Teaching in China is sometimes not for the faint of heart. One day it can be mad and infuriating and other days it can be nothing short of wonderful. One thing it’s not, and that’s boring.
I’ve spent most of my time teaching in kindergartens while in China. I never pictured myself working with such young kids, but I have to say, I LOVED it. Teaching such young children does not suit everyone, but having patience and experience with nieces and nephews, I figured I had what it takes.
Choosing the Type School
If you don’t have a clear idea of what type of school you want to teach in, time is well spent doing your homework. Knowing the pros and cons of the different school types and matching them to your experience and personality is an important factor if you are going to enjoy your time teaching in China.
Picking the wrong job can mean a miserable existence. There is nothing worse than working in a job you late. Afterall there’s a good chance that is the reason you are in China in the first place.
Schools in China are generally split up into the following categories:
- Kindergarten Schools
- Training Center
- International School
- Public School
Kindergartens in China – An overview
Kindergartens come in many forms. Some are independent who others are attached to International schools.
International school kindergartens usually have significant resources and are expensive to attend. They pay competitive salaries and benefits for foreign teachers and usually have good working conditions. To get a job here, you will need qualifications in education or a degree in Early childhood Studies.
Even independent Kindergartens outside international schools can have vastly different working conditions can. They can be crudely categorised as
- International kindergartens
- Regular Kindergartens
International kindergartens generally have better working conditions and therefore harder to secure a job. Some teachers will be licensed teachers; however, most won’t have education qualifications. Instead they will have the minimum requirements to teach in China coupled with experience teaching in kindergartens or training centres.
The better working conditions will come in the form of paid summer and winter holidays. You may also get additional benefits like housing allowance. In general, International kindergartens will have a better set up and be better organised. Then again, this is China, so do not take anything for granted.
Other than ‘regular’ kindergartens lacking in paid holidays, there may not be a noticeable difference between the two schools categories. In fact you may find a much lighter workload and the expectations of parents, which is all too important in Chinese schools, easier to handle.
A day of like in a Kindergarten
While working in Kindergartens in China, one of the first things you will realise while is the full day schedules. As foreign teachers, we may not agree with this quantifiable approach, this is prevailing attitude to early childhood education.
Here is what a full day’s schedule usually looks like.
8-8.30: Children usually arrive at the school
8.15-8.30: Children eat breakfast and have some free play
9.10 – 10.15: Two classes or activities (usually)
10.15: Outdoor play time
10.45 – 11.45: One class and story telling
11.45: Lunch Time
12.15 – 14:00: Nap time
14.30: Class time
15.00: Outdoor play time
15.30 – 16.30: Two classes or activities (usually)
16.30: Dinner time
17.00: Kids go home
Salary is important, especially if your reasons for going to China are financial.
Like the working condition in China, the salary can also vary wildly. As mentioned, the best salary and benefits are found in international schools. Even if international schools’ jobs are out of reach, other kindergarten jobs are still some of the best paid teaching jobs in China.
Location has a big impact on salaries. Expect to get paid anything from 17-20,000 RMB per month in a tier 2 city like Chengdu or Xi’an. Expect 20-27,000 RMB in a tier 1 city like Beijing or Shenzhen. Either way, be assured you will not be going hungry at the end of every month.
However frustrating times can get when meetings were organised at the last minute or you felt you were kept in the dark, it was always overridden by the children who you taught and the adorable smiling faces.
If you have patience and like children, a kindergarten teaching job can be rewarding in so many ways.
About David O Connor
David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.
About China by Teaching
China By Teaching is the brainchild of a group of expat teachers living and working in China, who first arrived with an abundance of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn everything there was to know about teaching in this enigmatic country.
Nowadays, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to offer guidance and support to those who wish to follow our path, one that wasn’t all that easy to navigate, initially.