Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated December 30, 2020
By Mike Cairnduff

Teach in China contract

If you’re looking for information on China teaching contracts, you’re in the right place.

I’ve taught English in China before, and I’ve recruited many teachers who’ve landed great positions in China.

I’ve therefore seen countless China teaching contracts over the years.

My experience in this field means I’ve built up lots of knowledge and helpful advice. And I’d like to share that with you!

So, let’s get cracking.

Make sure the contract includes the essentials

Your Teach in China contract should include the essential information about your position.

This includes:

  • Your personal details, such as your full name
  • The school’s address and details
  • Title of the job to be performed
  • Start and end date of employment
  • Number of contact hours or classes you must teach
  • Salary
  • Medical insurance details
  • Termination details.

Don’t sign a contract unless it includes this key information.

Any reputable school or recruiter (more info on that below) will have this information included.

There are many different kinds of schools in China. With regard to TEFL jobs in China’s public schools, most salary packages include free on-campus housing.

So, if you’re teaching at a public school, your contract should also include reference to the housing arrangement.

Young Chinese student

Teaching in China is rewarding, just make sure your contract includes the essentials.

At both public and private schools, a fully reimbursed airfare is usually offered after successfully completing a one-year contract.

This should be included in the teaching contract too.

Think about extra stuff that might matter to you

Consider the following additional factors, which may or may not appear in a contract.

Teaching

  • What will you be required to teach (e.g. oral English or specific subjects)?
  • Will you be teaching at just one location or multiple locations?

Accommodation

  • What is the accommodation like?
  • What specific items will be included, e.g. fridge, sofa, etc?
  • Who is liable for any damage to the accommodation or missing items?

Services

  • Is internet access included?
  • Are electricity and water bills included?
  • Are Mandarin language lessons included?

Salary

  • What are the tax rates, and is the salary before or after tax?
  • When is the salary paid?
  • Can the salary be paid to any bank account?
  • Can any of the salary be converted to foreign currency?
  • Are there bonuses, and if so, how do they work?

Leave and holidays

  • How much paid sick leave is there and how does it work?
  • What are the paid holidays?
  • Is there any paid leave for Western holidays like Christmas?

Allowances

  • What is the maximum airfare reimbursement?
  • Is there a food allowance or access to a canteen?
  • Is there a travel allowance?

Expenses

  • Who pays for any medical examination fees?
  • Are there any other expenses?

Training and probation

  • Is there any paid training?
  • Is there a probation period?

Support

  • Will a teaching assistant be available, and if so, for all classes?
  • Is there a dedicated coordinator or mentor?
  • Will there be performance reviews, and if so, how will they be conducted?

Disputes

  • Is there a dispute resolution process?
  • What happens if the contract is breached?
  • Is there a notice period?

Other terms

  • Are there overtime rates?
  • Is overtime compulsory?
  • Can you take up paid work outside the contract?
  • Can the contract be renewed?

Some things won’t appear in a contract

When you’re teaching English in China, your contract is very important because it sets out the agreement between you and the school.

However, some things won’t appear in a contract, and that’s okay.

For example, you may want to know your timetable upfront, including the times when your classes are.

While this is a normal question to have, you can’t expect this level of detail to be included in your contract.

But you could ask to see a current teacher’s timetable, or find out the likelihood of a class finishing beyond a certain time of the day.

Teach in China contract

Some things will never appear in a teaching contract.

Similarly, if you choose to teach in the private sector, you may want more information about how to find housing.

Your Teach in China contract typically won’t include this. That’s where your school liaison officer comes in – they will do the grunt work when you arrive, knowing full well you can’t speak Chinese!

You need to pay for your visa

Although China teaching packages offer generous salaries and benefits, one thing you will have to pay for is the work visa, known as the Z visa.

There are instructions on the China Z visa here, and your recruiter (like Hello Teacher!) is there to help you every step of the way if you have any questions.

Getting your documents (e.g. degree) notarized and legalized – to be able to get the visa in the first place – will also incur fees.

Translation rules

Make sure you receive two copies of your Teach in China contract.

One will be in English and the other will be in Mandarin. The English version is translated from the Mandarin version, and is meant to be a replica.

If something hasn’t been translated correctly, the Chinese version is usually the one that is deemed correct (unless stated otherwise).

It would be rare to experience something like this, but it’s still worth knowing.

Use a reputable recruiter

Unless you’ve taught in China before and you know exactly what you’re doing, you must engage the help of a recruiter.

A reputable recruiter (like Hello Teacher!) will help you find a great teaching job in a reputable Chinese school, and that includes checking that the contract has everything you need.

Using a trusted recruiter is the best way to ensure you have a safe, rewarding and legal experience teaching in China.

Recruiter interviewing a candidate virtually to teach in China

Having trust in your recruiter is important.

Don’t listen to all the hype

There are lots of sensationalist opinion pieces about teaching in China.

Hand on heart, I can honestly say I don’t know anyone that didn’t enjoy teaching in China, or who returned home early because of some sort of contractual issue.

Sure, there may be some people out there who didn’t enjoy the experience, or had an issue with their school or contract.

But these people generally didn’t have the correct working visa, they did the wrong thing, or they didn’t engage the help of a reputable recruiter.

As is the case with any new job, you need to do your research.

Further reading about China teaching contracts

Please remember this…

China is very different to the West. Its laws and employment arrangements are different, and so is the way they go about their daily life.

Don’t expect China to be the same as your country – it’s not. And this includes how teaching contracts are drawn up and interpreted.

The concept of ‘face’ and mutual respect and understanding are more important in Chinese society. But that’s a topic for a whole new article!

In summary, teaching in China is an incredible adventure, even when things aren’t always perfect. After all, China is still a developing, socialist country.

But that’s exactly why I love it, and I think you will too.

Do you have anything to say about teaching contracts in China? Let’s have a conversation below. I’m happy to answer any questions.


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