Find English Teacher Jobs in China
The English-Teaching Market
For an interview with an English teacher who has taught in China, click here.
China is one of the more recent Asian countries to support a large expatriate teaching population, and glitches in the system are still being working out. Because of this, North Americans heading there to teach will find as many challenges as rewards.
According to one Westerner who has spent a great deal of time in China, the smaller schools offer the most opportunities (because of less competition), but are sometimes the least equipped to accommodate foreigners. Living in a remote village could mean being hours away from the nearest Westerner or modern facility. Another teacher said teaching in a small town means avoiding the pollution and Westernization of the city, but that urban schools provide better pay, better teaching materials, and more jobs.
The Chinese attitude toward education could provide some obstacles of its own. In middle schools, Chinese students are known to be driven to succeed, often attending school six days per week with plenty of assigned homework. The exam-driven system often means that material not related to testing may receive a cool reception.
In the words of one English teacher recently returned from Shanghai:
"I think it was one of the best experiences I've had in my life, but at times it was difficult. I would not recommend teaching at a middle school, which is where I was. There is a very regimented style of teaching there, the students are geared entirely toward taking exams, and you don't get much response. It was like pulling teeth. I think the older the students, the more interesting the experience."
As in Japan, many students are not accustomed to speaking out in class or drawing attention to themselves, so asking an open-ended question will bring silence, not volunteers. But once students warm up to you and you figure out the nuances of the teacher's role, you will find that your students are eager and hard-working.
Because of the government's ongoing role in education, the best way to get a job teaching English in China is to arrange it before leaving home. Unless you go to China on a U.S.- or Canada-based exchange or internship program, you have two options. You can either apply directly to one or several schools where you think you'd like to work, or you can simply apply to the Chinese government (in Beijing or via the embassy in your home country) and, if hired, you will be placed at a school. One teacher we know of got a job by going to the Foreign Affairs Bureau in a particular city; you might want to consider this approach if you are already in the country. The earlier you start the application process the better - a year before you hope to begin teaching would not be impractical.
Academic degrees do matter in China. An applicant with a master's degree usually is given preference over one with a bachelor's degree, but it's not unheard of to get a teaching job without a college degree. You'll have better luck if you have some ESL training, or the recommendation of a former student or someone else familiar with the Chinese school system.