My tefl Blog

Teach in China: How to Avoid the Scam Schools

It’s a huge adventure to teach in China. You learn, earn, and get to experience awesome new ways of life – so long as you do it right. With the high value of English teachers comes a few schools that just want to cash in. It’s the same with any industry in any country. Most schools offer great places to work, with a fun environment, and sweet pay. But some don’t. At myTEFL, we’ve had the experience with spotting rotten apples, and we’re taking the time to provide you with a few insider tips on how to avoid them:

1. The Work Visa Scam

teach in ChinaIf there’s no “Z” visa included, run.

Some schools may tell you that to teach in China you don’t need a work visa, or that it’s better for you not to have one. The lure of higher wages, no taxes, and/or “This is China” bravado is a huge red flag. Check straight away that any job comes with a work visa. If not, leave quick enough to catch the same bus home. Without a “Z” type work visa you’ll have no employment rights, no claims over pay discrepancies, and can be arrested. Working illegally in China can get you banned, for life!  

2. The Recruitment Shark 

teach in ChinaWhen you teach in China, make sure you’re the one getting paid. It might be tempting to let a recruiter or agent find a job for you – but don’t do it. They eat into your salary, often aren’t looking out for your interests, and may scam you in other ways…  Commission: For each teacher they assign to a school, recruiters earn a huge commission. Typically a job advertised at $1,200 p/m might actually be costing the school $2,000. The extra $800? You’ll never even hear about it. ID theft: Never give your passport to recruiters, or provide them with photocopies. These are often sold to  identity thieves, potentially causing you even more serious trouble in the future. Instead of using recruiters, search reputable job networks online such as with myTEFL, or check for reviews about each school you see advertised.  

3. The Chinese Contract

teach in China$2,9120 looks good, but this isn’t even a job contract! Don’t sign what you can’t read. Even though you want to teach in China, you should only sign a contract that’s written in English, and that you have read carefully beforehand.  A school might not be trying to scam you here, but there may be certain aspects and duties of the job which might not have been discussed, or that you didn’t expect. For more tips on signing the contract, check out our article: 8 Tips before signing.   4. The Extended Probationteach in ChinaThe rule of thumb: 1 month per year of employment Check the length of the probation period before signing anything. If they insist on a period longer than a month, you might want to think twice. Dan Harris, from the China Law Blog, explains that Chinese law protects those who teach in China by limiting probation periods to 1 month for contracts lasting up to a year, and 2 months for contracts between 1-2 years in length.  Some schools may also state that you will only get your work visa after passing the probation period. Or they may say if you don’t pass your 1 month probation, it’ll be extended for an additional 3 months. Watch out.   5. The Lesson Plan LeechTiger leach in Sabah It’s normal to share lesson plans, but make sure you have the job first… When you teach in China, it’s common for schools to ask that you personalize lesson plans, or construct your own whilst working for them. It’s a great way to help you express yourself in class and use your curriculum development skills to enhance your students’ education.  However, if a school is keen to take copies of all your lesson plans before signing the contract, or during your probation period, you might want to look more carefully at the school. They might just be interested in snatching your ideas and using it without actually employing you.  

6. The Flipperteach in China

You want to teach in China, not bounce between schools like a pinball. Are all the teachers at the school fairly new? If so, you might want to consider why.  Some schools offer an initial low salary during their probation period. For the few dishonest ones out there, this may be used to routinely hire teachers, and then fire them before their probation ends – thus keeping their costs low. You can avoid this by first ensuring the job comes with a visa, and second by chatting with some of their current teachers.  

Finding an awesome school 

The vast majority of schools offer fantastic opportunities to teach in China. It’s common to get a good salary, with accommodation included, flight reimbursement, and even some bonus spending money for Chinese New Year and/or summer break.  You can find these by going through well established classified sites such as The Beijinger and e China cities – and applying the tips above to each job you go through. Alternatively, with your myTEFL online course, you can get partnered with great internship experiences and job placements from our network. We maintain ties with reputable institutes, suited for helping new teachers land on their feet.
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2 comments

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TeacherMonica a month ago

The digitization of recruiting has made getting a job in China even more frightening. I was scammed by a western owned recruiting company. I trusted them because all of the reviews online seemed positive, but they were writing many of them themselves. My advice: check and double-check everything.

robbo a month ago

Trust me, Monica, it happens in Thailand just as often if not more so. Right now i am battling to get back 1000 USD from a placemt agency that my school forced me to use. Never again. Maybe i will have to bring in some of my italian friends from NY to pay this firm a visit.


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