Here are the main types of schools you can teach at in China.
Kindergarten and preschool
Chinese parents are keen to have their kids learning English from a very young age, sometimes as early as 18 months old.
As cute as the kids are, teaching in a kindergarten is not for the faint-hearted.
Little kids have loads of energy and require plenty of attention and TLC. Some may even get attached to you and see you as a parent!
A successful early-years teacher is able to control the classroom while always keeping things educational, creative and fun.
Chinese kindergarten kids require lots of attention but are fun to teach and be around.
If you’re patient and enthusiastic, and can offer the support and lovingness that the kids (and parents) require, you’ll do well teaching in a kindergarten.
Like kindergarten kids, Chinese primary school kids are cute too! They also require lots of attention.
However, you’ll be able to communicate and reason with primary school kids a bit more easily than kinder kids, and have some two-way interaction.
Primary school kids love playing games. So if you can incorporate some fun and interesting games into your teaching, it will stand you in good stead.
Chinese school kids love playing games.
Classroom management for this age group can be challenging. Young kids typically have a short attention span and can’t sit still.
This means you'll have to get creative when it comes to lesson planning. You may need to conduct ‘mini activities’ in little spurts.
Always have some trusted back-up activities ready in case something doesn’t go to plan.
Middle school and high school
As Chinese kids turn into mature young adults, they really settle down and become quieter. In fact, one of your challenges as a high school teacher in China will be to ensure everyone participates.
As teenage students reach the end of their high school years, they study, study, study (and then study some more!) for the national entrance exam. This test is known as the gaokao.
If they do well, it means they can be admitted into a higher education course, such as university.
Chinese high school students sit the Gaokao to get into higher education.
There is so much pressure on students to achieve a good result that, for many, it’s unbearable.
As a teacher, you need to offer your support wherever possible and assist with exam preparations. The yawns in your class are probably due to the late-night study sessions and not the quality of your lessons!
A great advantage about working at a university in China is that the students are adults.
It’s therefore much easier to communicate with them, even if their English ability is low.
Another plus is the flexibility. For example, some universities may not be overly concerned if you stray from the prescribed text book.
University students may invite you out for a delicious meal or even a drink. While this may be taboo in Western countries, it’s normal in China.
Of course, when it comes to assessment time, you should always be fair and not favor any particular student.
It's easier to communicate with university students because they're adults!
Uni students can be fairly quiet in the classroom, so you should always have some ice-breakers up your sleeve to get things cracking.
Once students have their trust in you, they will slowly open up and shine. This may take a few lessons, so remember to be patient.
Note that Chinese university campuses can be huge. You might need to buy or hire a bike to get around!
Private training center
Also known as training centers or private language institutes, private centers are everywhere in China. Many are run like businesses.
Students at private centers can range from very young children with no knowledge of English through to adults with advanced Business English skills.
Some centers, particularly the bigger chains, require you to follow a prescribed syllabus. Some will even supply the lesson plans for you, which you’re expected to carry out to the letter.
This is great if you like structure and don’t want to create lesson plans in your own time.
Private centers typically pay teachers a lot more than public schools (you can check the difference on our salary calculator). That’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular with TEFL teachers.
Another great thing about private centers is the average class size, which is significantly smaller than your traditional public school. Classes of around 12 students are common.
Class sizes in China's private language training centers are typically small.
If private centers pay more and have smaller class sizes, why do some teachers choose to work elsewhere? It all boils down to the kind of lifestyle you want to have in China.
For example, at private centers:
- classes may be held outside normal business hours (like in the evening)
- classes may be held on the weekend (your time off may be during the week)
- there may be more teaching hours involved, and
- there may be more office hours involved.
If you like a bit more structure and your goal is to maximise your earning dollars while in China, then teaching at a private center may be for you.
Confused? We'll help you choose
In the table below we've summarized the types of schools you can teach at in China. You can also contact us anytime with your questions.
Look at each of the scenarios and find one that strikes a chord with you. This may determine the type of school best suited to you.
|Which scenario sounds like you?||The types of schools that may suit you|
|"I like little kids. I'm energetic and have loads of patience!"||Kindergarten, preschool or private center|
|"I like kids and playing games with them. I'm quite patient and enjoy having some two-way interaction."||Primary school or private center|
|"I relate well to teenagers. I enjoy playing games and having two-way interaction."||High school, middle school or private center|
|"I enjoy working with relatively quiet adults. Discussing a range of in-depth topics interests me."||University or private center|
Private centers can cover a wide range of students (age/level depends on the center), therefore any of the above scenarios may apply.
If you’re interested in working at a private center, let us know what kinds of students you would prefer to teach.
Please note that this is a general guide only. For example, adults like playing games too!
Your age, experience, education and qualifications will play an important role in determining your suitability for a position.