How to Teach English in China
Teaching Jobs in China
If you are looking for information about English teaching in China then you are in the right place.
Today, China is emerging as a global financial force, and as English is the established global language of commerce, science, entertainment, and aviation. It stands to reason that a primary focus of the Chinese government is improving English competency amongst its citizens.
They say that as many as 400 million Chinese people are studying English, which is one-third of the country’s population, and the value of the English-training market is estimated to be US$4.5 billion annually.
This offers excellent opportunities for those interested in teaching English in China or indeed those wanting to know how to teach English in China.
The English language market is growing fast, and many new positions are becoming available for those wanting to teach English in China.
Cost of Living in China
Although prices are generally rising, the cost of living in China still compares favorably to most industrialized countries. Eating out or even local food shopping and buying produce from the Chinese markets is still very affordable. Although they price things by the 500 grams, rather than 1 kilogram.
In the major cites there is a wide range of regional cuisines and eating out is the often best way to discover this variety and this is something you can do a lot of in China because it’s not expensive.
The cost of transportation in China is also inexpensive and the public transport is excellent and taxi rides are very reasonably-priced, (less than a cup of Starbucks) even if the experience can be somewhat harrowing at times.
Clothing is also very affordable and you never see anyone wearing the same clothes. Long gone is the standardised clothing from a previous era. Everyone dresses relatively modern and for more on clothing you may like to see my post here.
It Can be an Interesting Experience.
Mostly the people in China are friendly, and they treat you like someone special and will go out of their way to smile and say hello to you.
I remember in my first year teaching, way up north in Changchun, Jilin province, where they were not used to seeing foreigners and many times the people would stop and stare at you, even come up and walk around you, almost touching you, especially young children. People would even give up seats on buses for you so they could get a better look at you.
Others would take photos with their phones and groups of teenagers would want photos and selfies with you.
Restaurant owners would want you to come in and they would seat you by the window and insist upon giving you your meal for free to get you to come back again and be seen by their customers.
These are not the sort of things that go on in the major cities like Beijing or Shanghai, as foreigners are a dime a dozen there, but it certainly makes for an interesting experience in the not so popular cities and lesser known locations.
It could even be a little intimidating being treated like a rockstar and having people stare at you out of curiosity, although for me having experienced a little momentary fame in a past life, I was amused by the attention I received just for being a ‘foreign‘ person.
China at a Glance – Quick Facts
“China consumes twice as much steel as the US, Europe and Japan combined and has recently undergone massive infrastructure development, and its economy has been among the strongest performing in the world over the past few decades. Everywhere you go you will see new buildings and infrastructure”.
Population: 1,339,724,852 China is also the fourth largest country in the world.
Language: Mandarin Chinese
Currency: Renminbi (yuan) (¥)
Climate: Varied: wet/dry seasons
Government: Nominally Marxist–Leninist single-party state.
Religion: No really – perhaps; Buddhism, Taoism
Time Zone: Despite its size, China has only one, time zone.
What to Expect
(To see how I made this video)
Teaching in China can be a very rewarding and life enhancing experience. If nothing else it will be memorable.
[Teaching Classes (both in and outdoors) in various locations around China]
Teaching English in China is an amazing experience, you get to witness a fascinating culture, sample delicious cuisines, indulge in an adventurous and sometimes exciting lifestyle and learn more about Chinese culture and customs than if you were just a tourist.
Foreign English Teachers are well respected in the community and you can expect a competitive salary, (you are ‘well paid’ by Chinese standards) and it often includes a variety of benefits, depending on the type of school or contract you land.
Even though salaries in China lower, than in other parts of Asia, the cost of living is also much lower, so teachers can expect to live well or save a significant portion of their salary.
Typically teaching in China takes place at privately run language schools, public schools, International High schools, or private international schools and universities. (The majority of those studying English are school age).
The number of English schools in China runs into the thousands, with some schools operating hundreds of branches across the country, so the quality of education ranges, as does the quality of jobs. But demand for Foreign English teachers is increasing.
Universities and international schools usually offer the best working conditions for teachers who are serious about their work, but not necessarily the best salaries, although they do offer accommodation benefits and visa sponsorship.
With these types of positions applicants with the right qualifications and experience, can expect to receive numerous employment offers and good contracts.
However, be aware that there is a large proportion of private ESL institutions, which are considerably less legitimate in nature. These schools will hire English teachers with one, basic requirement: “a white face” and the ability to speak English.
I want to Help You
I have personally been working and teaching English as a foreign language in China for more than five years and have taught in many schools ranging from kindergartens to universities, so I am well placed to give you good advice.
I remember in my first year teaching, way up north in Changchun, a smaller third-tier city of only 8 million or so, where it would go from,-37 in the winter to +37 in the summer and the snow would last about eight months. But the plus was, that you never really had any rain because it would just snow instead.
During the coldest parts of winter, the windows on the buses would freeze up on the inside and you couldn’t see out due to the thick frost. So, in order to know where to get off, I would have to count the stops and mark them off by scratching marks into the frost on the windows because I didn’t understand the announcements in Chinese.
