China is a “wild wild west” of the teaching world. There’s a reason behind it. Their economy is booming. Students in China have an obsession with English, and as a result, the ESL (English as a Second Language) market is growing.
And, most importantly, China’s new generation of parents are more than happy to offer their beloved children the best that money can buy.
In this case, it’s native speaking English teachers (starting from preschools to all the way to TOEFL and SATs) for Chinese students who’ll eventually go to international universities for further studies.
While the ESL market in neighboring counties like Japan, Korea, and Taiwan are slowly stalling, if not becoming better, the ESL job market in China has skyrocketed over several years in the past.
As the ESL market has started to expand in China, more and more TEFL job opportunities are opening for more people, especially for those who don’t possess desirable qualifications.
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For those that do possess desirable qualifications, it’s not difficult to get “high-dollar-paying jobs,” worry-free contracts, and free housing. On the other hand, for newcomers in China or those who don’t possess desirable job qualifications, things are still positive and hopeful, as they can easily find jobs that pays up to $30 USD per hour.
However, all this wasn’t always a reality a decade ago. Over the past ten years, the Chinese ESL world has drastically improved, and their rapid changes can be felt more every year.
I have been in China for almost 10 years now, and I have personally taught a wide variety of English teaching jobs in China. And, I have watched first-hand how available positions and hiring practices have changed over time.
But why? Well, here are two main reasons ESL teachers like to teach in China:
Reason #1: A Constantly Expanding ESL Market
A decade ago, about ⅕ of the Chinese population was studying English. And in 2006, China surprised everyone when the nation became the largest market for the English language. (Almost 1/5th of all books sold in China were English language books!)
That’s right! The ESL market in China is enormous.
And, according to ETS (a US-based company that designs and monitors TOEFL tests), by 2015, China already had over 50,000 private language schools — from small businesses run by families to large national companies such as New Oriental, which had 2.5 million students just a decade ago.
And by 2013, that number grew up to over 300,000 English students in China, which is almost the size of the population in the US.
According to China Daily, the estimated value of the ESL market in China is around $4.5 billion US dollars. And, according to many experts, the ESL market will continue to increase at a rate of 12 to 15% over the past few years.
Consider Wall Street English for example.
Today, Wall Street English is considered one of the biggest private English language institutes in China, with over 66,000 students in China and contributing 30% of its global revenues.
Wall Street English is continuously expanding in China, with plans to open eight new institutes in bigger cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, and Wuhan in the next year.
At least 100,000 English teachers are required in China, according to one estimate. To attract more foreign teachers away from other popular destinations such as South Korea and Japan, more schools in China today offer better benefits, higher teacher salaries, and follow regulations set by the government.
As a result, over thousands of ESL teachers left their jobs in South Korea and Japan and came to China. See high-paying job opportunities here.
Reason #2: Students Learning English are Younger
As each year passes by, English learning students in China are becoming younger and younger. Companies such as Disney English are opened to meet the English requirements of the Chinese children, and companies like VIPKID started recruiting ESL teachers to teach Chinese children online.
Many public schools have switched from teaching English at age 12 to age 9, and schools in bigger cities teach English to children as young as 6.
In the private market, companies offer English courses to preschoolers. Chinese parents send their 4-year-old children to learn English from native speakers, who provide their services either as English-language babysitters or by playing games or singing English songs with children.
Initially, ESL schools were set up to teach English to Chinese adults. However, over the last decade, the demand has somewhat shifted to parents who are eager to invest almost half of their hard-earned income on English language classes for their 4-year-old babies.
After noting this transition, many private English institutions have already started to deliver “customized” classes for children. In the past, for instance, English First’s Shenzhen school had adults as students, but now, more than 70% of their students are children.
And in the ESL market, the most significant area for growth lies in reaching out to preschoolers and toddlers.
There are already shopping malls with entire floors devoted to teaching English language classes so that parents of 4-year-old babies can do their shopping while their young ones can learn English.
And, learning English from a native teacher has become more of prestige for many Chinese parents. They want to brag to their neighbors that their beloved 4-year-old baby girl is learning English from an English teacher who hailed from Britain or North America.
While Chinese natives can perform equally well in English teaching jobs as a native English speaker, the prestige of learning English from a foreign resident is considered more valuable in China. As a result, parents are more than willing to pay twice as much for an international English teacher.