Some thoughts on teaching English in China and Indonesia

It’s been more than a year since my last post but I think i’s important to put some information out there for prospective English teachers.

After I left Korea in 2015 my went to China. I had a two year plan and was very excited about the position I’d accepted with EF 6 months prior to my departure. I was promised a few things including:

  • professional development in the form of a TESOL and later a Dip.TESOL.
  • a professional teaching environment surrounded by lots of other foreign teachers
  • high standards

The truth was rather different. There’s no doubt that the first two weeks of orientation were great. We were put up in the Holiday Inn Shenzhen and got our training materials, polo shirts and bags. All very nice.

After orientation I was moved to a “new” school that was very far from the centre of Shenzhen. None of the teachers I met during my time there had even heard of the suburb I’d been placed. It turned out that I was the only teacher at this school, surrounded by sales staff. Staff who would mix ages together paying no regards to student levels. I always got the distinct impression they were purely money-driven.

We had no business licence so I couldn’t officially teach either. Cue weekend demo lessons and unofficial classes afterwards to keep students interested. So far, so good. They got an oven and I had to bake cookies with kids but we had no fire extinguishers in the school!!!

Someone thought that it was a good idea to put wet coffee grounds all over the school to absorb the smell of paint… which lead to a fly infestation. HUGE flies. In Korea I used fly swatters to play games with kids. In China I had to use it to kill flies.

This school was built according to a “new design” which featured all glass walls. Very practical for playing games and keeping your students’ attention. Especially the classroom that looked out into the mall. Very clever.

We had lots of iPads but no workable wifi. The big touch screen TV that replaced all whiteboards (and contained the whole lesson plan, videos and activties) would switch itself off after 5 minutes of you not touching it. Also, if a fly was on the screen you couldn’t write on it.

That was my work environment.

I went to an info session about TESOL training. We were told that there was a lack of trainers in China which meant that anyone interested in development would go on a waiting list and that senior teachers would be given preference. I was  also told that I’d probably have to wait until my second year before I could do a course and  that my manager would have the final say about whether I could attend/ whether my leave would be used for the course or not.

It was after attending this session that I decided not to continue working for EF after my 2 month probation. After 2 months, you’d have to give 2 months’ notice. You only required a 3 day notice period during your probation. I gave a week’s notice but I still had my apartment.

When you move to China, there is a lot of pressure on you to choose an apartment as soon as possible. Your office is supposed to help you, but only as much as they can be bothered. I was advised to take  an apartment I was very hesitant about because it required a 2 month deposit and first month’s rent upfront. That worked out as GBP1500. I walked away from it initially, but my manager told me it was a good deal.It was only party furnished so I spent another 500GBP at Ikea to make it liveable. (I am a bare necessities kind of person: pots, pans, iron, duvet etc.).  When I gave  notice on my apartment it meant losing out on a month’s non-refundable deposit and re-selling my practically brand new Ikea stuff. BIG LOSS. I only recently paid off this credit card debt.

When I handed in my notice, EF begged me to stay and offered to move me to another school. I declined saying that I felt that they had been dishonest from the start.I was really disappointed that I’d planned a 2 year career move 6 months ago based on lies.At my debrief, I was told by the on-boarding guy that less than 40% of teachers stay the full year. That is all you need to know about EF China. Overworked, underpaid. In the month after I left, 3 other teachers that I knew of, left too. While at my school, one sales person and the Chinese head of school left too.

I was waiting out my last month in my apartment so I started job hunting. I chose a job in Indonesia that offered my a CELTA as part of my contract, as well as a work visa (KITAS) , accommodation and a flexible schedule which meant that I could freedive 1 week/ month. I asked a million questions because the deal seemed too good to be true.

I was very happy to leave China.

The Indonesian dream was mostly all true. Unfortunately, the most important part, the visa, never came true. Indonesian Immigration is a joke. My colleagues and I spent a year working on business visas while we waited to be processed. It became evident after 6 months that the KITAS was a pipedream. I finished my contract a month ago and just heard that immigration was going from house to house in the neighbourhood where foreigners live. They took at least one passport away.

I would not recommend working as an English teacher for most companies in Indonesia. Aim for a public or private school, not an academy. Ask to speak to previous employees to find out the truth about KITAS. Why should you take the risk to make money for someone else?

Stick to Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. If you teach in China, aim to work at a public school.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s