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Teach English in the People’s Republic of China

Are you itching to explore the globe, meet new people, and experience various cultures? What better time than now in this revolutionized era to become a global citizen by teaching English as a foreign language abroad. And not just in any country, but in the world’s number 1 ranked place to teach abroad in 2021: China! 

Here’s the 101 from the South African perspective on the why and how to prepare for your next teaching adventure in the People’s Republic of China []. 

Why Choose China? 

China is essentially the superlative of the world, leading in many of the world’s biggest and greatest. As the world’s fourth-largest and most populated nation, China is the model mix of modern and ancient – from architectural wonders, such as the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army, and the majestic Shanghai Tower, to technological advancements, such as it’s intricate high-speed rail system, industrial robotics, and the world’s leading, largest e-commerce.  

While it’s also renowned for its internet restrictions and being a heavy pollution contributor, let that not detract from its many benefits, boasting, amongst others, a low unemployment rate, cheaper living expenses, cultural diversity, safe environment, convenient services, travel opportunities, and the chance to learn a new language.

So where does English come in? China is a major supporter of the current English study trend, knowing that English proficiency is beneficial to be a powerful competitor in commerce, imperative in international matters and that it leads to further education and employment opportunities worldwide.

China has a compulsory national English curriculum taught in schools, yet the hours given to teach English are far less than other subjects. That coupled with the fact that currently there are an estimated 400 million Chinese people learning English has spiked the demand for TEFL teachers in China. They are in need of quality native English speakers like you with a zest for lending your skills to English language learning. 

Where to Teach?

Like most countries, there are the following options when teaching English in China:

  • Kindergarten – There’s more freedom with lesson content and deliverance in these schools. They also offer lower salaries but less teaching time — ideal teaching positions for those seeking a relaxed lifestyle. 
  • Private language companies – These schools recruit TESOL teachers year-round, pay competitively, have smaller class sizes, hold evening and weekend classes, and expect many teaching hours. Be prepared for parental pressure as well!
  • Public or private schools – These schools function during set school semesters, English teacher recruitment is held a couple of months before the semester starts, class sizes are bigger, and salaries are lower, but there are fewer working hours and less stress attached. Note that contracts with public and private Chinese schools are usually only for 10 months.
  • Colleges and universities – If you have the correct qualifications (a native English speaker, aged 24-55 years, hold a degree, and have teaching experience) and desire an adult audience, consider teaching at a Chinese college or university where the pay is fair, you’ll have academic support and promotion opportunities.
  • Business English classes – Some companies require Business English teachers hired to teach their staff for specific purposes. While they’ll offer higher salaries and a scattered teaching schedule, this may be temporary employment. 

Search online job boards or enrol in our Job Support course to find the right-fit schools and companies in China to apply to.

Show Me the Money

Due to the competitive English teaching market, many schools and companies offer incredible packages, which often include a housing allowance, health insurance, travel reimbursement, covering visa and paperwork expenses, and more. This affords South African TESOL teachers the chance to save exceedingly, live luxuriously, and roam regularly.

Starting salaries vary from 100000 to 20000 RMB/CNY (Approximately between 20 000 – 45 000 ZAR or 1300-2600 USD). The salary is affected by your education, experience and whether you’re classified as a native or non-native English speaker. Native English speakers can earn more than non-native English speakers even if they work the same hours.

Yet, be warned that with great pay comes great workload. The Chinese are hardworking people and expect the same from working foreign nationals. You may work longer hours than usual, yet this also depends on your desired lifestyle. You can work fewer hours for less pay. 

Cost of Living

As mentioned, the cost of living in China is determined by your desired lifestyle. As a single TESOL teacher, it’s easy to spend next to nothing and live comfortably. 

  • Accommodation – Most schools/companies either provide their teachers with housing or give a housing allowance on top of one’s salary, usually between 2000-6000 RMB  – dependent on the location, apartment size and features. Note that if you want more, it’s up to you to pay more.  But rest assured, in China you’ll be able to live at a high standard for a low cost. 
  • Transportation – China has many efficient transportation services that make travelling around Chinese cities quick, cheap and hassle-free. To keep costs low, opt to travel via bus and subway rather than by taxi, with ticket prices ranging between 2-10 CNY. It’s recommended to ask assistance from a local first when navigating the public transportation system as there is little English. Technology also comes to the rescue, however, in the form of helpful apps like Metro China Subway and DiDi – Greater China.  
  • Food – If you stick to local Chinese cuisine, budget for around 900 CNY (about R2000) per month. However, if you’re longing for those Western comforts, be prepared to hike up that monthly food allowance to about 1500 CNY (about R3500 pm) as imported food does not come cheap. Note that common Western foods like bread, milk and cheese are considered luxury rather than everyday items. Some ingredients may also be difficult to find, like vanilla essence. 

What Do I Need to Teach English in China?

Requirements vary from province to province, so some research is essential before applying for jobs. Notably, however, the majority seek the following:

  • Visa – You will need a Z class working visa before embarking on your TESOL teaching adventure in China. Contact the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Johannesburg for further details. Secure a position with a school or company prior to embarking as they will assist in obtaining your work visa for you. 
  • Level 5, 120-Hour TEFL or TESOL certification
  • Teaching experience
  • A degree in any subject

Ready to take the leap and teach in this lovely land teeming with TESOL teacher posts? Let’s take care of your TESOL certificate by enrolling in our internationally accredited 120-Hour or 220-Hour TESOL course. Contact us ASAP and soon you’ll be living your dream of teaching English in China!