Types of English Schools in China

Liz Smith
Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!

 / Mar 23, 2017

The ESL industry in China is growing in leaps and bounds. As the world’s most population, with a sizeable part of a youthful population that understands the importance of English language, China has numerous opportunities in store for ESL teachers. If you are a certified ESL tutor, with a good command of English or if English is your first language, there are so many places in China where you can earn a decent income by working as an ESL teacher. Plus, due to the low cost of living in China many teachers actually have a great lifestyle.  Here are some of the English learning centers where you can teach English and get a competitive remuneration package as a reward. 

1. International Schools in China

Chinese ESL international schools are meant to teach English to the kids of expats living in the country, or affluent Chinese parents in China who would like their children to go to school / live / work abroad in the future. At these schools, the education system resembles the one used in the west. 

International schools are taught mostly by foreign teachers, where students move from one class to the other studying different subjects that are all taught in English. While teaching English in an international school in China, you typically work a minimum of 40 hours per week. International schools are some of the highest paying ESL centers in China. The average salary of a teacher here is approximately 12,000-30,000 RMB ( $USD 1,900-$USD4,700).

Pros of teaching English in an international School in China

  • Attractive compensation package.  International schools cater to those who can afford to part with a high amount of money to ensure their kids get the best education possible for them. Therefore, international schools have plenty of resources available for teachers, and they can afford to pay their foreign teaches quite well. 

  • There is a good working environment at most international schools.  Maximum class sizes in most international schools can be between 5-20 students. Because of the smaller class size, it means that a teacher can give personalized attention to each student. 

Cons of teaching English in a Chinese international school

  • The major drawback with teaching English in Chinese international schools is that the teachers are required to do plenty of work. Typically, teachers are supposed to teach upwards of 40 hours per week.

  • The teaching schedule is from Monday-Friday (and sometimes Saturday) and national holidays may not always be observed.

2. Chinese Public schools

As an ESL teacher in a Chinese public school, your employer will be the Chinese government.  Most public schools throughout China require a minimum of 16-25 teaching hours per week. But you may still teach English at multiple skill levels, and also alternate between different public schools. On average, the minimum monthly salary of a public Chinese school ESL teacher is between, 6,000 RMB-10,000 (which is approximately $USD 942-$USD 1,570). 

Pros of being an ESL teacher in a Chinese public school

  • The Monday-Friday teaching schedule is an impressive perk for all ESL teachers in Chinese public schools, because it spares them from teaching on weekends.

  • Better still, there is guaranteed time off during national holidays. Your salary may also include a modest apartment and paid vacations. 

Cons of being an ESL teacher in a Chinese public school

  • Bigger class size - ESL teachers in China can handle up to 50 or more students. This makes it difficult for a teacher to give adequate attention to each student.

  • Lower salary - ESL teachers in Chinese public schools are paid lower than their counterparts in private schools. This is because public schools in the country are viewed as educational institutions, whose sole aim is to offer public education to all students. As such, public ESL schools depend on the money allocated by the government to pay their teachers and hence they aren’t in a position to offer higher salaries to their teachers.

3. After-school institutes

These are the most popular ESL learning centers in China. They have a high student turnover rate compared to other learning institutions, thanks to the fact that they are open to anyone willing to learn English. Students here include preschoolers on up to business professionals. 

ESL teachers in these Chinese institutes normally teach conversation-oriented classes and also offer writing lessons occasionally, depending on the teacher’s experience. Here, classes are usually shorter, so as to cater for students with other responsibilities, such as homework, a day job or other important obligations. Most lessons take an average of 40-90 minutes a day, with much of the learning taking place on weekends and during the late hours of the day. 

In China, nearly every reputable after-school institute provides ESL teachers with accommodation allowance, insurance and visas (among other perks). The minimum average salary for an ESL teacher in a Chinese after-school institute can range from 6,000 - 16,000RMB (USD$942 - USD$2,500). 

Pros of working as an ESL teacher in a Chinese after-school institute 

  • An attractive remuneration package, especially if you are teaching at a prestigious after school institute in China

  • Opportunity for promotions and job growth, when you do a commendable job

  • Shorter teaching lessons ensure that you can complete your classes and still have plenty of time for your life outside of work

Cons of working as an ESL teacher in a Chinese after-school institute

  • Odd working hours - this is because most students are available for learning on weekends and late hours of the day. This can interfere with some teacher's personal schedules - especially if they prefer to work normal business hours.

  • Some institutes may have big class-sizes, and a high number of absentee students. This can hinder teachers from giving students the ample attention needed for them to learn English properly.

4. Tutoring and private teaching

Tutoring and private ESL teaching are quite common in China. There are some families, especially in the cities, who hire private ESL tutors for their kids. In fact, there is a huge demand for private ESL tutors in China, especially among native English-speaking tutors. 

In most cases, tutoring is done by teachers from public and private ESL learning centers as a part time job. However, there isn’t a definite minimum salary for private tutors, because payments are negotiable between the tutor and the student. Some tutors are paid hourly while others are paid on a monthly basis. 

Pros of working as an ESL tutor in China

  • You can set your own working schedule, depending on your time.

  • Offers you an opportunity to get immersed in the Chinese culture because you will be teaching students in their homes, most of the time. Therefore, you can learn a thing or two about the Chinese culture from their way of life.

  • You can have more close interaction with your students, and feel satisfied watching their growth.

Cons of working as an ESL tutor in China

  • Most people don’t take private tutors seriously, and thus, they pay them what they can afford.

  • You need a Z visa with a sponsoring employer to work as a fulltime ESL tutor in China

  • Uncertainty - your job is not guaranteed, since your employer can decide to fire you and look for someone else of their choice.   

5. Online ESL teaching (both large classes and one-on-one tutoring)

The advent of internet coupled with advances in information technology (IT) has made it possible for ESL tutors in China to remotely teach students from all over the country. As an online ESL tutor, your work will entail using online presentations, microphones, cameras and other tools designed to help students learn English. 

You may teach large classes or on a one-on-one basis, where you focus on a single student. With online tutoring, you can teach throughout the day or you can set your own schedule (dependong on your company). 

In most places, online ESL tutors are paid a minimum wage of approximately USD$ 30 per hour.  However, the total wage is determined by experience of the tutor, the company they work for, and the number of students they are teaching per session. 

Pros of working as an online ESL teacher in China

  • You can make plenty of money, as long as you have the right online teaching platform in place together with a sizeable number of dedicated students.

  • Your teaching isn’t limited by geographical location and other physical limitations, such as a lack of classrooms.

  • It enables you to teach and meet different people from all over the country.

Cons of working as an online ESL teacher in China

  • You can’t be successful if you don’t have a good online teaching platform and dedicated students .

  • You can only teach students who understand how to use computers and the ones who actually have a computer and internet connection.

  • It's not easy to keep the attention of students, and activities are difficult to execute.  This means the teacher needs to be extra animated, interesting, and skilled at handling an online class in order to make it fun and effective for students.

There are Plenty of Opportunities to Teach in China!

Opportunities for ESL teachers in China are plenty, and they will continue to increase in the future thanks to the soaring numbers of ESL learning centers throughout the country. To take advantage of these opportunities as an ESL teacher, just ensure you have met all the requirements and qualifications needed for you to work as an ESL teacher in China. Then, you can search for an ESL school in China that suits your experience, qualifications and interest.

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Liz Smith

Liz Smith left the daily grind in the States to travel the world with her husband. Eventually teaching English in China & loving it, she began sharing her experience with others who are interested in embarking on this new adventure!