TEACH ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE IN CHINA
During the past four decades, English language education has evolved greatly in China. In 1978, English was added to the Chinese national curriculum and became a test subject in the national college entrance exam. In most primary schools, English instruction begins in the third grade. The importance of learning English has increased since then, and many Chinese students begin learning the language at an early age.
Business world caught on to the popularity of English, creating a multi-billion-dollar industry. New English education chain brands emerged, and many of them designed their products and curriculums specifically for the Chinese market.
China’s ESL industry flourished between the late 1990s and the mid-2010s, attracting many teachers from all around the globe. Several policies were introduced by the Chinese Government to regulate the quality of the industry, including restrictions on teachers based on both qualification and nationality. Without the necessary requirements, applying for a legal work visa (work permit) as a teacher became more difficult.
Although provincial and city requirements may vary slightly, the general requirements are the same nationwide. It is a legal requirement to have a bachelor’s degree, a TEFL/TESOL certificate, a clean criminal background check, and a passport from one of the following Native English-Speaking countries accepted by the Chinese Government: Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The Chinese government also considers some Caribbean countries to be native English-speaking countries. Additionally, you must have at least two years of teaching or working experience after graduating from university. As required by law, all your documents must be authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in your country.
The legal working age in China is between 18 and 60 (age of retirement), however to teach ESL in China, you should be at least older than 22 (since they require a bachelor’s degree and some work experience). Recently, more schools or companies prefer to hire teachers under 45 years of age.
Legal Work Visa
Many people are misinformed about the legalities and visa requirements associated with teaching English in China. To work in China, a foreigner must first obtain a Work Permit, which will enable them to work in that particular field, and then a Residence Permit, which will allow them to stay in the country. Both permits are part of what is commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as a Work Visa. A work permit is linked to the company you work for and the specific address where the company is located. Working on any other visa other than a legal “Work Visa” is illegal. Neither a business visa nor a student visa, permits you to work. Additionally, it is not possible to work on a work visa issued by another company or by the same company but at a different location.
The term “Work Visa” generally refers to a combination of a work permit and residence permit. To be able to work in China, every employee must apply for a Work Permit for their field of expertise. The Department of Labor and the Foreign Affairs Bureau issue work permits. This department will examine the application to determine whether the applicant qualifies for a work permit in accordance with the specified requirements. The government will issue a “Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit In The People’s Republic Of China” if the applicant qualifies for a work permit. After receiving this document, the applicant may apply for a Single-Entry 30-day, Z Visa (if he or she is not in China at the time of application).
Upon arrival in China, the applicant must apply for a Residence Permit issued by the Immigration Department within 30 days. After receiving both, a Work Permit and Residence Permit, the applicant may work legally.
Types of Schools / Companies
There are numerous types of schools and companies that hire native English speaking ESL teachers. There are private language academies, kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools, high schools, as well as international schools and universities. Different types of institutions offer different working experiences. Teachers often develop a preference for one type of school or company over another. Work hours, salaries, wages, students’ ages, curriculums, and school or company reputation all influence teachers’ choices.
Private language academies / Training Centers
Also often called “Training Centers”, these Private Language Academies are Commercial enterprises and are profit driven. Since competition is so fierce, these companies place a high priority on customer service.
Various types of Training Centers exist to cater to different types of students, such as Early Childhood Education, Young Learners (kids), Teenagers, and Adults.
An average training center workday usually begins in the late morning or early afternoon and lasts until the evening. In most cases, teachers teach 5 hour-long classes per day with an additional 3 office hours per day to fill up an 8-hour working day. Teachers are usually expected to work on weekends.
These type of training centers are open through-out the year and teachers get full pay right through the while year. Teachers receive annual leave according to their contracts and can take only public holidays. In contrast, teachers in kindergartens or private/public schools will enjoy both summer and winter holidays (often unpaid).
A typical salary at a training center is between 15 000RMB and 25 000RMB per month. Typically, salaries are composed of a basic salary plus a housing allowance, as well as end-of-year bonuses and KPI bonuses.
Bilingual Kindergartens are very popular in China and offers competitive salaries and good additional benefits. A kindergarten teacher must be caring, fun-loving, open-minded, friendly, and energetic, since it can be exhausting to look after and entertain little children. Recently, kindergartens have been hiring only teachers who are under 40 years of age.
It is typical for kindergarten teachers to start their day at 7:30 am and finish around 5:30 pm. Lunch breaks usually last two to two and a half hours, providing teachers with some free time to go home, go to the gym, play sports, or learn Chinese.
Kindergartens usually offer 10 or 11 fully paid months and 1 or 2 partially paid months. Kindergarten salaries range from 20 000RMB to 28 000RMB, including housing allowances.
Primary Schools, Middle Schools, and high schools
Primary-, middle-, and high schools provide a good working environment for young, ambitious teachers. Teachers usually have a few classes a day, and their work begins around 8 am and ends around 4 or 5 pm. In some schools, teachers are required to work the entire day and have office hours and teaching hours, but in other schools, teachers are only required to work when they have classes, and then they can go home afterward.
Public and Private schools usually only offer 10-month contracts and offer partial or no payment during the holiday months.
The salary at a public or private school typically ranges from 15 000RMB to 22 000RMB, and housing is often included.
International school are Foreign owned schools that follow an international curriculum. Foreign students or Chinese citizens holding foreign passports are usually the only ones allowed into these schools.
