A Guide to Teaching at International Schools in China

A Guide to Teaching at International Schools in China
Apr 24, 2024 By eChinacities.com

“International” is an undeniable buzzword in Chinese education. With English in high demand and the country’s more cosmopolitan (and affluent) parents keen to send their kids overseas in droves to escape the numbing public school system, there’s plenty of demand for in-country international teachers. If you have the proper qualifications and a bit of teaching experience back home, you may want to consider teaching at international schools in China. Read on to find out more.

teaching at international schools in China 
Source: Wikimedia

China is home to a wide range of international schools: British, American, Canadian, Japanese, you name it. Once upon a time, these schools were mainly populated by foreigners. These days, however, they are full of kids from affluent Chinese families who have managed to secure a foreign passport for their child or can claim some vague connection to the school’s origin country. There are also Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in Chinese high schools, which offer curriculums for entry into higher education in the US and worldwide, respectively.

Let’s take a look at these two kinds of international schools in China.

Foreign international schools in China

Foreign international schools in China are essentially elite foreign prep schools picked up and placed down in China’s biggest cities. Tuition fees for these academies can add up to a small fortune, making them inaccessible to most Chinese and expat families, alike. Teaching at an international school like this in China can be a sweet deal for foreigners, but don’t expect to waltz in unqualified.

Teaching at an international school in China will usually require the candidate to have a proper teaching qualification from the school’s origin country, not just a TEFL. For example, applicants to the Canadian International School of Beijing need to have a teaching certificate from Canada.

Other non-country specific schools, like those that are part of the International Schools of China group, typically request that candidates have a degree in Elementary Education, Secondary Education or a specific teaching subject, such as history. You’ll also need to have at least two years of prior teaching experience in order to obtain your Chinese work permit. However, international schools in China also hire foreign teaching assistants, interns, admin staff, sports coaches and substitute teachers for whom the requirements are not as strict.

Teaching at a foreign international school in China has a number of perks. The pay is usually much higher than you would get at a Chinese school, and many packages come with a lot of tasty add-ons, such as free accommodation and an annual flight home. Class sizes are also usually much smaller than those at a typical Chinese school or even a public school in the West.

If all this sounds like music to your ears, there are several ways to snag a job at a foreign international school in China. Most of the schools will post their openings directly on their websites, on in-country jobs boards like ours and to international platforms like Linkedin.

If you’re job hunting from your home country, you could also consider employing the services of an agency or attending an international school fair. The Council of International Schools and International Schools Services hold a number of job fairs around the world each year. Carney Sandoe & Associates is a free teacher placement agency that I used when looking for a job at an international school in China. If accepted into the system, candidates can use their free services until they find a job. Search Associates is also a big player in the international schools recruitment market. Unlike Carney, there is a one-time fee, but this gets you a really great service. They also offer cheaper intern programs for recent graduates or those without any teaching experience and host their own international job fairs around the world.

If you are serious about looking for a job at a foreign international school in China, consider applying to one or both of these agencies. They will be honest about your competitiveness in the current market and do their best to find a suitable position. Be aware that these jobs go fast and are filled early, however. Schools start looking in August or September for the next year as the process for hiring international teachers and securing work permits is quite long in China.

Chinese international programs

A number of schools in China offer AP and IB international programs for Chinese students who want to study in the US or elsewhere. There are a few differences between a Chinese international program (which can be implemented across an entire school) and a foreign international school.

A friend of mine, Barb, who worked as a middle school science teacher at a Chinese IB school in Beijing, said her school ran on a Chinese schedule, despite its international credentials. This meant that students took part in military-style exercises and chants in the morning and enjoyed a 2.5- hour nap in the middle of the day. Barb’s classes were also small by Chinese standards (around 30 kids in a class), but larger than those she had taught in her 20+ years of teaching at public schools in the US.

She advises foreigners who are interested in teaching in Chinese schools that offer international programs to visit their prospective employer and vet it carefully before signing the contract. “You can get stuck in some pretty sketchy schools, so you have to make sure you understand all of the conditions,” she says.

Teachers in international programs at Chinese schools are also sometimes asked to write their own curriculum with little support from the school. Barb said her curriculum had to be okayed by an international program board in Australia, but that the materials she was given by the school were less than ideal. “There were mistakes in the science book and it wasn't very engaging. The math teachers didn't even have a math book,” she says.

Writing her own curriculum did have its advantages, however. “I had a lot of freedom. We did an interdisciplinary unit with history and science for which we went on a field trip and studied acid rain at the Temple of Heaven. Another day, we went over to the high school lab and dissected flowers under microscopes, which was exciting for the kids,” she says.

Barb also complains that she had to lug all the lab materials from room to room as she didn’t have her own classroom, and that for the first semester she had two classes that could barely speak English, let alone understand middle school science. However, she notes that, “Chinese kids are wonderful. If you enjoy working with kids that are polite and keen to learn, you'll have a good deal of success teaching in China.”

Chinese schools that offer international programs also usually take good care of their foreign teachers, from offering Western-style housing, to free school meals, to plane ticket reimbursement. The pay is also higher than foreign teachers would get in a regular Chinese public school, usually with an option to make more money for more teaching hours.

A more experienced teacher who is comfortable writing their own curriculum and keen to gain experience in the Chinese education system could do well working in an international program in a Chinese school. It’s also a good way for young teachers to get AP and IB teaching experience before moving to a foreign international school in China.

Chinese schools that offer international programs advertise jobs in much the same ways as foreign international schools. Carney Sandoe and Search Associates also have a number of Chinese schools as their clients.

So, what are you waiting for? If you have the qualifications, experience and ambition, teaching in an international school or program in China is one of the best gigs in the country for expat workers.

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Keywords: Expat workers in China

3 Comments

All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.

Doire21

And what are the basic requirements for one to teach sciences in China,I am a teacher from Kenya and would love to relocate to China someday

Jun 14, 2024 22:38 Report Abuse

Age2X0

Nice

May 15, 2024 03:03 Report Abuse

Age2X0

Good

May 15, 2024 03:02 Report Abuse