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I ntroduction to InterGreat Recruitment

Our team also has a fantastic understanding of the entire process of getting a job abroad, the move overseas and of course the challenges of adapting to an entirely new culture having done this ourselves (and with some of our team on multiple occasions)! As a result, we pride ourselves on providing a completely consultative approach to teacher placement based on sympathy, empathy and professionalism.

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understanding of the best types of school to work in as well as direct knowledge of the expectations and requirements of their western teachers. Before we agree to work with them, the school has to fill in a detailed questionnaire and when possible the staff in our China office will go to visit them.


Our team has significant international education recruitment experience working with international and international bilingual schools, TEFL centres and universities around the globe placing education staff at all stages of their careers from Senior management team members (especially for new schools in SE Asia and China) to classroom teachers for the last 18 years. All our team members have had experience living and teaching overseas, mostly in China, and so have direct experience to draw from. This gives us a unique perspective on the type of person who will become a successful teacher and the skill sets needed in order to thrive. Additionally, having worked in similar education environments to those of our clients, we have a strong


Teaching in China The Chinese Education System

The Chinese Education System and Bilingual, International Schools


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Over the last 15-20 years the Chinese education market has undergone a rapid and revolutionary change, especially with the development and extraordinary growth of international education in its various forms. The international private schools market in China has grown substantially due to an increasing demand from Chinese parents for an international, bilingual approach to learning for their children. In 2008 there were a handful of International schools on the whole offering British and American curricula, by 2014 there were 629 international schools in China, many of which were

schools for the children of foreign nationals that had very limited access to Chinese children. In 2019, there are 857 international schools in China and 563 of them are international Chinese-owned private schools. Over that same period, there has been a 63.6% increase in student enrolment, with 245,500 students now enrolled in the international Chinese private schools. In total 372,000 children in China are now enrolled in an international style of education and 66% of these children are Chinese nationals attending international Chinese-owned private schools in the country.

The effects of the development of bilingualism and internationalism can be felt in the Government school sector particularly in up and coming cities where the government has injected significant amounts of investment. Whilst in some cases these school may take a more relaxed approach to their definition of internationalism in terms of curricula, the demand to learn English through a variety of subjects is still a strong and provides an opportunity for Graduates and TEFL teachers looking to work in an alternative environment to a language centre. Overall what this does mean is that for now China does represent the most diverse market for a teacher to get a job in depending on your qualifications and experience. Whichever role you end up in one thing is certain, it will be challenging, stimulating and rewarding for you as a teacher and most importantly the students under your care will benefit significantly.

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There are several factors that have prompted this market change including an increase in education expenditure by more families as a result of a growth in prosperity in the country; the impact of China’s two-child policy which is now seeing an effect within Early Years education; amendments that have been made to education regulations in recent years which now provide clearer guidelines and more opportunities for foreign schools to engage with the private education sector; and an increasing awareness by Chinese parents of locally

accessible private international education opportunities.


These schools are particularly successful because, during the compulsory years of education, the Chinese curriculum can be integrated with elements of international teaching and learning, including some learning in the language of English. Such a bicultural educational approach is what a growing number of Chinese families want; one that retains local culture and history, while introducing international elements that provide the skills necessary to prepare children for global higher education and careers.

Class size Class size for primary schools have been falling since the beginning of this century but still around 25 per class. Average class size of high schools in cities is around 50 and in rural areas can be as high as 70.


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Hours of study Chinese students are required to stay at school from 8 in the morning till 9 in the evening, followed by more homework. For high school students preparing for the notoriously competitive National Higher Education Entrance exam, it is common for them to study till the early hours into the morning each day.

Result-driven approach On top of all that pressure, English language courses are seldom chosen by students (or more likely the parents) out of sheer interest. They are viewed as investment to improve one’s academic performance in general education, prepare for specific tests such as TOEFL and IELTS or to enhance one’s career prospects. As a result, the quality of teaching and sometimes integrity of the teacher are largely judged by the test results obtained. Don’t let this get you down. Whilst you should never water down the quality of the lesson provided, it is still very important to remember that part of your job is to show that there are many different ways of learning and in some cases the end result is not as important as the participation in a class or an exercise. The secret is to make lessons as valuable as is possible but at the same time they should be enjoyable as well.


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Things to think about before you leave

Visas To be able to teach legally in China you will need a Z Working Visa. Within 30 days of your arrival in China your school will assist you with upgrading this Visa into a residence permit in a Public Security Bureau (police station). This permit will normally expire at the end of June the following year, and is good for multiple entry, meaning you can leave and return to China during your year abroad without difficulty. Obtaining a Z-visa is complicated but once you are in China there’s lots of benefits to it, and you will be able to leave and re-enter the country at will.