Then you had to be carefully getting off as the ground was really slippery and sometimes there would be a pile of people, who had fallen over getting off the bus. It was kind of like dismounting a ski lift at a ski slope.
Then one morning you would wake up and there would be blossoms on the trees and the snow was gone and it’s summer and it’s was like a different place. There just as you were getting use to the new surroundings and thinking that the climate wasn’t too bad as the summers were nice and warm, suddenly the next morning there would be snow on the ground again.
Which is nothing like living in Shanghai, where getting down to freezing is a bit of a shock for them! Another thing you needed to watch out for was the snow plows that would decide to plow the streets while you were waiting for the bus and the entire bus stop would get covered in snow, as would you if you didn’t get out of the way.
They do that in Shanghai too, but with water, whenever they wash down the streets. The trucks will just come past, spraying water and you will get wet, if you don’t get out of the way. But as a city Shanghai is great, its very international and you can get western type food almost anywhere and there are lots of foreigners there.
It’s not really China though, and if that was your only experience of being in China, you haven’t really experienced China. The competition for jobs is a bit tougher (of course) as are the rents, as its large and popular city (24 million people) and the turnover rate is high. But very easy to get around using the Metro and taxis and even rental bikes.
The Reason I’m Telling You This…
It’s not just about the ‘interesting‘ weather in the North-East of China. I want to ensure teachers who come to China will have their expectations met, enjoy a safe, stable teaching experience and have a comfortable lifestyle and don’t have too much of a culture shock, because believe me, many things are different, in China. You have to see it to understand what I’m talking about.
For this reason, before coming to teach English in China, I want to give you some information, in order that you will have a better understanding of what teaching English in China actually involves and to avoid becoming one of the 20 percent that leave before completing their contracts.
In fact many teachers who come to China are not even aware they could be ‘unintentionally‘ breaking Chinese law and could easily be banished from the country, accused of working illegally and not be entitled to receive any compensation whatsoever.
What to Watch out for
Many native English speakers, wanting to be English teachers in China often have their contracts and job placement handled for profit by a third-party agency. These agencies earn a commission for each teacher placement and sometimes they employ teachers on business visas (and even on tourist visas) rather than the legally required work visas.
“It’s not uncommon for agencies/employers to bring people to China, to work illegally with non-work visas“
This is because the potential gains from having “native speaking /Western faces“ is so high that the benefits for employing ‘foreign teachers‘ outweigh the risks of being caught for hiring them illegally.
Some agencies even offer contracts to foreign teachers, who do not qualify for work visas and instruct potential teachers to lie on their visa applications in order to get them teaching jobs, solely so they can decrease their costs by as much as 40 percent by avoiding taxes, fees and other benefit payments.
There is a black market for unqualified English teachers in China. So it’s important to make sure you have the correct documentation, such as a Foreign Expert Certificate (as shown below) and the appropriate work Visa.
China’s history is vast, and encompasses many different historical elements and has business practices that are different from what many from the west expect. Anyone contemplating Teaching in China should be aware that some ESL jobs advertised are known to change once the teacher arrives at their placement. This also includes the type of school, class size and location.
The Rule of Law
Contracts in China are not really contracts rather they are ‘only offers of enticement’ and employment conditions and pay can be varied by the employer and the Chinese legal system provides little redress for foreigners. As the ‘rule of law‘ is not part of the Chinese legal system.
In fact recently, the Supreme People’s Court in China, ruled that foreigners working illegally in China have no ‘labor relationship‘ with the employer, and therefore. “Without a labor relationship, any foreign national working illegally has no access to arbitration.” In other words the Chinese legal system will not help you.
What is Required
Beyond the nationally mandated Z visa, all foreign teachers in China must also obtain a work permit issued by provincial offices of the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA). This work permit is also known as – A Foreign Expert Certificate (an old example shown here)
Requirements vary from province to province, although cities like Beijing and Shanghai require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and either two years of work experience or either a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.
Without this fundamental requirement foreign teachers can not legally work in China and without a Z visa, they are not entitled to receive any salary.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t be offered a job or receive payment. It just means you are vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.
How to Legally Teach in China
Getting the appropriate working Z Visa involves dealing with the Government and is initially issued by a Chinese Embassy and is a requirement before entering the country to work. Most employers will help you facilitate this process, and it usually takes a few months. However once you have your initial Z Visa then renewal is a straightforward process and can be undertaken from within the country.
Getting either a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate. Or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate is a whole lot easier and can pretty well be done from anywhere and there are numerous options.
The majority of employers require job applicants to have at least a 120-hour TEFL / TESOL certificate or a 250-hour TESOL/TEFL Diploma, depending upon your previous teaching experience.
Typically these courses are open to anyone aged 17 or over who is a native English speaker or a fluent speaker of English and can usually be completed online and at your pace.
I have graduated from and recommend the International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) program as it provides a wide variety of practical, high-quality, online TEFL courses and certification options. I found them to be one of the few online course providers that offered ongoing job support and guidance for no additional cost.
