Here are the general types of schools you can teach at in China.
Kindergarten and preschool
They start ’em young in China! Parents are keen to have their kids learning English from a very young age, sometimes as early as 18 months old.
The kids are cute, yes, but 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 regard you as a parent (awww!).
A successful early-years teacher is able to control the classroom while always keeping things educational, creative and fun.
To assist you, an English-speaking Chinese teacher will likely be with you at all times. Make sure you check this with the school or recruiter before you sign your contract.
So 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, primary school kids are cute too! They also require lots of attention. Unlike kindergarten kids though, you’ll be able to communicate and reason with primary school kids more easily, 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.
Classroom management for this age group can be challenging. Young kids typically can’t sit still and have a short attention span. 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.
High school and middle school
Generally speaking, as kids turn into mature young adults, they tend to settle down and become quieter. In China, this is particularly evident. In fact, one of your challenges as a high school teacher 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, commonly known as the ‘gao kao’. If they do well, it means they can be admitted into a higher education course, such as university.
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. Be mindful that the yawns in your class are probably due to late-night study sessions and are not an indication of the quality of your lessons!
A great advantage about working in a university is that the students are adults. It’s therefore much easier to communicate with them, even if their standard of English is low.
Another plus is the flexibility. For example, some universities may not be overly concerned if you stray from the prescribed text book.
Uni students may invite you out for a delicious meal or even an alcoholic 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.
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.
In China, size matters. University campuses are so big that you may need to buy a bike to get around!
Students at private centers can range from very young children with no knowledge of English through to adults with advanced Business English capability. Each center is different.
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 spend weekends creating your own lesson plans.
Private centers typically pay teachers a lot more than other schools. That’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular with teachers! Another great thing about private centers is the average class size, which is significantly smaller than your traditional public school. Classes of fewer than 10 students are not unusual.
If private centers pay more and have smaller class sizes, why do some people choose to work elsewhere? It all boils down to the kind of lifestyle you want to have in China.
For example, you need to be aware that 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 is for you.
Confused? We'll help you choose
If you’re confused about which type of school would suit you best, don’t worry. We’ve summarised each of them in the table below to help you choose.
Look at each of the scenarios and find one that strikes a chord with you. This will determine the type of school that may best be suited to you.
|Which scenario sounds like you?||The types of schools that may suit you|
|"I like little kids. I think I 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|
Note: 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, ask us about the kinds of students you would be teaching.
We need to point out that this is a very general guide only – for example, adults like playing games too! Your age, experience, education and whether you have any teaching certificates (such as TEFL or TESOL) will play an important role in determining your suitability for a position.