Where to Teach in China?
Admin - Apr 01 2015
Where Should I Teach?
So you have done your research and made a decision that you are going to make the journey to come to teach in China. It’s a huge step so you will need to take many things into consideration.
Why do I want to come to China? If you have some altruistic idea of coming here and doing good for humanity you may as well stay home. If visions of you sipping tea on your private balcony and gazing at a beautiful sunset come to mind. Stay home. Education and more specifically ESL is a business, a big business and huge business. The schools are in China for one reason to make money and in most cases education takes a backseat to the money. If you think otherwise don’t bother to waste your money on an air ticket.
There are two basic types of schools in China. The public school system that is funded by the Chinese government and those schools who are privately funded.
Currently in most of the first tier cities English is taught at all levels in the public school system. Primary through university. At the primary level you may have from 20-40, possibly 50 students in a single class. Books may or may not be provided. Many second and third tier cities have English classes in the schools, but these are less organized and you may be asked to develop the materials for these classes. The public sector divides the classes into two distinct classes. Reading and writing and spoken English. The reading and writing is in most cases taught by a local teacher. Don’t be surprised if these teachers can’t speak English. Their job is to teach their students how to pass an exam NOT how to functionally use the language. Mistakes are prevalent in the text books, because that is what is on the exam. You as a foreign teacher will be expected to teach conversational English to large classes with little or no actual interaction from your students. You are in essence lecturing in English with little time to actually correct the students. Also you must be aware that in China NO ONE fails. If you are asked to grade the students and if for some reason you fail a student, just remember the student will NEVER see that grade.
The private schools focus on teaching a specific niche of the population. Pre-schoolers, young learners and adults. In the majority of the jobs the Foreign teachers focus on conversational English. Currently the biggest need in China is for young learners teachers. Most of these schools focus on ages 3-12 years of age. There are two types of adult schools. The ESL type and the “test” type. By test schools I’m referring to schools who teach the students how to pass specific tests. (IELTS, SAT, GMAT etc).
Working for a private school is the highest risk. Many of these schools, especially those located in second or third tier cities are not able to get you the legal documents to work at their school. However if you focus on private schools in first tier cities there should be little or no problem. Focus on NAME brand schools or schools who have a proven track record of hiring and retaining a foreign teaching staff.
If you have any doubts about the school get emails of current or past teachers who can give you some insight as to what the situation is at the school. Do your research. Remember if it sounds too good is most likely is a scam.
About 4 years ago I was fortunate enough to make friends with a guy from New Zealand. He was the operations manager of a multinational firm. He and his wife and both come to the Shanghai area. With lack of anything else to do Ruth had made the decision to do some teaching. She was a qualified teacher in New Zealand with many years of experience. She received an offer from one on the major universities in Shanghai which she happily accepted. Well Spring rolled around and I had a small get together at my place. At that time had a great apartment with a roof garden so I did a great deal of BBQing. We were sitting around having a few drinks and devouring the chicken wings when she told us this story.
“I had been teaching at my school for a full semester and was told to give my class a final exam. I spent a great deal of time preparing the written exam for my classes. I did my best to make it as comprehensive and fair as possible for all of my students. After the exam I really worked hard in correcting the exam and get each student the grade that I felt they deserved. I turned in all their grades.”
“After the Spring break I returned to teaching the second semester of the class. As I took attendance I noticed that some of the students that I had given “F’s” were still in the class. So after class I made my way to the admin office to confront the Dean of Studies. I told him the story about those students who I had failed but we still in my class. He replied ‘Ruth don’t worry about what grade you gave them, it is our job to give them the grades they we feel they deserve.’”
So there you have it. It’s all for show. So do your research and take your best shot.