I used to teach English in China, at a private university in the Guangdong province (pictured above) where my students were kind and made me laugh on a continual basis. Now that I run a TEFL agency (check out globalU where I’m hiring teachers to work in China!) I like to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the EFL world, and China is probably the fastest growing job market for teaching English abroad (in fact, there are tons of high-paying job opportunities over there). With their booming economy and competitive education standards, parents are spending more and more money on English language lessons for themselves and their students.
Chinese companies were the first to come up with unique, interactive ways to teach English online (VIPKID is probably the largest one to date), but if you’re interested in the cultural immersion experience that teaching English can provide, check out your options for moving to China to teach English, in this post written by Kristine Thorndyke, who has lots of experience teaching English in China.
Types of Schools You Can Teach at in China — from Kindergarten to University
Teaching jobs in china vary greatly based on student ages, what your schedule will be, as well as how much you can expect to get paid. What should not vary is that the institution you are working for is run professionally, has sufficient teaching materials, provides a positive work environment, as well as pays you on time! The types of schools you can teach at in China as an ESL teacher can be divided into five basic categories:
Teaching English in Chinese kindergartens and preschools is common in major Tier 1 cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The preschools and kindergartens are for those between the ages of 18 months and 6 years old. Teachers working in these lower learning institutions are often accompanied by one or two Chinese assistants in every classroom, as instruction for this age can be extremely difficult without Chinese translation. Common methods for teaching this age group is through dance, singing, and other games. Some teachers thrive in this kind of high-energy work environment, while others do not have the capacity and energy to dance and play the majority of the work day.
In general, this age group requires the least amount of time for preparation because there are plenty of easy and fun teaching materials that can be used as aids in the classroom. Typically, classes of about 20 learners lasts roughly 30 minutes.
As a kindergarten or preschool ESL teacher, your main role is not necessarily to impress vocabulary and grammar onto the students, but rather to encourage them to get interested in English and have fun learning the language. The teacher’s salary is between 10,000 and 20,000 RMB per month and your working schedule is spread out during weekday during the day, with about 16-25 hours of in-class instruction.
Chinese Kindergarten: photo credit The Strait Times
Private Language Schools
Foreign English teachers can get jobs in private language schools or centers for either kids or adults. These institutions run various evening and weekend classes for children and adults designed specifically for English instruction. Teaching positions are often available all year-round due to the high demand for these classes throughout China.
There are many large chains of this category of schools across China as well as internationally. Every private language school has its own curriculum and teaching materials, and thus there is no need for too much planning or preparation before classes.
The teaching atmosphere in these private schools can seem strict compared to public schools because parents have paid for their children to receive the best quality of education. Moreover, some private schools fall into the trap of trying to keep the children happy at the expense of learning, which can be counterproductive on the part of teachers. You should take out enough time to research extensively and do some background checks before taking up a teaching position in these schools because their operations are not always regulated in China.
Recruitment is year-round because the schools don’t have typical school semesters. With experience of about two years or more a teacher can earn between 7,000 and 18,000 RMB per month with about 25 hours of in-class instruction.
Public/Private Primary & Secondary Schools
Teaching jobs in public schools around major cities come with great perks in terms of salaries, number of paid vacation days, general benefits and teaching workload. Teachers in this category are required to have at least 2 years of working experience as well as a TEFL degree.
Jessica partners with public schools in China over at globalU and is now hiring for the September semester with great benefits! Check out the available opportunities here.
A typical public school class will have 50 students run for 40 to 50 minutes. In these schools, a teacher should expect a larger range of abilities from students. It is not uncommon to have a class where some students are fluent in English while some cannot speak but a few words. A foreign teacher’s role is to focus on ensuring that students can learn basic oral English and learn more about the culture of his or her country. The working conditions in the schools are standardized because the institutions are regulated and the total in-class hours fall between 15-25 hours.
The schools have two semesters running from September to January and from February to July. Hence, recruitment for teachers is done about two months before the beginning of every semester. Teachers are often hired on a contract basis of ten months long to avoid paying teachers over the summer break, especially if they don’t renew their job contracts. With about two years of experience or more, a qualified teacher can earn between 10,000 and 22,000 RMB per month. The teaching schedule is weekday daytime. Overall, in terms of vacation perks, low hours, and lack of related experience, this is the best overall option for those looking to teach ESL in China.
Public Primary in China: photo credit NBC News
These are the schools where most wealthy locals and perhaps professional expats send their kids. Admission to these schools is very competitive and the tuition fee is extremely high. This means that getting a teaching job in such an institution is not that easy; they usually hire licensed teachers with a related graduate degree. Almost all classes are taught in English and follow the Chinese education curriculum of two semesters per year.
Teachers with a few years of experience in either the international Baccalaureate or the A-level A/P curriculums are often given first priority. Salaries range between 15,000 and 30,000 RMB/ per month depending on the reputation of the institution. The teaching schedule are full-time (40 hours per week) during the weekday daytime. See available positions with international schools here.
There are lots of smaller universities that hire foreign teachers to teach English classes. Even teachers that have been hired to teach specific subjects often find themselves handling oral English classes most of the time. Teachers are expected to handle up to 20 class periods in a week and can enjoy Winter and Summer breaks.
Salaries range between 6,000 to 16,000 RMB per month depending on the teacher’s level of experience and location of the institution. The teacher is responsible for creating his or her teaching material, however the classes are quite flexible compared to English language training centers. The salaries and benefits for teachers in high-ranking universities (found in major cities) are much higher and teachers should have an advanced degree or several years of teaching experience in order to secure this position. The teaching schedule is the weekday daytime. See available university positions here.
Chinese University: photo credit South China Morning Post
Understanding your options as a first-time ESL teacher in China is the first step towards finding a rewarding and satisfying position at a school that fits you. Each of these types of schools and institutions in China offer their own specific pros and cons depending on what you hope to get out of this experience.
This is a guest post written by Kristine Thorndyke who has experience teaching English in China. This post contains affiliate links, which means that should you click on them and purchase something, I’ll receive a small stipend at no extra cost to you.