in most other countries in Asia. Vietnam and China are both good options at present.

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