Teach English in China
Teaching English in China will allow you to experience one of the oldest civilizations in the world. China’s rich culture is complemented by modernity and rapidly developing technological advances.
Teachers are encouraged to take time to discover this vast landscape with over 5,000 years of history. From the bustling streets of Beijing and Shanghai to the shining, beautiful Li River, you will experience the ever-changing urban and rural cultures throughout the country. Head to South China for its mild winters or to East China with its beautiful beaches. Consider the popular Water Splashing Festival held in April in Yunnan Province.
Education is valued by the Chinese people as evidenced by a 91% literacy rate and the fierce competition for admittance to Universities. Over 11 million students attend the over 1,500 colleges and universities. All educational requirements for the people of China are managed by The Ministry of Education.
English-language education has been accorded much importance in China in the last quarter century. This accounts for the increased need of native English teachers in China. English and other foreign languages are optional in primary school, but become mandatory in junior and senior middle school.
China has a nine-year compulsory schooling system, meaning all children are required to attend school for at least nine years. Higher education is only for those students who have passed examinations at all compulsory levels. The school year consists of two semesters. The fall semester begins in early September and runs till late January or early February. Winter vacation typically runs from two to three weeks around the Lunar New Year. Spring semester begins following the Lantern Festival in mid-February and ends in early June.
English teachers in China should be aware that schedules may be different from schools in the U.S. Students generally attend public school Monday through Friday for an average of 8.5 hours per day. Many of these students then take additional courses (particularly English and the sciences) during the evenings and weekends. Private school teachers will have a schedule that is dependent upon the individual school and English language program.
With delicious and varied cuisine, some of China’s famous dishes are Peking duck, dim sum, steamed buns, and spicy snacks. Be aware that it’s considered improper to leave your chopsticks standing in your rice. If you want something exotic and delicious, try bananas in honeyed pancakes. Of course, the specific dishes available will vary from region to region.
Most people in China drink hot water and tea rather than cold. It is believed that hot water helps aid the digestion of food and hot tea cleanses the body of oils. Tap water in most areas is not drinkable, and this also includes avoiding ice. Drinking bottled water is common in China. Many of the familiar brands of soft drinks are available, but you will find that local brands are cheaper than imported ones. Beer is inexpensive and one of the most popular drinks in China.
Western ingredients are not difficult to find in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Stores like Wal-Mart and Trust Mart will carry cheeses, pastas, and cereals.
Over the past several years, apartments, particularly high-rise units, have begun to spring up all over China. Not only has the availability of housing increased, but the living conditions have improved dramatically as well. New units are being built with many of the amenities that westerners take for granted, including fast Internet connections, central heating, electricity, and toilets. Although some teachers abroad have opted for “Serviced Apartments”—temporary, furnished short-term housing—many of these units have become more similar to hotels with comparable, higher prices.
Housing costs vary, but most units cost $500 USD to over $1,200 USD per month. The closer you are to major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the higher your housing costs.
There are typically two types of housing available:
- Traditional Houses/Villas
Traditional Chinese houses consist of two to four buildings enclosed by a wall and facing a rectangular central courtyard. You can see these in the "hutongs" of Beijing or in other older neighborhoods of Chinese cities or villages. Most of the older housing buildings are three to five stories. There is usually a balcony, which is often enclosed in Northern China.
Apartments commonly have one or two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Floors are usually made of concrete.
Some items that you may take for granted in the U.S. but shouldn’t expect in China are:
- Clothes Dryer:
Many teachers abroad actually get their clothes laundered. If you elect to do your own laundry, you will need a drying rack.
There are bath houses where you can immerse yourself, but expect only a shower in your home.
You will have a gas stove, but it may be smaller than what you are used to.
- Traditional Houses/Villas
China boasts over 210 million Internet users – more than any other country in the world. Broadband service is becoming increasingly available thanks to strong government backing of companies such as China Netcom, which offers broadband service at 68 RMB/a month.
Various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate in different regions. Internet cafés are not as prolific in China as in some other Asian countries due in part to licensing requirements by the Ministry of Culture. However, they are an economical option for roughly 4 RMB per hour for those who do not want to commit to a monthly service contract. Some cafés even offer off-peak discounts.
Connections tend to be a little slow by international standards. Most new residential compounds in the main cities have DSL or broadband already installed, for which users pay a monthly charge of around 130 RMB.
Regulations have recently come into force requiring Internet users to register with Chinese public security authorities. Failure to do so is a criminal offense. Additionally, the government blocks some western sites such as Wikipedia.
For those of you that may want to stay connected with a print newspaper, the China Daily is the only English language newspaper in China.
Traveling within China is relatively convenient. There are multiple ways to get around:
- Train Travel
The train is the most popular mode of long-distance transportation.
- Soft sleeper train compartments are top of the line. The compartment has four bunks, sheets, and blankets. Males and females may be together in one compartment. It's generally comfortable, but the bunk may be a little cramped for the average American man. Trains often leave in the evening and arrive at their destination in the morning, leaving you with a full day for touring.
- Hard sleeper is the next step down for overnight travel. A car is divided into about a dozen compartments, each containing two sets of three bunks. You get a sheet and a blanket, and an attendant will come through the car selling fast food.
- Soft seat is the next level. This is good for day trips and all travelers are guaranteed a seat.
- Hard seat is the low-end. Despite the name "hard seat," the seats are cushioned. Not everybody gets a seat, however, and some people have to stand for 10 or 12 hours.
A train from Beijing to Shanghai would cost about 350 RMB for an overnight sleeper train.
- Air Travel
Air travel has grown tremendously in China. Until about 10 years ago, there was only one airline. Now there are about a dozen regional airlines which are still government-owned. Because of the competition between the airlines, getting airfare for a low price is possible. Flights from Beijing to Shanghai start at about 500 RMB if bought in advance and can cost as much as 1,200 RMB if purchased on the day you wish to fly.
- Train Travel
Hotel choices vary from city to city. Generally a three-star hotel will cost about 300 RMB per night. It is important to always carry your passport and visa, as you will need to present them at check in.