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Teaching In Kunming: K-12 vs. Language School

ainbro (11 posts) •

Hey Kunming,

I am expecting to be located in Kunming within the next 6 months. I have gotten a few job offers to teach English, but I am still trying to figure out what to do. One thing I noticed is that the local language schools seem to post higher wages ~ 8,000-10,000 RMB / month vs the offers I've gotten from high schools and universities ~ 6,000-7,000 RMB /month. The other perks do seem to vary as well with the high schools and universities more consistently offering health insurance.

To others currently in Kunming have a similar experience with the different English teaching opportunities? just for reference, I have a B.S. and M.S. degree, 5+ years work experience, though I am not a professional teacher. I do have a TESOL certificate and I have teaching experience as a freelancer.

Thanks!

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Public Vs private sector advantages and disadvantages as I see them, I am sure others will chip in.
Firstly, there is a spectrum (not continuum) of providers in both sectors.
I will break this down into separate posts otherwise it will be too long.

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Universities.
Students have all passed GaoKao (GK) the college entrance test. They are usually more motivated, but cheating is endemic and you have to learn to live with it.
University Deans expect students to do well in exams. They don't want to know about cheating. If the exam is too hard it needs to be moderated. This goes against the grain, but it is their house and their rules (This is China). Occasionally you will get students who never attend class, and these you can fail. The institution really cares about the students.
Teachers are expected to be on time and sober. That is the biggest gripe that any institution has about teaching staff. Get this right and you can dance with the devil and they don't mind. The schedule is fixed at the beginning of each semester, and so life is organized. Teachers must take attendance, it alsocan protect you from students who fail. In addition to your teaching you may be asked to give 1-2 evening lectures per semester on a general subject about English, or US/EU culture. You may also be asked to run or attend English Corners, I usually suggest that these are better organized by students. You may be paid for evening lectures, you will not usually be paid for English corner. Teachers are expected to prepare and mark exams, andou do not get paid extra for this.
Contracts are usually for the academic year only. Paid spring break, no paid summer break. Contracts are usually for a maximum n (often 15) teaching hours (50m) per week. Any more and you get overtime. For public holidays, they jiggle the calendar, this is usual in all places of work here.
Medical cover means you can go to the campus clinic/nurse. You also have emergency only cover at hospital. This is not full cover.
Accommodation is provided free. Look for those that offer an apartment. They may be basic but they are self-contained and you have 1-2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom.
Access to the canteen which provides cheap food at set times only.
Flights home are paid, but sometimes they only have rules that allow for direct flights (this works in your advantage) but will only pay for port of Exit to port of entry. A disadvantage if you need a connecting flight.
Visa provided. If they like you, and you like them, you can sign up for the following year before you leave with will give you a longer visa.
The University will have a foreign affairs office to manage foreign teachers affairs. This means you always have someone to help. At least one member of staff here speaks English.
Staff are valued highly.

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Colleges attached to a university.
Same as universities except:

Students are usually those who failed GK. They are not motivated, and most don't want to work. You still need to pass them for exams, however a degree from one of these colleges is pretty worthless. Many SS eventually realize this and are further demotivated.
Sometimes the university college cares more about the money than teaching.
Often no foreign affairs office. If you need help you are often on your own.
Staff are sometimes valued sometimes not.
No flights, people are usually recruited locally.

Hourly rates of pay are common.

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Other colleges.
These are usually vocational colleges. Some SS are highly motivated as they are from poor families. They may have failed GK due to not having access to a good high school.
The facilities in some of these places can be appalling.
Usually no accommodation or accommodation allowance.
Often no canteen. But there will be street vendors outside the gate.

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Chinese High School
Same as universities
Students may or may not be motivated, and the English levels in a class can vary dramatically. Teenagers may also be, well? Teenagers.
Exams are set and marked externally. You will be expected to set and mark periodic informal tests, at no extra pay.
Foreign staff are valued by management.

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Chinese High School with special oversea programs.
The program will often be in a high school but in a separate wing and have its own admin staff and Principal or Director of studies.

Same as high school but the SS are usally in the upper quartile of academic ability. Teaching staff are a mixture of local teachers and foreign teachers. The curriculum is US/Canada/UK.
Accommodation is not always provided, but sometimes accommodation allowance is paid.
Good staff are very highly valued. Expectations on staff are high.

Pay is often better than high schools.

Parents have very high expectations. They are sometimes rich and unreasonable in their damnds, but leave this to local admin.
Exams are set and moderated externally. You have to invigilate and sometimes mark tests.

tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Language schools
Pay is higher
Check, sometimes no flights.
No accommodation, but sometimes accommodation allowance.
Expect to travel between sites in the city. They will usually only pay for bus, not taxi.
Some students motivated, but many are just there to play and unless you want to teach under 10s as well as teens, be prepared.

Schedules change at short notice and you are not expected to say no. This gives the possibility of picking up overtime pay.

You must work evenings and weekends. You will rarely get this time off.

Parents are a big issue sometimes. You need to leave the management of parents to local staff as it gets political.

You have a lot of customer groups to satisfy. These include local management, your director of studies (foreigner), local admin and sales, parents, students. Most have conflicting interests. This is a high stress environment.
The management is very cost focus. Sometimes quality of teaching is a low priority. Teaching materials are fixed. As an absolute beginner, as long as parents don't complain, you can get away with more.
You, the teacher, are merely a cash cow. The pay for you is higher but prepare to be milked. It is a high pressure job.
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tigertiger (2528 posts) •

Other stuff.
Location, location, location. If you are out of the city centre, transport can be a problem. Especially at night. If you think you need to be near other expats, bars, cafes, etc. look for locations near Yunnan Uni, Green Lake, or Beichen. Or on the new metro train routes.
Beware in outlying areas some campuses lock the gates at night. You won't be let in, or out.
Payment mechanisms vary between institutions. Usually money goes into a bank account they set up for you, and you get an ATM card.

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