Most individuals who are planning on teaching English in China have to make a big decision before making the move – that is, deciding what type of school they want to teach in.
There are four main types of school in China where native-speaking English teachers tend to teach. These are Kindergartens, Public Schools, International Schools and Training Centres. For individuals who have little to no teaching experience and don’t hold a formal teaching certification (such as recent graduates), the best type of school to teach in is, without a doubt, a training centre! In this article, we’ll explain exactly why, whilst telling what it’s like to teach in a training centre, and how it differs from the other types of schools.
First and foremost, it’s certainly worth mentioning that a large majority of the Kindergartens, Public Schools, and International Schools in China like to recruit qualified and experienced teachers. Training Centres on the other hand like to give a chance to recent graduates, or individuals who are fairly new to teaching, so that they can train them up from scratch. This results in the majority of the teachers in training centres being of a similar age (20s), from similar countries (native English speaking countries), and of similar experience level. All of this leads to a very fun and social working environment!
Because Kindergartens, Public Schools, and International Schools tend to hire experienced teachers with classroom experience, they don’t tend to provide a large amount of training. This means that any new teacher needs to be able to hit the ground running, which certainly isn’t ideal for someone who hasn’t taught before!
Most training centres in China, however, provide their new teachers with extensive training when they first arrive. This will usually cover teaching methods, behaviour management, classroom management, and the curriculum content, amongst other things. Once they finish training, new recruits will then observe classes, and slowly be integrated into teaching as they gradually build their confidence and teaching hours up over a number of weeks. For an individual who has never taught before this is a much more suitable way to begin teaching life in China, and sets you up for greater long-term success.
In most Chinese Kindergartens the number of students per class is usually between 15-20, and with Public Schools and International Schools, the class size tends to be anywhere from 20-50 students! This is usually no problem for experienced teachers with classroom experience, but certainly way too daunting for someone who has never taught before.
This is another reason why training centres are perfect for those with little to no teaching experience, as the maximum number of students in most training centres is 10 students! This small classroom environment gives the teacher a chance to practice their newly learned teaching and classroom management skills in a manageable setting, rather than being thrown in at the deep end, in front of 40 students on the first day!
The curriculums taught in Training Centres differ considerably from the other school types, and certainly, this favours teachers with little to no teaching experience.
In Public Schools and International Schools, there is usually a strict curriculum in place, which has been decided by the higher teaching authorities. These curriculums have to be taught in a certain way, which only a teacher with previous teaching experience would have the ability to do at a high standard. Furthermore, for subjects other than English, such as Science, for example, prior advanced knowledge in this subject is essential.
Training centres, however, usually have a much simpler curriculum that the school itself will have designed and created. Since training centres focus solely on teaching English as a language most curriculums focus on two main language skills – reading and writing. These curriculums are much easier to teach, have more flexibility and no prior subject or teaching knowledge is required in order to teach them.
Salary & Benefits
There are many variables that will dictate your salary and benefits package in China, such as location, teaching hours and the individual training centre you’re working at. Overall though training centres across China offer very competitive packages, which in some cases are higher than those offered by the other school types.
The one main benefit that other school types have over training centres is the holiday amount, as Kindergarten, Public Schools and International Schools typically provide at least two months of holiday each year to their teachers, due to the winter and summer breaks. Training centres don’t offer this luxury, but you can still expect to receive all Chinese public holidays off as well as an average of 14 annual paid days on top.
In addition, it is worth mentioning that Training Centres do follow the same 16-week term schedule as the other school types, meaning that during the winter and summer breaks lesson plans don’t follow the usual curriculum. These lessons tend to be a lot more laid back, with teachers given the freedom to make them as fun as they want, with no regular tests or homework given.
A final way in which Training Centres differ from the other school types is the schedule. Kindergartens, Public Schools and International Schools typically operate Monday – Friday, with weekends off, whereas Training Centres operate very differently. Since students attend Training Centres outside of normal school hours, the most common teaching times are in the late afternoon / early evenings, and on the weekends. All training centres in China operate similar schedules, with teachers working three days in the week (with two consecutive days off, i.e. Monday and Tuesday), and both weekend days.
Don’t start thinking that this schedule would have a negative impact on your social life though! As mentioned earlier, the working environment in training centres tends to be a social one, with all teachers working together over the weekend, and typically then socialising together on their days off together. Furthermore, the majority of teachers who are located in busy, tier 1 cities claim that they prefer having their days off in the midweek, as the city and surrounding areas are a lot easier to explore on these days, with fewer people around!
To conclude, there are certainly many great benefits to working in a Kindergarten, Public School, or International School. But, as shown throughout this short article though, these school types are certainly more suited to teachers who have at least a couple of years of teaching experience.
For individuals who are looking to teach for the first time and want to do so in China, a training centre really is the perfect environment in which to do so. The initial teacher training provided, along with the smaller class sizes, and easy-to-follow curriculums mean that new teachers are able to gradually build their confidence, all within a social and fun working environment. This will certainly lead to a much more enjoyable and fulfilling time teaching in China!