Different Kinds of Schools in China & Who They’re Best For

Different Kinds of Schools in China & Who They’re Best For

Aside from gazing at a map and thinking of where you want to teach and how much you want to make in China, one of the more important questions you should be asking yourself is which kind of school you’ll be teaching at.

After I took my TESOL course, I felt ready enough to teach a small class of young, cuddly kids. What I didn’t realize was that the training center I had signed a contract with also sent its teachers to public schools. This meant on the weekends and week day evenings I had my regular students that I would later be teaching for the next three years, and then a couple days during the week I would be going to either a kindergarten, primary, middle, or high school.

The first public school I ever taught at was a middle school that had a terribly bad reputation I was unaware of, being the n00b in town. Not only amongst the foreign English teachers in the city, but it was just known as a bad school with students that weren’t exactly motivated. #teacherlife

When I think of a 13-year-old Monica, she was a definite trouble-maker that did not care about anything but friends, doing the opposite of what her parents asked, and making up imaginary dogs that ate her homework. Now multiply that by 70 students who do not speak your language, only care about their smart phones, and have been in school for eight hours before they have your class. That is the middle school I taught at.

To end a long story short, middle school teaching was not for your girl. But that does not mean it isn’t for someone else out there. Just like I love teaching kindergarten and some people can’t get into it. Because I didn’t do my homework and no one provided me guidance about the type of school I would teach at in China, I will spare you the potential year of hell, and let you know about the options available to you based on experience, qualifications, etc. 

Different Kinds of Schools in China

  • Type of School: Training Center, Private School, Language School
  • Ages: All Ages
  • Students Per Class: 1-15
  • Scheduling: Weekday evenings, all day weekends, two days off during the week
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 30-90 minutes
  • Amount of Classes:  4-12
  • In-Class Chinese Assistant: Yes

Who’s It For?

Training centers have a few interchangeable names, as referenced above. They are privately owned and essentially after-school/work programs, which classifies them as businesses. Class sizes are much smaller, as parents are paying for an intimate learning experience where the teacher and students can work together more closely. Curriculum and a teaching assistant are provided, making classes very manageable. Hours are a little backwards being that you work weekends and weekday evenings. However, with two days off during the week, you’ll never work an early morning Monday-Friday, allowing you to travel, pick up extra work, or do whatever. Training centers are great for first-year teachers, as they provide lots of training, small class sizes, and low hours.

  • Kind of School: Kindergarten
  • Ages: 3-6
  • Students Per Class: 10-25
  • Scheduling: Monday-Friday
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 20-40 minute classes
  • Amount of Classes: Roughly 10-20 per week depending on the school
  • In-Class Chinese Assistant: Yes

Who’s It For?

First year teachers are welcomed as classes are short, curriculum is provided (mostly using flashcards and lots of ESL games), a teaching assistant is in class, and sometimes incorporating art to make learning more interesting. Kindergartens are for creative people who love kids, have a lot of energy, and know how to make learning fun. Stepping out of your comfort zone, being a performer, and engaging with parents are a part of this position.

  • Kind of School: Primary/Elementary School
  • Ages: 6-12
  • Students Per Class: 25-40
  • Scheduling: Monday-Friday
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 40-minute classes Weekly
  • Amount of Classes: 20-25
  • In-Class Chinese Assistant: No

Who’s It For?

Similar to kindergarten, you will have shorter classes and may be teaching students English for the first time in their lives. Creativity is key in any classroom, but especially in primary school when students will no longer have a Chinese assistant to help you translate to them. Curriculum  is provided, however you will have to manipulate it a bit so that it incorporates less rote memorization and more speaking, readying them for middle school.

  • Kind of School: Middle School
  • Ages: 12-14
  • Students Per Class: 40-70
  • Scheduling: Monday-Friday
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 40-minute classes
  • Amount of Classes: 20-25 Weekly
  • In-Class Chinese Assistant: No

Who’s It For?

Not for the soft-spoken, teaching middle school students is for teachers with experience and those who enjoy a challenge. Curriculum can be either provided or you may be responsible for developing it and heavily tailoring it to each classes learning ability. You will have a class monitor, (one of the more capable students) to help you delegate and enforce classroom norms. Starting strong on the first day and instilling rules and regulations is key for a successful year.

  • Kind of School: High School
  • Ages: 14-18
  • Students Per Class: 40-70
  • Scheduling: Monday-Friday
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 40-minute classes
  • Amount of Classes: 20-25 Weekly
  • In-Class Chinese Assistant: No

Who’s It For?

Similar to middle school, high school is for teachers that have experience working with young adults. While students will be spending their high school years preparing for their soon to be English-less Gaokao (college entrance examination), it’s important to keep them focused on learning one of the most spoken languages in the world by incorporating pop culture, group speaking actives, and letting them into your life to create a bond and form trust. Again, you will not have a teaching assistant, but a class monitor responsible for implementing rules.

  • Kind of School: University
  • Ages: 18-22
  • Students Per Class: 40-50
  • Scheduling: Monday-Friday
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 40-120 minutes
  • Amount of Classes:  4-12 Weekly
  • In-Class Chinese Assistant: No

Who’s It For?

University is one of the most relaxing and stress-free teaching positions in China. If students are taking an English class, it’s likely because they are an English major, which will encourage them to maintain their focus. Classes are can be lengthy, but curriculum will be provided, group exercises will be key, and the class monitor will aid in making sure lessons go smoothly.

  • Kind of School: International School
  • Ages: kindergarten-high school
  • Students Per Class: 10-20
  • Scheduling: Monday-Friday
  • Vacation Time: Summer, National Holidays, Chinese New Year
  • Class Times: 40-60minutes (rough estimate)
  • Amount of Classes: 5-12

Who’s It For?

International schools practice an education system of that in the west. The students will likely migrate from class to class studying different subjects, all in English, all with foreign teachers. Students must hold a passport from any country other than China, meaning cultural diversity in the class is prominent. English is not the second language in the class, it is the first, but students of all backgrounds will do their best to communicate in anyway possible. International schools are made for teachers with years of experience in their home countries and the teacher should also have a certified teaching license from their motherland as well.

Now that you know how much you can make in China, the different kinds of schools in China, and how much to bring, you should have a solid foundation of what to expect as far as your teaching life in China goes. Because you will never sign a contract with us and only sign contracts with schools directly, bits and pieces of this information are absolutely subject to change. What kind of school do you work at? What has your experience been like? Leave it in comments below or share this info with someone looking to start their New Life in China!

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