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So You Want to Teach in China

So You Want to Teach in China
Admin - Mar 30 2015

The first thing you will need to research is what are the qualifications to teach in China. There are many various types of teaching jobs, from subject matter to language, however I’m mainly speaking about being an English Teacher (ESL).

The first thing you will need to know is that there are no “national” criteria for ESL teaching English in China. Each province and in some cases each city has its own requirements and different types of schools also have their own set of requirements.

In general the better the job the higher level of education and experience will be required. Additionally the larger the city the more difficult it will be to work legally in that city. Please note that I said legally. There are schools in China that will hire you if you can walk and chew gum at the same time, but your chance of getting a legal visa is zero to none. Beware if it sounds too good to be true it most likely is!!

Below are some of the requirements and what type of job you can expect if you have them:

TEFL certificate: The schools that require ONLY a TEFL are most likely in 2nd or 3rd tier cities and in most cases will be “Private Schools”. If you choose this type of job you MAY be looking for trouble. Many of these schools can’t get you the legal documents to work in their city. However if they are able to obtain them you will be lucky, but may never be able to move up to a 1st tier city.

Bachelors + TEFL certificate:  These schools are most likely in 2nd tier cities, will be private and may or may not be able to get you a visa.

Bachelors + experience and TEFL:  Anywhere in China. The 1st tier cities and all of the schools will welcome you with open arms. A point to remember is that these schools may require related teaching experience after university graduation.

Age: Many schools have age and gender restrictions. Again there is no national criteria but in most cases age 23-59 for males and 23-55 for females. Now I know some of you will say “well my friend got a job in China and they were XXXX”.  Just remember local laws differ from city to city.

True story: I spoke to a teacher who wanted to move from where he was teaching. He, his wife and his son had been recruited to teach at a private language school in some small city in western China. They were from South Africa and none of them  had neither teaching experience nor degree. The man had done been a small arms instructor in his home country, the wife and son had no TEFL or degree or teaching experience.

They school made them a reasonable offer, competitive salary for the area, guaranteed jobs for all three of them and a place to live. They accepted and lock, stock and barrel moved to China.

They flew into Beijing and were told they would be met by a school representative, but alas that didn’t happen and they had to make their way by train to their final location. After an arduous journey they final arrived, were met at the train station by some staff member and taken to their apartment.

The flat was a wreck. No hot water. Electric and heat controlled by the school owner. The roaches had moved out long ago!

The next day with high hopes of finding the Chinese teaching dream, they made their way to the school. Well it seems  the photo that was sent to them wasn’t  exactly what the school looked like. But they still didn’t give up hope. No pain no gain.

The owner told them that “Sorry I don’t have a job for your son, but he can stay in the flat IF he would like to teach for free”. Well with no option he of course agreed.

A few days later there were no classes to teach and the family stayed at home. Well because they didn’t work that day there was no heat or electric in their flat. When the husband  went to complain the owner said that there must have been a mistake and would fix it, but that never happened.

After a month of working most every day pay day rolled around. The owner had said that he would pay the teachers in cash. Well not exactly. On pay day he told them that he was going to process their visas for them and it would cost them 5000 RMB per month for 4 months for the visa costs, they would of course be reimbursed at the end of their contract. Well what could they do? So they continued to teach.

About a week later the family received some devastating news from home. Their oldest son had been killed in a motorcycle accident. They were in shock and would have to return to their home in order to bury their son. With tearful eyes the husband went to the school and told the owner that they would be leaving in the next day or two as they needed to get flight arrangements confirmed.

The owner told them they had to leave now! He threw them out of the apartment and they had to make their way to Beijing on their own and ended up sleeping  in the train station until the next day while waiting  for their train.

This is truly a sad story, but the significance is that don’t come to China unless you have the education and experience to get a job at a “real school”. Make sure to do the research. If is sounds too good to be true it probably is. Beware!!!


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