China has long had an insatiable thirst for English learning and is one of the leading employers of ESL teachers in the world. Many of these teachers work at training centers, or schools designed specifically to teach English as opposed to other subjects. Because these Chinese training centers operate differently than traditional schools, we wanted to take a look at the specifics to help future teachers evaluate if they were a good fit.
What Exactly Is a Training Center?
A training center is a school with the sole goal of providing English lessons to children and adults – they typically have fewer classrooms than a normal school and hold most of their classes when regular schools are not in session (think nights and weekends). Two of the biggest training centers are run by EF and Wall Street English and have hundreds of locations all over China, usually in populated areas like malls and shopping centers.
Training centers are extremely popular for students because they often offer superior English education when compared to Chinese public schools – they almost always employ native English speakers and use curriculum that is much better than the average school. In addition, the fact that they operate outside of normal school hours means students can get extra help without sacrificing other subjects.
Most training centers in China employ 3-10 foreign teachers and have small classes with typically between 3 to 10 students at a time. Modern training centers in large tier 1 cities are typically very well equipped with the students utilizing tablets and the teachers working with smart boards.
What Are the Students Like at a Training Center?
Training centers aren’t cheap and the majority of students need to be quite well off in order to afford classes. With that being said, affluence does not go hand in hand with well-behaved you’ll be hard-pressed to find a teacher that doesn’t have a few stories to tell about a rowdy student. Also, because most classes occur after school, many students will either be tired or distracted by other assignments, which can impact their class performance.
The flip side of this is that you will likely have some extremely dedicated and motivated students – kids that want to learn more after regular school can be a pleasure to teach and advance quickly due to their drive.
Finally, most training centers also have quite a few adult classes towards the end of the night – these are always desirable groups to teach due to their English abilities and drive to learn.
Teaching Hours at an English Training Center
As previously mentioned, one of the biggest downsides to working at a training center is the schedule – classes begin late in the afternoon and go until evening during the week and can go all day on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to regular classes, many students also request tutoring, which can take even more time but is optional for teachers and can increase your pay.
Do not expect to have weekends off when working for a training center, instead try to ensure you get 2 days back to back. These will become your new weekend as most teachers report being exhausted after a full Saturday and Sunday of teaching.
How Much do Training Centers Pay?
The average training center pays 10,000 RMB for 20-25 hours of teaching (this is for a tier 1 city). There will be additional duties on top of that like marketing and office hours, but most contracts will not exceed 30 hours total.
One good aspect of working at a center is the abundance of bonuses – teachers are often rewarded for everything from student retention to new students gained. in addition, there is usually ample room for advancement for teachers with experience – most established training centers offer raises and promotions to teachers who renew their contract or get hired with proven experience.
Is Working at a Training Center in China Right for You?
If you don’t mind the schedule or the hours, I personally think that training centers are a great job for first-time or inexperienced teachers in China. Reputable companies like EF and Wall Street offer significant training and onboarding to ensure your arrival in China goes smoothly and you will almost certainly have an established group of coworkers with whom to socialize when you arrive.
Related: What It’s Like Teaching in Beijing
On the flip side, if you aren’t keen to work on the weekends, are looking for a job that pays extremely well, or want to work in a traditional school then a training center isn’t for you.
Finally, if you have a decent amount of experience and don’t need much in-country support, there are more prestigious jobs out there that pay better and offer an equal amount of upward mobility. This is not meant as a slight to current training center teachers but veteran teachers have expressed that they were not challenged when working for a training center and often went on to find another position.