In China there are four main types of schools that foreign teachers typically work in, these are Kindergartens, Training Centres, Public Schools and International Schools. Out of these four, international schools are by far the most prestigious schools to teach in. Teachers at international schools receive the highest salaries, the best benefits and the most vacation time. In addition to this, the facilities found at international schools far exceed those found in other schools, and the teaching standards are set extremely high. For some teachers who are planning on heading to China, an international school may not be the best fit for a variety of reasons. However, for qualified teachers who have at least two years of teaching experience, an international school is the environment that they should be aiming to work in. In this blog post, we cover all the key things to know about international schools in China, and outline what is required to teach in one!

What Is an International School?

Sometimes also called ‘a private school’ or ‘an academy’, an international school promotes international education in an international environment. Throughout China, there are currently around 1,000 international schools, with that number expected to continue growing over the coming years. The majority of these schools are found in tier 1 (larger) cities, and they mostly cater for international students whose parents have relocated to China (ex-pats).

All international schools require a tuition fee to be paid, meaning that they are extremely well funded and as a result have a range of impressive on-campus facilities to support learning and extracurricular activities, such as music halls, science labs, football pitches and basketball courts. At international schools you’ll find a range of multinational and multilingual students, however, English is the main language used throughout the school and all students are taught an international curriculum.

Curriculums Taught at International Schools

International schools in China teach a curriculum that is different to the Chinese national curriculum. One of the most common curriculums taught at international schools is the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB).

The International Baccalaureate curriculum has three distinct programs for each different student’s age range. These are:

Primary Years Program (PYP) – The PYP offers an inquiry-based, transdisciplinary curriculum framework that builds conceptual understanding. It is a student-centred approach to education for children aged 3 – 12.

Middle Years Program (MYP) – The MYP encourages students aged 11 – 16 to make practical connections between their studies and the real world, preparing them for success in further study and in life.

Diploma Program (DP) – The DP is an assessed programme for students aged 16 – 19 that is preceded by the IB’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP). The DP organises teaching and learning through six subject groups, underpinned by the DP core. Students choose a course from within each subject group. The six subject groups are:

  • Studies in Language and Literature
  • Language Acquisition
  • Individuals and Societies
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • The Arts

Other international curriculums that are taught at international schools commonly include the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC).

Many international schools in China will offer the national curriculums used in other countries, with the most common ones being UK curriculums such as Cambridge Assessment International Education and Edexcel, as well as American curriculums such as Advanced Placement. Often these curriculums are adapted to make them more relevant to an international student population, as well as more appropriate to China, with increased references to the country’s geography, history and culture. 

Age Categories at International Schools

Most international schools in China use the ‘grade’ system (similar to the USA) in order to group students based on age. However, some schools may classify their students differently depending on which curriculum they teach. The table below shows how groups of students at  international schools in China may be categorised:

International Schools vs Private Bilingual Schools

A type of school within China that shares a lot of similarities with an international school is a Private Bilingual School. Since both school types are privately run they are very well funded, which means they both have plenty of modern facilities. Private bilingual schools are quite common in China, and they do provide teachers with a brilliant environment to teach in. However, there are quite a few differences between the two school types that are worth highlighting below.

International School

  1. The majority of students attending international schools in China are foreign nationals (typically whose parents are ex-pats).
  2. International schools offer a totally international curriculum.
  3. International schools typically have a small – average class size (around 25 students).
  4. All lessons are taught in English.
  5. At an international school, one foreign teacher is the main teacher and may be assisted by a teaching assistant.
  6. To teach in most international schools a teacher must have additional teaching qualifications and/or an official teaching license from their home country.

Private Bilingual School

  1. The majority of students attending a bilingual school are Chinese natives.
  2. Bilingual schools are much less rigidly tied to one set curriculum. Some bilingual schools will use a mixture of curriculums, or heavily adapt certain curriculums to suit their academic objectives. The teaching styles used in bilingual schools are usually different to those used in an international school setting.
  3. Bilingual schools typically have a larger class size (around 40 students)
  4. All lessons are taught equally in both English and Mandarin.
  5. At most bilingual schools in China, a foreign teacher and a Chinese teacher will co-teach a lesson in both English and Mandarin, sharing the responsibility equally.
  6. While some private bilingual schools do require an additional teaching qualification, some will employ teachers without, so long as they hold a TEFL certificate and have previous teaching experience.

Salary & Benefits at International Schools

Teaching in an international school in China can be very lucrative, with most schools offering impressive salary and benefits packages to their qualified teachers! There are a variety of factors that can impact what type of package a teacher is offered, such as how experienced/qualified the teacher is, what teaching position they are being offered, whereabouts the school is located, and how prestigious the school is. Typically though, a qualified teacher can expect to receive the following salary and benefits for teaching in an international school in China:

  • Monthly Salary – 25,000 RMB – 40,000 RMB
  • Housing Provided or Large Housing Allowance
  • Large Contract Completion Bonus
  • Flight Reimbursement
  • Relocation Allowance
  • Free Education for Children
  • Fully-paid Winter & Summer Vacation
  • Premium Medical Insurance

Schedule at International Schools

The majority of international schools in China operate on similar schedules and have similar start and end dates for each academic semester.

Typical Daily Schedule

Monday – Friday | 8.30am – 4.30pm

Typical Yearly Schedule

Semester 1 – September – December

Winter Vacation – January

Semester 2 – February – June

Summer Vacation – July – August

Requirements to Teach at International Schools

The requirements for teaching in an international school in China do vary from school to school, but typically teachers will need to have a teaching qualification and/or a teaching license from their home countries, with at least two years of previous teaching experience. A lot of international schools in China will only employ teachers who come from a native English-speaking country since their curriculum is taught in English. These countries are Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the USA. However, in some circumstances, international schools may employ subject-specific teachers who are not from one of these countries.

These are the most common types of teaching qualifications and teaching licenses that international schools require a teacher to have:

Bachelor’s of Education – This is a three or four-year bachelor’s degree course which prepares one for life as a teacher.

Master of Education – This is a postgraduate master’s degree that is completed by teachers looking to specialise in certain areas.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) – The PGCE is an internationally recognised qualification in education. Studied over either a one or two-year period, it is one of the most popular teacher training postgraduate qualifications, designed to give students the necessary skills to get into teaching. Most PGCE programs involve school placements to give the learner practical teaching experience. 

Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) – QTS is the teaching license that is required in order to teach at public/state schools in the UK. Most UK teachers are recommended for QTS after successfully completing their PGCE qualification.

iPGCE (International Postgraduate Certificate in Education) – The iPGCE is a completely online version of the PGCE, meaning there is no in-class learning. This type of teaching qualification is ideal for teachers who are currently teaching overseas and want to obtain further teaching qualifications.

Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) – The PGDE is a one-year postgraduate course which is very similar to the PGCE.

Teacher Registration – In the USA and Canada, all certified teachers must apply for and receive a teaching license from the state that they are in. In South Africa, all certified teachers must register with the South African Council for Educators (SACE). In New Zealand, all teachers must be registered with the Teaching Council of New Zealand. In Australia, all teachers must be registered with the state that they are teaching within.

So there you have it, a brief overview of international schools in China, and what is required to teach in one. If you have the necessary qualifications outlined above, and you’re interested in teaching in an international school in China, then please Apply Now!