Which was extremely helpful when deciding which countries to go to, in order to teach English overseas. (I selected China, but your options are numerous).
But most of all I prefer them because course graduates are awarded an internationally recognized and accredited qualification. They also offer worldwide job guidance and life-long teaching support as well as other career services, something very few other providers do, and they are available in most countries.
|Find more about their program here.|
New Visa Requirements for Teaching in China (2016)
According to the new work visa policy, the border entrance work permit and foreign experts work permit have now been streamlined into one system.
If you haven’t applied for a work visa before in China a list of the eight documents and the requirements needed for the process of applying for a work permit is listed below:
The foreign teachers in China can be divided into two groups according to their passports:
- Only foreigners with a passport from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Republic of South Africa are native speakers.
2. All others are considered as a non-native English speaking countries.
2. Bachelor’s degree or above
For native speakers, they should have the original of bachelor’s degree or above. For non-native speakers, they should have the original of Bachelor’s Degree or above in native English speaking countries. NOTE: According to the new visa policy in China, both groups will need to provide a certificate of authentication in China or their country.
3. CELTA /TESOL/TEFL/Certificate
The original and copy of the CELTA /TESOL/TEFL/Certificate.
Resume content includes the education since high School and work experience which should be accurate to the month and uninterruptedly describe until now.
5. +2 years legal work experience
Over 2 years of actual work experience, which means you should work experience of more than two years since graduation in your own country. A letter of recommendation would be a good thing and such a recommendation letter must be on the former company letter-headed paper, and include your work experience, work start date to ending date, and your employer’s signature.
6. Health check form
A certified health certificate which should be issued by the health and quarantine departments designated by a Chinese embassy, or consulate if issued by a foreign health care agency. Or one issued by an approved Chinese Government agency in China
8 Recent (passport-size) white background photos (full face and without hat)
8. Non-criminal records
It must be issued by the official sector of the country where the applicants comes from.
Notice: Native speakers who hold a tourist visa or a business visa can apply for a work visa in Beijing if they reqiuire a working permit. You don’t have to go back to your own country to apply for it.
China has a lot to offer. There is a wide variety of well-paying English teaching jobs in different cities and regions in China.
If you are interested in learning more about their culture first hand while making a difference in the lives of students, then I encourage you to discover how you can begin this exciting and memorable adventure. Teach English in China and be apart of one of the fastest changing countries – in the world.
In Addition – (this is a bit of a secret… shhhh)
One of the reasons for the high demand for foreign teachers in China is that all schools and universities are required by the Ministry of Education to expose Chinese students of English, to a ‘Native English Speaker‘. So the hiring of native speakers, to front the classroom is considered a ‘necessary business expense’. Also Chinese parents expect to see foreign faces (preferably white faces) at fee charging private English schools.
So, regardless of the type of school, foreigner English speakers are typically hired to facilitate the students’ listening and speaking skills. The actual technical aspects of the English language are undertaken by Chinese English teachers, who on the whole do a pretty good job. Also Kindergartens and private schools, pay the highest money and give you the shortest teaching hours.
So if you are thinking of Teaching in China, there are only two broad categories of foreigners who should even be thinking about teaching English in China.
- The first are those who are relatively young and are seeking an adventure in a foreign country before settling down.
- The second are those who are close to, or ready to retire, have no significant family ties or obligations, and are looking for a unique cultural adventure in a country where the cost of living is still relatively low.
So if you fit into either of these two categories, are a native English speaker, are light skinned, from the United Kingdom, North America, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, have a pulse and can walk and talk, then you can quickly find a job teaching English in China.
If nothing else it will be an experience to remember and it doesn’t snow everywhere in China – just up north!
For more posts from me on China go here.
(For more about this see my review here)
In case, you’re not interested in being an English teacher in a foreign country but have a great Native English. Speaking voice, I’ll share with you another little-known secret…
Jenny Lewis, a friend of mine, says it makes her $300 to $500 an hour…
In fact she told me recently it earned her a six figure income in only a few months. It’s all here
She also says, “I never thought that I could make money off something given to me from birth! My voice has become an untapped asset that allows me to work flexible hours and earn income without leaving the comfort of my home”.
It has nothing to do with building websites, filling out low paying surveys, or selling anything. I am talking about the voice over industry where people will pay you for using your voice.
(If you’re curious as to what it is I’m talking about. You can take a look at my review of this product in another post).
The VoiceOver Industry
The voiceover industry is largely underrated and usually dominated by celebrities, leading most people to believe that ‘only famous people’ can earn significant amounts of money in the voiceover business, but that is not true.
Almost anyone can become a voiceover specialist and inside this short video presentation, you’ll discover a huge billion dollar industry that’s hidden in plain sight, you’ll soon wonder WHY nobody has noticed it before.
|For more about the voice over industry see this link.|
If you have enjoyed this post about ‘how to teach English in China‘ please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question below or socially share if you found this post interesting.
For more about living and working in China you may like to visit my post; https://onlineaffiliatewealth.com/vpns-in-china
(If you want to listen to the complete music video, “Do you speak English” it’s by Ross Antony and you can find it on youtube)
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