20 February 2019
China's new entry threshold for foreign teachers which includes longer experience is creating its own set of problems. Photo:
China's new entry threshold for foreign teachers which includes longer experience is creating its own set of problems. Photo:

Why Beijing just made life harder for foreign teachers

If you are not a Chinese national and want to work in Beijing, here is the latest checklist of requirements announced by authorities on Sunday.

1) Between 18 and 60 year old, with no criminal record, but the age limit for candidates applying for programs recruiting senior foreign experts is up to 65

2) Bachelor’s degree or above with at least two years of relevant work experience

3) Specific name for employer and a valid passport or other valid international travel documents

4) Valid work permit, or a residence certificate

There are further conditions if a foreigner wants to work in the Chinese capital as a teacher. Either part time or full time, he or she will have to have at least five years of relevant experience.

In addition, if a foreigner is to teach a language, he or she is required to have teacher qualification or other international language teaching qualification such as TEFL and TESL

These rules apparently are aimed at improving the quality of foreign talent the Chinese capital wants to attract as par of China’s renewed focus on quality instead of quantity.

The rules come amid rising public outcry over the quality of foreign teachers after a high-profile case in 2013 when a US teacher at an international school in Shanghai was detained on suspicion of sexually assaulting at least seven children.

Earlier, it was also reported that some expats working in China as teachers have criminal records.

In Beijing alone, more than 37,000 foreign citizens are from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Australia, among others, with 95 percent holding a bachelor degree or above.

They mainly work in information, computer science, education, consulting and science and technology.

For many foreigners who want to stay in Beijing and get a job, their first choice would be to apply to be a language teacher, usually English teacher.

I have been approached more than 10 times in the past two years by foreign colleagues or friends to help their relatives or friends find a teaching job in Beijing.

Indeed, the mushrooming of private English training schools offers them quite a number of opportunities.

The Beijing subsidiary of a US international school, which offers pre-school education, often gets 10 times more applicants than there are vacancies whenever it opens a new center, according to a friend of mine, who manages its recruitment and teacher training.

Of course, speaking a language and teaching a language are very different.

A native speaker may not be a good teacher of that language. So, it does make sense for the Beijing government to set higher teaching standards but it’s desirable to require foreign teachers to have previous experience.

Several international institutions have voiced their support for the rules, saying these will help eliminate unqualified players in this growing market.

They also said some of their own requirements are on par with those sought the Beijing government. For example, a bachelor’s degree is a must.

But they pointed out that some rules are hard to meet. For example, five years of previous teaching experience is a very high threshold.

My friend said most of the frontline foreign language teachers in his education center have an average teaching experience of three years, so not all can meet the five-year requirement.

Given that his center is already one of the best in the Chinese capital, teachers in other schools may have less experience. When the five-year experience rule is implemented on Oct. 31, these schools will lose a large number of foreign teachers.

Having enough people to fill the vacancies would be a tough task because the time left is short. More importantly, most schools may be unable to afford the salaries of experienced teachers.

“A senior language teacher’s pay can be on par with a manager’s at an investment bank,” my friend said half-jokingly.

The five-year rule may be suitable for universities and companies but not for kindergarten or primary schools.

What’s worse, he said, the rules may force some learning centers to fake resumes of their teachers, a practice that is hard to check.

The new rule is a well-intended policy but it may needs further refinement to suit diverse situations and market realities.

– Contact us at [email protected]


The writer is an economic commentator. He writes mostly on business issues in Greater China.

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