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Teaching in China can be one of the best ESL teaching experiences. The country provides an incredible opportunity to travel, live, and work abroad. As far as English teaching jobs in China go, employment in a University or regular public school has its own set of perks and benefits that may fulfill your personal set of preferences.

Nonetheless, teaching in either school allows foreign teachers a chance to explore the rest of China and Asia during the stipulated vacation periods that can last from a month during the Summer, and 2 months during the winter. Moreover, teachers who enjoy the flexibility and freedom of planning their own lessons are a better fit for teaching in Universities and public schools in China.

The requirements to teach in China regardless of school level are the same. To teach English in China, here is a brief guideline of requirements:

  1. Be a native English Speaker
  2. A Bachelor’s degree in any field
  3. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate or 2 years teaching record
  4. Under 55 years old
  5. A clean criminal record

If you go through the China job board, teaching opportunities in public schools and universities are usually from the government. Retention schemes may be offered to you upon good performance.

Teaching in University

Teaching English in a Chinese university caters to students with a higher standard of English and as such the expectations from the teacher will have to execute more complex lessons and activities. A large leeway is given to university teachers to deliver their classes and the workload is relatively light with the weekly commitment ranging between 16 to 25 teaching hours. This can potentially mean that as a teacher, you may be teaching only 3 to 4 days out of the week, giving you more free time of your own to pursue research or catch up on mandarin classes provided by the university.

Your employer may require compulsory office hours which involve lecturers’ participation in university-organized events or conducting additional workshops for students. Either way, it is important to have a clear and mutual understanding between your employer or recruiter when signing the contract on the required hours and the pay for extra requested hours.

The teaching hours are dependent on the recognition awarded to the university. The more prestigious the university, the higher the demands of your employer and parents, but the hours may be fewer, contrary to miscoception. Class sizes vary as well, from as compact as 10 to 40. Again, it is dependent on the subject level and course.

Salary and Benefits for University Teacher

The salary for tertiary institution teachers ranges between 10,000RMB to 20,000RMB. With higher qualifications, more is awarded. For example, teachers with Masters can receive 500RMB more, while Ph.D. holders can receive 1000RMB more.

Most schools would pay for return flight tickets or give you a fixed sum which can hopefully cover the cost of the tickets. Accommodation is also thrown in to sweeten the employment package and it is usually on-campus if the university is large enough. Otherwise, employers may provide an allowance to subsidize or cover rent outside.

If you are keen to teach in prestigious schools in Beijing and Shanghai, it would be better to have at least a Master’s on top of your teaching certificate. If not, teaching in the lower-tiered cities may not be a possible route given that they are not that strict on requirements. It is up to you to be a big fish in a small pond or not.

On this note, even as a regular ESL teacher, your salary is already higher than the city’s average. The cost of living in China is generally lower and the salary and benefits package combined allows for a decent and very comfortable lifestyle that includes dining out and regular entertainment.

Teaching in Public School 

If you are a zesty teacher that prefers a bunch of rambunctious children, teaching in a regular primary or middle school may be more appropriate for you. Teaching in public schools is generally faster-paced as parents are more anxious and competitive to prepare their children to enter university.

Teaching schedules are pretty regular in tandem with schooling hours, with weekends off and paid vacation time. Class sizes are definitely larger and it is common to expect 40 to 50 students in a class. Yes, you will have to engage and manage 40 to 50 energetic kids at one time.

For most teachers, teaching in primary and middle public schools is in pursuit of an immersive and rewarding experience. As a public school teacher, it is not a priority to be highly qualified compared to a university teacher. However, it is important to have compassion and especially so when working in provincial areas.

Some students may not utter a single word of English before attending your class, and for most schools, they may have separate teachers for written and spoken English classes. This would mean that your teaching hours may be lessened giving you more personal time to explore things you may want to truly experience in China.

Salary and Benefits of a Public School Teacher

Public schools are known to be on the lower scale of foreign teacher salaries. The resources are stretched thin given that China holds the world’s largest population. The monthly pay package ranges between 6000RMB to 10,000RMB including accommodation stipend and return-flights allowances.

Your teaching experience would be a more critical determinant when it comes to negotiating better salary terms. Do bear in mind that salary negotiation would also be dependent on the city and the size and reputation of the school.

It is good for foreign teachers to look past the monetary benefits and consider the overall support and management system the school provides. With retention schemes in place, teaching placements may change and so will the employment opportunity.

English teaching jobs in China are definitely hot in demand providing an upbeat China job board for both first-time and experienced English teachers. It is important to weigh out your personal priorities and match them to your strengths for a wonderful working experience in China.

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