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When you are in China you will find that many teachers working there are doing so on the wrong visa, having taken a shortcut at this stage. This is a big risk in many different ways, which is why ultimately it is better to do it properly now.

For further information please refer to website:

For your visa you will need to send the following documents to your school and wait for them to receive an invitation letter: • Official statement confirming you have no criminal record, apostilled and embassy stamped • A notarized, apostilled and embassy stamped copy of your degree certificate • Reference letter by employer or academic adviser post-graduation date on company headed paper • Completed TEFL (if you don’t have this we can arrange for you to take one on line through our partner Haida Education)

Understand the visa application process so you know what to do when the visa invite arrives in the mail

The documents you will receive in the mail are invitation documents you need to apply for the visa, not the visa itself You will use the documents to apply for the Z-visa for China. You can do it in 3 cities in the U.K.: London, Manchester and Edinburgh. You can apply in these cities in person (you need to make an appointment in advance) or by mail. Applying by mail involves sending off your passport as the visa will be stamped into your passport.


If you are going in person it’s important you book an appointment in advance. It usually takes 3-5 working days for the documents to arrive in the mail, so stay in touch with the school and book an appointment around the time they send off the documents, or even before. You can book multiple appointments in case you miss one.

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If you live far from these cities it is best to send off the application, Edinburgh usually processes applications the fastest.

Crucially, your passport will be required in order to obtain a visa. If you do not yet have one, you should apply for one immediately. If you already have a passport, check that it is up to date and valid for the duration of the placement as a matter of priority and again well before you make your visa application. As you will be temporarily without your passport whilst the visa application is being processed, you should plan any other overseas trips that you may be considering prior to taking up the placement with this important consideration in mind.


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In order to apply for your visa, you also require a degree certificate, a CRB check, a TEFL qualification and a note from your doctor stating that you are fit to teach in China. If you are graduating in the summer of the year you intend to come to China, the visa application will have to wait until you have received your graduation certificate. During that time, you should ensure that you also have all the other documentation is in place. Some universities may be prepared to give you your degree certificate early, so please ask. In most cases, a criminal disclosure letter is a suitable substitute for a full CRB check and costs a fraction of the price, although this will need to be confirmed by your school. If you are applying for a visa via post, you must send the original copies of the supporting documents required, not photocopies. The originals will be posted back to you.



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DO NOT book your flight until you have obtained your visa.


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Banks and Bank accounts in UK You will need to inform your bank/building society that you may use your credit/debit card in China. Even if you don’t intend using your card, it’s always worth informing them anyway just in case. It’s a very quick job – just ring the company helpline or go into your local branch and give them the dates of your trip so they know not to block any withdrawals or purchases you may make in China. In addition, check the expiry dates of your card(s). If any are likely to expire whilst you are in China, speak to your bank and order a replacement well in advance of your departure.

Familiar UK mobile phone networks are not suitable for use in China as you will be charged an extortionate amount for texts and data. Your school will help you set up a new SIM card, normally with either China Unicom or China Telecom. If you have a mobile phone contract that still has some time left to run in the UK, it may therefore be worth enquiring how much it would cost to buy out of it, weighing up the cost of continuing your monthly payments against simply buying out of the contract altogether.

There are two further important steps to take as regards your financial situation. If you are a student graduating this summer you will have probably benefitted from a student loan. You should therefore inform Student Finance England that you are leaving the country so that they don’t expect loan repayments. Fill in and send off this form - uk/slc-overseas-income-assessment-form. pdf. SFE are obviously very keen to begin recouping their loans once graduates become eligible and are likely to continue to try to contact you via your address in the UK.


Mobile Phones

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Student Loans

HMRC It is also important to speak to HMRC to inform them of your employment status and whereabouts. This will ensure that there are no gaps in your employment/tax history and you cannot later be accused of income tax avoidance.


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Approaching the end of your placement it is very important to ask for a certificate of salary or similar from your school, clearly showing exactly how much you have been paid and taxed. This document should also state that you only worked between nine or ten full annually (allowing for the Chinese New Year break) as this does materially affect your total earnings for the year. Such evidence may prove invaluable in future, most especially when required to provide evidence of income by SFE or HMRC.

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Gui de to liv i ng an d wor ki ng in Ch in a

Managing Your Money Setting up a bank account in China is usually a straightforward process, all you need is your passport and proof of address. Most bank workers speak enough English to make setting up your bank account relatively easy. You don’t always need to deposit money into a new account straight away, giving you greater flexibility. Popular Chinese banks include HSBC, Bank Of China and ICBC. One thing to remember is that there is no easy way to transfer money between your UK and Chinese bank accounts and you will likely have to pay for this service.

Accessing Healthcare

Be sure to make an appointment at your GP surgery well in advance before departure in order to discuss the vaccinations you may need for your trip.


