China – The Right Choice for First Time EFL Teachers
So, being TEFL certified, you have a strong theoretical background and a few hours of practical teaching behind you. Now the job search begins. I incessantly began comparing countries and each one’s pros and cons. The thing is, I could not make a decision based on information published in 2011. Times change and policies in countries regarding EFL with it. In an attempt to help those of you in a similar situation, I have compiled some handy information mainly regarding why China is a great choice when you are a first timer.
Why the Country You Choose Matters
As a first time EFL teacher, one of my main concerns was finding a school or institute that would be willing to spend enough time on training me in their various systems and make sure that I understand and am able to implement their specific approach to teaching. If you look at the different policies and approaches ESL/EFL countries have, you will find a big difference between what each country looks for and regards as a native English Speaker. There is a consensus between natives from USA, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. China, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, private schools in Korea and UAE consider South Africa as another native English speaking country, while Japan and Korea have strong objections against hiring South Africans. If you find that your country and company only hires USA citizens and you happen to be from New Zealand, tough luck, because they will most probably treat you as a second-class teacher.
Hence, the fact that you need to make a choice regarding which country you want to teach is a crucial decision that most teachers fail to properly research.
China’s Attitude Towards EFL Teachers
As one of the biggest producers of TEFL jobs, China has a big demand for native speaking English Teachers. The pressure to supply this demand makes for competitive salary packages, added benefits such as health insurance and travel insurance, housing benefits and school loans and much more. As a first-time teacher, you want to know that you will be offered a good deal that is secure and offers you a comfortable living in a foreign country. Packing up your bags to move to a completely different setting is a big sacrifice on your part and usually companies in China know this. In general, there is a high regard and respect towards foreign teachers here, so if you follow the right routes, such as making use of a good recruiter such as On the Mark Education and researching the schools and institutes in your own time, you will be sure to land a comfortable job with a good infrastructure. This is especially concerning training, mentor-ship programs and senior teacher who are available for guidance.
One of the goals of the Chinese government is to ensure that each child in the school system gains access to English conversation and language learning every day. This is quite the task to achieve. The market for recruiting and appointing qualified native English speakers is clearly still very strong.
It’s Who They Are That Matters Too
Apart from the fact that there is a high demand for native speakers, it is the Chinese culture that also makes a big impact on why this is a good choice for newbies in the EFL world. As a nation, they show understanding, honesty and are open to new experiences. My Chinese colleagues are extremely helpful and always try to correct me in the nicest ways possible. They are generally soft-spoken with foreigners (even though they can be INCREDIBLY LOUD AT TIMES) but that just comes with excitement and amazement at some event or such.
Other EFL teachers that I have met have previously taught in other places before coming to China. The thing that struck me was the behavior of employers in other Asian countries towards non-USA teachers. These teachers had to adapt an American accent and were told to be dishonest about their backgrounds. In China, while there is some preference towards UK and USA teachers, being an English teacher from neither of these countries does not matter as much as long as you are a qualified EFL teacher who has proven proficiency in English on a native level.
Therefore, if this has not made you want to pack your bags and head on over here, then I have failed miserably. That is okay though. I am in China and enjoying every second of it!