China is one of one the world’s biggest markets for teaching English as a second/foreign language. With the world’s largest population and as the most populated country in the world which does not speak English as an official language (in contrast to India), the demand for English teachers will always be abundant. Many websites and services offer teaching opportunities galore, as do we here at China Global Connections. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t be careful. When looking for a teaching job to apply to you shouldn’t dive at the first post you see, but rather check it carefully for certain criterion of trustworthiness and credibility. Like many things in China, TEFL and TESOL scams do exist. There is no immunity from facing this risk. In opting for this career, we want you to be able to have a reliable, safe and fun experience. As a result in this article we’re setting out to you some of the things you need to be careful of when seeking these jobs!

The correct Visa Criteria

To teach English in China, you need an authorized category Z Work Visa which is approved by your local Chinese visa centre or embassy. Nothing else is acceptable. Only an authorized and legitimately registered business or institution has the authority to provide you with the documentation to receive one of these. In applying for a TEFL/TESOL job, make sure that the educational institution or 3rd party recruitment company is offering you validated support for this visa. If they tell you that you can teach on a tourist visa, this is illegal and will put you at risk of arrest. Even English teaching can be subject to law enforcement efforts, so don’t take this risk. As will now be built on below, this requires you work always and only at legitimate institutions.

Checking the validity of your employer

Just a month ago a group of Irish teachers in China were arrested and detained for teaching English at an unlicensed institution. Although they were working full time, with proper visas, for an officially licensed school, they had took on an extra-circular part time job at an unregistered institution without any authorization, which meant they were working illegally. This poses a number of lessons for those still seeking TEFL/TESOL jobs. Before you even think about going, ensure that the organisation you will be working for is legally valid. If, as noted above, they want you to work on a tourist visa, then it’s more than obvious they aren’t. You should where you can research the organisation that could be your employer, is it a legitimately registered and recorded school? Or is there something suspicious and vague about it? Do you have all the information? Don’t take risks here. You expect your students to be doing homework, you should be on this.

Do they seem desperate? Too good to be true?

When applying for these jobs, the application process should be given some serious thought as well. Does the potential employer seem desperate to have you in communications, even if they know little about you? Do they give the impression they will accept anyone they get? This is problematic, it suggests a lack of quality and standards. Although the consideration should be given that these jobs are in such high demand it may seem less competitive, at the same time something that seems too easy gives the impression it may be unreliable, or simply “too good to be true”. This should be given some carreful thought. Some TEFL/TESOL positions are of a higher prestige and calibre than others, and more competitive posts will ultimately be more beneficial in the long run.

Conclusion: Research the bad experiences of others

As a general rule you should not be wandering into any profession knowing nothing about it. English teaching is a big commitment. Before applying for anything, develop a knowledge of what has gone wrong and what can go wrong. TEFL and TESOL Scams are always a possibility. But, luckily for you, there are abundant forums, webpages and facebook groups to gain a grasp of this. Focus on learning how people have been deceived regarding positions, benefits or promises, learn the challenges you’re liable to face whilst in the role, learn the “warning signs” of what may constitute a bad or unreliable employer and so on. Remind yourself constantly that you are choosing to work in a foreign country which although fun and magic in its own way, has a unique social, political and cultural environment. China is a great experience, but it is one which requires preparations, not least when working there as an English teacher!