So you're thinking about teaching in China? Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) to help you.
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The conditions vary between schools, provinces and cities.
For example, schools on the richer east coast typically have better conditions and pay higher salaries than those in central and west China. However, the cost of living in the east is higher.
You need to decide what kind of experience you’re after. If you prefer having mod-cons and a more contemporary way of life, stick to the bigger cities and the east coast.
If you’re looking for a more ‘authentic’ Chinese experience, head to a smaller city or less densely populated province.
Although life in China is different to Western countries, you’re bound to have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure no matter where you live.
You will live in an apartment. It will have everything you need: bed, table, chairs or couch, TV, fridge, toasting oven, shower and washing machine.
Most accommodations don’t have a full oven, so don’t expect to cook a roast! Food in China is cheap, so you’ll mostly eat out anyway.
Apartments are either one or two bedrooms. In most cases you’ll live on your own.
To give some perspective, the average Chinese salary is about 3,000 RMB per month. With a salary of at least double that, you will live like a king or queen in China!
If you work in the public school system, the accommodation is included in your salary package.
Each region of China is famous for its own special dishes. For example, the city of Chongqing, in western China, is known for its spicy food, while Guangzhou, in the south, has sweeter food.
The food in China is quite different to the Hong Kong-style Chinese food you might be used to in your own country. For example, deep-fried chicken with lemon sauce is virtually impossible to find in mainland China!
If you don’t like Chinese food at all, teaching in China may not be the best option for you. In some cities, the only Western food options will be fast food like McDonalds and KFC.
Bigger cities have Western-style supermarkets and steak restaurants.
Young students can be very excitable and one of your biggest challenges will be taking control of the classroom and managing their behaviour.
You’ll have the opposite challenge with older students and adults – the challenge will be getting them to speak!
At universities, working just 16 contact hours a week is quite common. However, don’t forget you’ll need to spend time outside of class planning lessons.
At private centers, the workload is higher and you could work up to 38 hours a week.
Older people generally don’t have a good grasp of English.
If you eat the local food you will have a lot of money left over.
Private schools in China usually have better facilities, equipment and aids. The centers are smaller and there are fewer students.
In the public school system in China, you will work during weekdays and have the weekend off. You could have as little as 16 contact hours a week.
In the private school system in China, you will probably have to work on the weekend and on evenings during the week. You will have two days off during the week (often Monday and Tuesday).
The conditions are better in private schools due to the more advanced facilities and equipment. Classes are usually quite small with up to 15 students in each class.
In public schools, classes are large with up to 45 students in each class.
In the public school system, you will get basic training on where your classrooms are located, where various school facilities (like the canteen) are located, and how to operate any equipment in the classroom. Your school liaison officer will be happy to help with any other questions you have.
In the private school system, the training is generally more robust and you will be expected to teach in the style of that school. You will be trained by experienced English teachers and/or the school’s support staff.
Teaching English in China is an absolute adventure. As long as you’re flexible and adaptable in your approach to life and work, you should be fine.
The focus of the local teachers is usually on writing and grammar. That’s why there’s a demand for instruction in oral English.
If you have experience teaching particular subjects, such as chemistry or maths, then you can apply to teach in a specialist area outside of oral English.
In the public school system, a chalkboard and TV may be the only equipment available. You’ll therefore need to improvise and create fun and engaging lessons with lots of games and activities. University classrooms often have an overhead projector to use as well.
In the private school system, equipment is usually a lot better. You may have an interactive whiteboard, iPad and other multimedia devices.
In the public school system, you’ll likely teach at least a few classes on each weekday. Classes will last for about an hour.
In some public schools, you might even get a weekday off (in addition to the weekend), depending on how your classes are spread throughout the week. You’ll find this out once you arrive at your school.
In the private school system, classes are often held on weekends and weeknights.
Schools on the richer east coast generally have better conditions and pay higher salaries than those in central and west China. However, the cost of living in the east is higher.
If you want as many mod-cons as possible, stick to the bigger cities and the east coast. If you’re looking for a more ‘authentic’ Chinese experience, consider a smaller city or less densely populated province.
No matter which place you choose, you’re bound to have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure teaching in China.
Unfamiliar with China's geography? Our information on China’s provinces will help.