Usually, international schools only hire teachers with valid teaching licenses and teaching degrees / diplomas and require them to have teaching experience in their specific subject in a country other than China.
Math, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, Music, Art, and other subjects are always in demand at international schools.
Salary levels at international schools generally vary by school. In addition to additional housing allowances or free housing, your eligibility will determine how much you receive. It can range from 25 000RMB – 40 000RMB.
In the ESL industry, university environments are among the most relaxing. It is common for teachers to have a few short classes a week and do not need to do office hours when they are not teaching. Many universities, however, are located outside the main cities, and their teachers live on campus.
Depending on the workload and the teachers’ qualifications, university salaries range from 12 000RMB to 30 000RMB. There is also an allowance for housing or free campus housing provided by the university.
Additional Benefits Offered in the ESL Industry
Schools often provide housing or pay a housing allowance. Teachers often receive additional bonuses for successfully completing a contract, including reimbursement of air fare. Teachers are often provided with meals at kindergartens and schools. Additional benefits are also provided to teachers, such as health insurance.
Reliable and Reputable Schools and Companies
As part of our commitment to providing safe, reliable placements, we work with a carefully chosen group of trusted schools and organizations. We only work with schools or companies that can legally hire foreign teachers with the right Visa.
How to Apply for an ESL Teaching Job
Applying for a teaching job in China can be both simple and complicated. With the help of our advisors and consultants, you will be able to make a few choices regarding where you would like to be placed in our network of cooperating schools, kindergartens, and universities.
The next step is to prepare a resume that highlights your experience and passion for education. Schools and companies have recently started asking new applicants to provide a video introduction along with your resume. A Video Introduction is a short, Selfie-style video in which you introduce yourself briefly but clearly. Your intro video and resume must be submitted together.
Your Intro Video
Recently, the intro video has become even more important than the resume itself since it gives the hiring manager a chance to get a glimpse at your personality as well as your language use, through video.
It is essential that you speak clearly and smile, so that the school or company can see that you are friendly and approachable. Make sure you use correct language and pay attention to your grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary use.
Introduce yourself, state your nationality and age, discuss your education background, and mention your TEFL or other relevant certifications in your intro video. It is important to mention relevant teaching experience and to outline your entire previous teaching career. If you have a personal teaching philosophy, it’s a good idea to briefly describe it. Additionally, you can talk about your hobbies, interests, and your motivation for coming to China to teach English.
The video doesn’t have to be edited or produced using fancy software, but make sure your room is well lit and your surroundings are nice.
To give you an idea of what to say, here is a short example:
“ Hello, I’m John Smith from the UK. My bachelor’s degree is in English Literature from The University of Manchester, and I have a 120-hour TEFL certification. My teaching experience includes two years in Vietnam and one year in Thailand. Language is a skill that can be nurtured through practice, just like any other skill. My goal is to keep Teacher Talk Time at a minimum and to challenge my students. Having the opportunity to teach in China and experience the culture will be exciting for me. This would be an opportunity for me to offer my students some value. Let’s schedule a time for an interview as soon as possible. Thanks for taking the time to consider my resume. It was my pleasure to make this video for you. Thank you and goodbye. “
Interviewing for Teaching Positions
Typically, interviews take place online via Skype, Zoom, Teams, or WeChat. Interviewers usually request an interview based on their availability and suggest the platform.
During the interview process, you will be asked a variety of questions and may even be asked to demonstrate some basic methods of teaching online. Role-play scenarios may be required.
Offers and Contracts
After receiving a job offer, you will have some time to review it and must react within a certain timeframe. Following your acceptance of the offer, you will be required to sign an employment contract, and the school or company will begin the visa application process.
Prior to leaving your home country, you will need to submit electronic copies of all the necessary documents and undergo a medical examination. All original documents must be brought to China.
Once you arrive in China, you will be required to take another Medical Examination, and all original documents (such as your fully authenticated degree, TEFL certificate and criminal history check) will be required for inspection. These documents will be returned to you.
Durations of Contracts and Visas
ESL Teacher contracts typically last between one and two years. The contract stipulates the conditions for resigning and legally breaking the contract. Keep in mind that your work visa is tied to your contract. Any time you leave the company, they can cancel your work permit and visa and let you reapply for a new one.
After the contract is completed, your school or company may ask you to renew it for another year. Often, schools or companies offer incentives to good teachers to renew their contracts.
When you resign your contract, your visa is usually renewed without any effort on the part of the company. If you quit and wish to remain in China, your company is legally required to cancel both your work permit and residence permit and provide you with the necessary exit documents to apply for a new work permit elsewhere.
Important Additional Information
It is possible that some schools or companies will offer you initial financial assistance in order to help you move to China and get settled. However, not all schools or companies will do this. Getting to China and renting an apartment can be quite expensive, so it is essential that you are financially capable or at least have some financial backing. Your first salary will most likely not arrive until one month after you start working, so you will need enough money to sustain yourself for the first month.
It is important that the Chinese Embassy in your country authenticates all documents such as your bachelor’s degree, criminal background check, TEFL certificate, and other teaching licenses. The requirements, steps, and cost of authenticating these documents may vary from country to country, but you cannot apply for a visa without them. Ensure that all your documents are authenticated properly and allow enough time for this, since there can be delays and holdups at the various government departments and embassies. Our service advisors can assist you with the process, so please contact them if you need any assistance.