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Teaching English in China – Debunking the Myths
Do a Google search for “teaching English in China” and you’ll find more than 54 million results listing sites, mostly from Chinese recruiters, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) accredited schools, EFL forums, and “cultural exchange programs,” which are Say, glorify recruiting agencies, all of which would benefit greatly from convincing westerners that moving to China to teach spoken English is the opportunity and adventure of a lifetime. While EFL teaching positions are often subsidized for one to travel to exotic locations around the world Great way to travel expenses, but anyone suggesting to you that doing this as a new permanent mid-career move makes sense is utter hypocrisy.
This article will debunk some of the most common myths you’ll read about teaching English in China, and argue that only the very few who meet the criteria described below would consider doing so. The author is an American psychoanalyst who has been working in China since 2003 as a mental health consultant and professor of psychology.
Myth 1: All Chinese are desperate to learn English and will use it in everyday life
China’s education system was overhauled in 1979 to achieve the goals of the 1978 reform movement, commonly known as the Four Modernizations, approved at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. These four modernizations involve 1) agriculture, 2) industry, 3) technology, and 4) defense, with the specific aim of making China a self-reliant economic power by the early 21st century (Wertz, 1998).
Within those four broad areas, you won’t find English as a Foreign Language or any humanities subjects for that matter. In fact, English as a foreign language has a low status as a subject in China. It is essentially assigned as a compulsory course to freshmen who do too poorly on the national college entrance examination (gaokao) to pursue their required majors in more lucrative fields.
Unless students have clear plans—and substantial funds—to study abroad one day, hope to work for an international company, or plan to marry a foreigner, they spend the rest of their lives never speaking a single word of English. Life after college. In fact, in a land of 1.3 billion people, Chinese, not English, is the most commonly used language in the world today. Many of us who have lived and worked in China for many years have realized that what the Chinese really want is for the rest of the world to learn Chinese—a wish that may one day come true as China continues to develop. Rise unscrupulously as a world economic power.
Recruitment of foreign English teachers is highly competitive as they meet a much-disapproved and hotly contested national requirement issued by the Ministry of Education for all foreign language students to be exposed to native speakers. Aside from public schools and universities, the proliferation of private language schools — where some of the worst abuse and exploitation of foreigners occurs — has created an insatiable demand for white faces in classrooms to attract new students and charge Much higher than affordable tuition. Lesson fees are charged only to their Chinese English teachers.
What you need to remember is that because Chinese academic leaders and administrators have devalued English teaching in China, the role of foreign English teachers has been deprofessional: limited to promoting students’ speaking and listening skills, with very few exceptions. Whether the foreign teacher is a PhD in Linguistics with a specialization in second language acquisition methodology, or a recent college graduate with little or no relevant work experience, in the vast majority of cases, everyone will be assigned to teach the exact same courses The difference in wages does not exceed 700 yuan ($102.00) per month.
Misunderstanding 2: Foreign teachers can live comfortably and even save money with the salary they provide
In China (except Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou), the average salary of a foreign English teacher is between RMB 4,000 and RMB 6,000 (US$584 and US$876 respectively) per month, with 14 to 20 hours of face-to-face teaching per day and face-to-face teaching per week (Mavrides, 2009). Although this salary is indeed 70% higher than the current national per capita income of 1,800 yuan (Economic Observer, 2009), it does not mean much unless you are willing to live like the Chinese.
While it’s possible to save up to a third of your $5,000 monthly salary, you’ll have to live frugally to do so, which means giving up all Western food and amenities altogether, and carefully limiting your use of utilities, Especially the air conditioner. For example, a can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup sells for $3.21 (22 RMB) at a local western-style grocery store in Guangzhou, and the 2-to-1 comparison-price ratio is pretty steady across all imports in China, if you’re lucky Found them (and you won’t find them outside of the aforementioned three international cities in China). Also, western name brand appliances and personal electronics are often as expensive in China as they are at home, sometimes more, and you’re often buying very sophisticated clones, ie fakes that don’t last nearly as long as they do back home . Authentic do.
The reality is that any westerner living a middle-class life at home can barely make ends meet on the typical salary of most foreign teachers of spoken English in China. Even if you’re self-conscious enough to save some money, those savings can quickly disappear if you decide to travel or become seriously ill (no real health insurance is offered, only accident coverage). Most foreign English teachers in China work part-time and they don’t because they are fed up.
Apart from the salary issue, you also need to know that the “free” housing provided to foreign English teachers varies greatly in size and quality, and is the most typical housing for the working poor in China today, i.e. small (580 to 900 sq. ft), dilapidated run-down unit in an eight-story building with no elevator and hot water for showers only. You’ll have to get used to washing your hands and dishes in cold water, unless you decide to buy water heaters for your bathroom and kitchen sink at your own expense, and you can plan on getting a lot of exercise, especially if your apartment is on the eighth floor.
Myth 3: Teaching English in China is fun, easy and personally beneficial
The reality is that teaching English in China is a very tiring and challenging job, and in most cases, a thankless job. While students who believe they will one day use English already have reasonable speaking and listening skills, unless you speak slowly and use simple vocabulary, most of your students simply won’t be able to understand what you mean. Unfortunately, this applies not only to your students, but also when trying to communicate with your colleagues, administrators, and anyone else you come into contact with in China, unless of course that person is also a foreigner.
It is unlikely that anyone other than a career EFL/ESL teacher will find this job personally or professionally rewarding, and it is unlikely that anyone other than an educator with a master’s degree and national teaching credential will make a living from it ——Only in this way can you teach in international schools, joint venture projects or Western universities with branch campuses in China.
Myth 4: Every native speaker can and should teach English in China
There are four types of Westerners who think it makes sense to teach English in China: 1) recent college graduates who wish to learn Chinese or gain some travel experience before returning to China to continue their real career; to six months); 3) retirees seeking to extend their Western pensions in Asian countries, as noted above; 4) vocational English teachers who either work as school and program directors or Open spaces for certified and licensed educators to work.
For anyone else, especially middle-aged and mid-career people who do not have enough financial means, moving to China to teach English will most likely make you an economic prisoner of the Asian EFL system: you will be stuck teaching English for the rest of your life. No foreign language savings, moving from place to place, maybe country to country, hoping to find greener pastures, and damn forever the day you decide to teach English in China.
Economic Watch (2009). Chinese income, Chinese national income. Economic Observer Network. Retrieved July 3, 2009 from http://www.economywatch.com/world_economy/china/income.html.
Mavrides, Gregory (2009). A Guide for Foreign Teachers Living and Teaching in China. Middle Kingdom life. ISBN 978-0-578-02423-3
Wertz, Richard R. (2009). Chinese history. China and the Four Modernizations, 1979-82. Retrieved 3 July 2009 from http://www.ibiblio.org/chinesehistory/contents/01his/c05s03.html.
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