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If you are looking for a teach abroad job that will take you to a land both enchanting and challenging, China may be your ultimate destination. The largest country in the world in terms of population, China covers a huge expanse of Asia and is home to more than 1.3 billion people. Because China covers such a huge area of land, it is a melting pot of peoples, languages and religions - dozens of dialects and derivatives of Chinese are spoken throughout China's 22 provinces.
The statistics and the stereotypes are there - China has the fastest growing economy, some of the most highly-populated cities in the world, a rich ancient history, and much more. Regardless of what you may have heard or read, China is a remarkable and unique country where teachers thrive in whatever lifestyle they choose, and the opportunities are endless.
In most of China, especially in the larger cities, English is the primary second language of most Chinese Nationals. Public schools begin teaching English in Kindergarten (sometimes younger), and Chinese students will endure countless exams testing English grammar throughout their middle and high school careers. It's no wonder that private companies see the benefit of opening ELL centers and schools in busy areas where young learners are encouraged toward anything educational. In addition to private ELL schools, China features competitive teaching positions at International Schools, as well as openings in their public schools around the country.
Different from both international schools and public schools are the ever-growing private ELL companies that compete with each other for profits and are usually always hiring new English teachers. Among these companies are Wall Street English, EF (Education First), Longman Schools, and many more. Note that the age of your students will vary depending on where you choose to work - some organizations teach only adults, while others teach only young children.
The upside to taking a job with a private company is that you'll be provided with a network of support, a set curriculum, and guidelines for how to manage your classroom. If you have little or no experience teaching English abroad, working for a private company may ease your stress a bit, because you'll have help along the way. On the other hand, private schools are interested in expanding and earning money, so you will be considered not only a teacher, but a part of a business. If you don't mind adhering to corporate guidelines, working at a private ELL school can be beneficial, as there is usually room for growth within the company.
Locating a job in a Chinese public school on your own might be a bit more challenging - though the public schools have a high demand for foreign teachers and there are plenty of job openings, they usually offer less support and assistance through the application process. If you have a lot of experience teaching internationally, or if you speak Chinese, taking a job in a public school may be a good choice for you.
Unless you've traveled in Asia before, taking a job in China is a big enough adventure for most people. The first thing you'll need to decide is how much of a challenge you're willing to accept. Living in metropolitan areas like Shanghai, Beijing, or Hong Kong will give you plenty of excitement and astonishing episodes of culture-shock, but you're likely to find your favorite foreign comforts wherever you go - imported toiletries, fast-food chains, international cuisine, and translation assistance in case you have trouble finding your way. If you're looking for a lifestyle with more of a challenge, try branching out to the other provinces where you'll find lush landscapes, less traffic, and welcoming locals who are ecstatic to invite travelers into their town.
When searching online for teaching jobs in China, it can be difficult to find an employer or school you can trust; it's even more complicated when half the websites you come across are written in Chinese. Recruiting agencies like Reach To Teach or CIEE can help by custom-searching for a job you're interested in and following up with more information or tips as you're narrowing down your job search.
Of course, the school in which you choose to teach is going to give you a different experience from the others. International schools in China usually offer higher salaries than most, but they are highly-competitive positions. Since most International schools have their own websites, you can begin your search online and easily find which schools have available positions.
Once you arrive in China, you'll become part of the very welcoming expat community and gain valuable connections and first-hand tips about teaching. A lot of English teachers who travel to China begin with one job and then end up trying something different once they learn what works for them. Be careful with this though: while no job lasts forever, if a company or school provides your employment visa and you are under contract, they might be entitled to keep you on board, preventing you from finding a new job for a while. Therefore, when searching for a teaching job in China, try to choose a school where you think you'll be happiest.
No matter where you choose to work in China, you'll notice how driven and dedicated the Chinese students are to their English education, which will help keep you passionate in your teaching. If you're looking for an adventure, you'll find it in China!
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