Teaching at a University in China
Most teachers coming to China opt to teach within private language centres or chain schools such as EF English First, Shane Schools or New Oriental. These are good positions with familiar brand-name schools. However, less well-known by many new teachers coming to China is the large availability of teaching jobs within state-run universities all over China.
Why Teach in a University in China?
Teaching English in universities in China is a very thrilling and rewarding experience. The type of life you will lead will be dramatically different to that of working within a private school. Teaching English in universities, either ESL or specially-developed programs is very cool and something I have done myself for many years. So what is working at a university like and will it be good for you? Let's look at the big differences one by one and why it might be better to work in a university.
Working Days in a Chinese University
Coming from native-speaking countries, you'll probably be used to working a Mon-Fri job. Teaching in a Chinese university is exactly the same and you'll be teaching from Monday to Friday during the day. You won't have any evening classes and you can expect to enjoy your weekends off! On rare occasions during the year, you may have to teach an occasional weekend if the local government needs to have students studying on a Saturday or Sunday. This will be to give students and teachers additional time off for National Holidays to make travel easier. As a rule, week in, week out, you can kick back and put your feet up on the weekends.
Teaching hours in a Chinese University
Much like when you were back at school, you'll have a set timetable of classes for the week and this won't change for the whole semester. In general, you will always teach far less hours than in a private language centre, with around 50% less teaching hours. Classes generally start at around 8am and each class is about 45-55 minutes in length. These classes are normally put back to back, with a ten minute break between, so all university teachers usually teach a 'double class' with the same class of students.
After the first period of teaching, classes will usually start again at 10am (with a new class) and then there'll be another couple of teaching periods up until lunchtime, which you may or may not be teaching. There are a maximum total of 40 teaching periods (eight per day x five days), but you won't be contracted for anything like that amount.
Lunch lasts for two hours and then there's four more teaching periods bringing you up to about 5.30pm, where your day is over. Most teaching contracts for foreign teachers in Chinese universities are for between 12-22 teaching periods per week. The average is about 16 periods per week, so when this is divided into a five day working week, you can quickly see that you can enjoy lots of free periods and time off.
What are students like in Chinese universities?
By far, the best part about the job is the students! Chinese students are far more studious than western students and are serious about their study. However, they are also great individuals, some shy, some outgoing, some dorky, some nerdy, some outrageously funny, and all are very keen to meet you and be taught by you. For 99% of Chinese university students, you will be the first non-Chinese person they have ever met in real life. They have lots of pre-conceptions and mis-conceptions of what foreigners (the name used for non-Chinese here in China) are like, mainly due to Hollywood and TV. They'll have lots of questions for you about your life back home and they find our style of teaching fascinating compared to the Chinese style of education. Get your students up and out of their seats with speaking practice and language games and they'll soon love you!! The students are generally 18-24, as you would expect in a university setting. You'll probably come into contact with between 300-400 different students per week.
Where will you be living?
When you teach English at a Chinese university, nine times out of ten, you'll be living in a nice apartment on the teacher's campus. Many of the teachers, both foreign and Chinese, are housed in their own campus within walking distance of the university. The apartment is your own and should be nicely decorated, fully-furnished with all mod-cons and a computer with internet. The rent is free as part of your package, but you will be expected to pay for utility bills such as heating, phone, internet, etc. This is the same for Chinese members of staff.
Oh yeah!! This is another AMAZING reason why working at a university is better than working at a private language centre. The year is divided into two semesters - autumn semester and spring semester. The first week of teaching starts in the beginning of September and you'll be done around or just after Christmas. There will then be no teaching for seven or eight weeks, but you'll still receive your basic salary! You will be free to stay at home, travel around China, do what you want! Classes start again towards the end of February and you'll be finished in early July.
The Salary at a Chinese University
If you have come to China to earn as much money as possible, then teaching in a Chinese university may not be for you. This isn't because of low hourly pay (hourly pay is actually higher in universities), it will be because you usually have less teaching hours; around half of the teaching hours in a private language centre. However, if you have come to China to enjoy your life experience, do less teaching hours and get a lot more free time, then do consider a university job. Expect a monthly salary of between 5,000RMB to 8,000RMB (depending on hours taught) for 99% of university teaching jobs in China. Housing is free, flights are paid for!
I want to teach at a Chinese university!
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