Types of Schools in China

Training School/English Language Centre

Training centres are privately owned businesses that offer evening and weekend work. With these somewhat backward hours, you’ll have two days off during the week, meaning you can travel and explore without your favourite locations being overcrowded. For students, training centres offer after-school English lessons where the parents pay for a higher teacher to student ratio. This means that your class sizes will typically be a lot smaller, ranging from 6 to 12 children. Also, as they are after-school programmes, training schools welcome all ages and abilities, meaning you could be teaching from ages of 2 to 16. Because of this, training centres have their own curriculum, allowing you to follow their material and thus reducing your lesson planning time.

Preschool/Kindergarten

Kindergartens are most commonly found in Tier 1 cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shanghai, and offer young learners the ability to learn in an interactive and fun environment before they go to public/private school. Expect to work Monday to Friday and have a very long lunch break whilst the children are sleeping (up to 3 hours), with work hours typically from 08:00 to 17:00. As an English teacher of ages 18 months to 6, you will be more of a performer than a teacher, with the aim of making English learning fun, energetic and engaging, with plenty of songs in between to ensure your students aren’t walking around the classroom mid-lesson. When you’re not teaching English, you’ll most likely be spending your time with the children through a variety of activities from Art, Sports and everything in between. As Kindergartens are not required by the government, English teaching positions are usually better well paid than traditional public schools, offering salaries of over 20,000RMB.

Public School

Public Schools encompass Primary Schools (6-12), Middle Schools (12-16) and High Schools (16-18). Class sizes are generally the largest and can have between 25-60 children. Classes are around 40 minutes long, Monday to Friday. Creativity is especially important in Primary Schools, as unlike Kindergartens, this will be the first time where the students do not have a Chinese assistant to translate, but rather one to create group norms and maintain an effective class culture. It’s important to start your lessons strong, and first impressions count. Set rules and expectations to make for a successful year. For High school, English may not be at the top priority of subjects, as they’ll be preparing for their English-less university entrance examination (Gaokao).

University

Possibly the most relaxed role if you’re teaching oral English, as it’s likely that these students will be doing an English Major. Expect no more than 12 classes of teaching a week, 40 or more students, lessons from 1-3 hours long, with the age range of 18-22. Class monitors will aid the flow of the class, but with English Majors, you’ll have a focused class as this is what they have chosen to do. On the other hand, if you’re teaching something Degree specific, you’ll need a minimum of an MA and a teaching certificate for that subject, with most likely some experience too. These roles are the higher paid and offer the opportunity of earning over 15,000RMB a month. Most universities offer on-campus accommodation, so you will not have to worry about finding somewhere to live just outside the campus.

International school

International Schools are schools that practise a Western curriculum, which could be an international Baccalaureate (IB) or a foreign A-level/AP curriculum. These schools are where the professional teachers go with certificates to teach and years of experience in China or their home country, and where the more financially able parents send their children. English is not the second language in these schools either, it is the first, with teachers from different corners of the globe teaching their subject field in English. The teaching hours are most likely 08:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday, with the children’s age ranging for Kindergarten to High School. Class sizes are smaller than the public equivalent, and there are roughly 20 classes a week. Expect to sign a 2-year contract with international schools, earn above 15,000RMB and have a few weeks training before the academic year starts.

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