I am pretty sure most of you have heard about the opportunity of teaching English abroad. It is the most popular way among travellers to earn some extra cash while travelling. There are many options, where you can teach English as a second language; however the most attractive destinations are China, South Korea and Japan. Especially China ranks 1st place among travellers, as the working conditions are more relaxed and requirements less strict.
I am not a native English speaker and neither was my degree issued in English speaking country. I didn’t study Education and before teaching English I was working in hotel as a waitress. How the hell did I get the job?
Before I start writing any further, I would like you to meet two amazing travellers, who brought me to Guangzhou, China.
It was in the middle of November 2016 when I was travelling on my own in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. I was just wandering aimlessly on the streets, when two travellers caught my attention – they both had dreadlocks and looked somehow interesting. I smiled at them and we started chatting like old friends. It turned out that they are an international couple – Erika from Finland and Joseph from United States. “We are English teachers in China.” They told me. “We have been living in China for the past 4 years and we love it. It is so much fun and easy”, they went further. “You should try it, you will love it. The salary is good and it allows you to travel a lot. We can introduce you to our kindergarten. There are looking for new teachers very often.” I was immediately hooked. Teaching English? My passion. China? Never attracted, but I could try. Kindergarten? Not really, but it sounded fun. Traveling? Of course!!!
Their excitement was so contagious, I already starting conjuring up myself the whole experience. But I didn’t have any teaching experience and my degree was related to Tourism, I certainly don’t qualify for the job position. “Don’t worry. You are female, friendly and have white skin. You speak English without accent. That is the most important. In China, their demand for English teachers is so huge; they are not strict with requirements. And you can always say you have experience in education – they will not check it anyway.” The things they told me sounded absurd, but they are completely true. We exchanged our contacts and bid farewell.
When I talk to people about China, the most common reply I get is: I would never go to China. I don’t like pollution, big cities and crowded places. Although that may be true, China is much more than that. In China every day is an adventure and nothing is what you think it is.
As an English teacher you have many benefits and they are the reason why so many English teachers extend their period of stay in China.
I was working in China for only two months, and it was enough for me to understand what makes China so attractive for foreigners to work and what are the benefits of English teacher there.
Benefits of working as an English teacher in China
1. Monthly payment is very good and it will allow you to save a lot and travel around (if you are not big spender). You may earn more money in Europe or America, but with this salary you can live like a king in China.
2. Living standard in China is very low; e.g. one discounted bus or metro ticket will cost you around 0.30-0.50$ per ride. If you are not picky eater and are okay with eating street food, you will spend 2-3 $ per meal.
Although teaching English in China sounds like a perfect job for many travellers there are always two sides to every story. What may seem perfect on one side, is totally wrong on the other.
According to visa regulations, working visa for English teaching can be granted only to passport holders of English-speaking countries (USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland and South Africa) or graduates, having a B.A. from accredited college in English-speaking country. Due to high demand of English teachers in China, most of the public institutions are willing to employ almost everyone with white skin and fluency in English language. Regardless of their nationality and degree.
Teaching English in China didn’t only allow me to fully immerse in Chinese culture, but also to better understand Western culture from Chinese perspective.
By working in Chinese kindergarten I could clearly see the major differences and inequalities when it comes to dealing with Western and Chinese employees. I was utterly shocked how this powerful country can create so many opportunities for foreigners and on the other hand treat their residents with disrespect.
Here are the most outstanding differences:
The most important motivator for the majority of people. Every English teacher earns at least 3-4 times more at the same position as native Chinese. Having a white skin is status in China and Chinese parents are willing to pay more to have their kids educated by Westerner.
Almost all Chinese teachers I worked with had an outstanding work history. They usually started working with 18 years or when they completed their studies. The salary of inexperienced teachers was even lower that the salary of Chinese teachers with 3-5 years of experience. Most of the English teachers on the other side had no teaching experience and upon starting their new job, they could already earn 3-4 times more than Chinese teachers with many years of experience.
This post is for everyone who has ever wondered how life of rich kids looks like in China. Warning: it is not as easy as you think it is.
As I started working at the private kindergarten in China I thought that having rich parents, is the best thing that can happen to you, if you were born in China. However, I couldn’t be further from the truth. Although their parents may have their own companies and earn unlimited amount of money, life of those children is not easy.
The kindergarten I worked at is located in Foshan, industrial suburb of Guangzhou – 3rd biggest city in China. It is a private kindergarten, catering to rich parents from nearby residential area. The enrollment fee for one kid per semester equaled roughly 3000 RMB (400 €). The enrolment depended whether the class had an English teacher or not. If the parents wanted their kid to be educated by foreign English teacher, they had to pay even 2-3 times more than an average tuition fee. White English teachers have become status in China and many parents are willing to pay for it. Government-run kindergartens are on the other side much cheaper – 1000 RMB (130€) per semester for a kid, and most of the time they cannot afford a foreign English teacher.
As I was working in the kindergarten I can only share with you how teaching in Chinese kindergarten looks like. The daily schedule is more or less the same in every kindergarten and it is totally different than teaching in high school or elementary school. I haven’t worked in a kindergarten outside China, so I hardly make comparisons about teaching practices. But from what I have seen in China, I believe there is no other country with such educational system.
The kids I was teaching, were only 4-6 years old, so there was more emphasis on taking care of kids and playing with them than actually teaching them.
My daily schedule usually looked like this:
9.00-9.20: 1st English lesson
9.30-9.50: 2nd English lesson
10.00-11.00: games, outdoor activities
11.30-14.30: break (nap time for kids)
14.30: afternoon snack
15.00: English lesson with another class
15.40: playing with kids
Every week I was teaching two classes: KC1 and KC2. One week I was teaching KC1 in the morning and KC2 in the afternoon and the next week vice versa.
Apart from me, there were two Chinese teachers and one live teacher in my class. The main tasks of Chinese teachers were to help me with the kids and organize the class. They were more experienced in teaching and were great source of advice. Every class had also a live teacher, whose job was to feed kids, take care of them while eating, clean the classroom and check the kids before the parents pick them up.
Every morning we also held morning talks. The purpose of morning talk was to revise English words and to prepare kids for the English class. They usually lasted for 20 minutes and took place in assembly hall, where all the kids gathered together.