Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated October 30, 2020
By Mike Cairnduff

Questions to ask before teaching in China

Are you ready to leave the mundane behind and teach English in China?

Wait! Before you do anything else, start with some planning. This involves asking eight important questions.

Ask yourself…

You need to ask yourself the first few questions to be able to narrow down your job search and find the perfect teaching role in China.

1. What type of school do you want to work in?

In the public system in China, you can teach at kindergarten, primary school, high school or university. Classes are held during weekdays and you get weekends off.

In the private system in China, you can teach students of all age groups, from preschool right through to adults. Classes can be held on any day or night of the week (including weekends) and you generally get two consecutive days off.

2. What part of China do you want to work in?

China is absolutely huge and no two provinces are the same.

Have a think about things like climate, working in a big city versus a rural town, the kind of Chinese food you prefer (like sweet or spicy) and the local dialect (if any).

Differences between each province, and within each province, can be significant. It pays to do your homework!

Ask the right questions before going to China to teach English.

Would you be comfortable teaching in the outskirts of a Chinese city like this?

3. What salary do you think is fair?

Salary is tied to your level of education, experience, and the amount of hours you’re willing to work. So play fair.

You can earn a lot more in a private center than you can in a public school, though the hours can be vastly different.

For example, you could earn 6,000 RMB per month for teaching 16 hours a week at a university, while you could get 16,000 RMB per month for working 38 hours a week at a private center.

It all boils down to the kind of lifestyle you want to have in China.

Ask your recruiter (like Hello Teacher!)…

Once you’ve figured out the type of school and the part of China you want to work in, as well as your ballpark salary expectation, ask your recruiter the following questions.

4. What are the benefits?

It’s not all about the salary.

Find out if your employment package includes things like free accommodation, airfare reimbursement, internet and utility bills, Mandarin lessons, end-of-contract bonuses as well as any paid leave (in addition to the national holidays).

5. What are the working hours?

Do you want to work the Western equivalent of full-time hours or part-time hours?

In some schools, you could work as little as 16 hours a week, while in others you could work in the high 30s which may include compulsory ‘office hours’ – time you must spend preparing for classes in the teaching office.

Generally speaking, the more hours you work the more you earn.

6. What’s the accommodation like?

Firstly, check that your job offer includes accommodation.

Is the apartment located at or near the school? Does it contain everything you need?

It’s ok if accommodation isn’t included in the job offer – just make sure you have the school’s support to help you find something suitable.

7. How many students are in a typical class?

Class sizes in China’s public schools are very big.

If 40 faces looking at you would be too daunting, consider working in a private center where class sizes are much smaller in comparison.

Ask the right questions before heading to China to teach English.

How many students do you want to teach in China?

8. How many international teachers work at the school?

Some people like being one of just a few foreign teachers working at a school, while others prefer being part of a huge English-teaching department. Which one are you?

Being part of a big team means you’ll have plenty of like-minded people to socialize and share experiences with.

On the flipside, it can also mean that you may not pick up much (or any) Mandarin, mix with many locals or have a genuinely ‘Chinese experience’. Only you know what’s best for you.

So don’t let your excitement about going to China get in the way of asking the right questions. After all, you want to have the best experience possible. Look before you leap!


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