Not all feminine Hygiene products are available in China, so if you have a preference for a specific kind then it would be advisable to bring a large supply with you beforehand.

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There is no NHS equivalent in China. In public hospitals, emergency medicine can have long waits and uses a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system. This means that you often have to pay upfront to see a doctor and then before each part of your treatment, e.g. x-rays, prescriptions etc. Most UK expats will choose to see a private doctor in an international hospital. The best way to find good, private, international doctors in your area is to ask your WeChat expat community.

Download A VPN


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If you are moving to a country with censored Internet, download a VPN (Virtual Private Network) beforehand. Countries like China censor most news sources and will completely cripple your social media habit (no YouTube, or Facebook, or Google—oh, my!). A VPN allows your computer to bypass the firewalls and access servers around the world. While this is technically considered “illegal”, it is widely practiced among expats. For the best VPN in China, use ExpressVPN. They regularly update their software specifically for expats living in China. Avoid free VPN services since they can be unreliable, and you can obtain most services for about $100/year. Note that it is far more difficult to install your VPN once you have arrived in your censored host country. Bonus: Even if you are moving to a country without Internet restrictions, a VPN allows you to stream Netflix movies from your home country!

• VyprVPN: Great apps for all different operating systems. Has a fantastic Chameleon feature and options to adjust your level of encryption. • StrongVPN: Excellent premium service. This was my first VPN when I came to China, and their reliable customer service is accessible even from China. • ExpressVPN: One of the most popular choices among China expats and one of the most reliable. As soon as firewall upgrades are implemented, they’re on the case. • Astrill: A high-speed service, also a popular favorite among China expats behind ExpressVPN. • Tunnelbear: A great free VPN providing a 500mb bandwidth limit. • NordVPN: This VPN is excellent for obfuscation and keeping data transmissions private.


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• PandaPow: This VPN service isn’t as big as some of the other providers with servers in many different countries.

Check In With Your Phone Service Provider If you would like to keep your current phone, make sure it is internationally and carrier unlocked. Most phones are internationally unlocked. However, many phones are locked to a service provider. If your carrier doesn’t provide service in your host country, you will not be able to connect your phone with a new service provider. Follow these steps to ensure your phone is carrier unlocked before you leave home. Another option is to suspend your current service and buy a new phone to use in your host country.


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Update Your Passport This may seem obvious, but make sure your passport is up to date with at least six months validity remaining. If your passport is set to expire within the year, it may be prudent to renew. This will save you the hassle of going through the consulate in your host country while you are adjusting to your life abroad. Additionally, if you must apply for a work visa after arriving in your host country, bring plenty of extra passport photos. While they are easy to obtain upon arrival, save yourself the hassle—you would be surprised how many you might be asked to provide while going through the work visa application process (specifically in China).


Beauty products: there are a lot of options, but not always the brands you want. Also, due to import tax, your regular products can be significantly more expensive than at home. Also be aware that in China many products have whitening agents in them.


Remember that some contraceptive pills are available on prescription, but not all.

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Local pharmacies throughout China do have a number of over-the-counter items, including Panadol, cough syrups, cold and flu medicines. But be sure to check with the medical facilities in the city that will become your host as to whether they have your specific prescription medication.

The talking cure Keep the lines of communication wide open with your spouse and children before, during and after the assignment. Talk openly about everything, and be there to listen and support each other. Besides making sure that you maintain routines and stay in contact with home, it is better to involve children as soon as possible in the decision-making process. Let them hear your arguments and allow them to state their opinion. They are important family members and will feel happier if they are treated that way.

Beware the trailing spouse! If one partner is relocating for the sake of the other, make sure the trailing spouse has a support network set up, even before the actual move. Many trailing spouses leave a good career behind to accompany their partner on the expat assignment. Going from a rewarding career with many social contacts to becoming the housewife - or househusband - is quite an adjustment by itself. Combine this with setting up life in a new country with a different language and you have quite a challenge on your hands.


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Expect difficulties Don’t underestimate the pressure the assignment will put on your family and marital life. It’s much better prepare to deal with these problems rather than hoping your family will be an exception. It is true that some locations are easier to adjust to than others. But, regardless of the location, an expat posting inevitably affects family relationships. The good thing: they mostly change for the better. Families who put in the extra effort are rewarded with closeness between family members that is stronger than ever before. Some of the extra effort needs to be put into building excitement about the move and being positive. There will inevitably be bad days, and you have to find a way to go on. A good sense of humour will help.

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Proper preparation is one of the keys to a successful posting. Too many people go into a posting without having done their homework and jeopardize their family’s chance at a great experience. Going into a new location without all the necessary information will lead to unpleasant surprises that could have easily been avoided. You need to be responsible enough to take advantage of the many resources available to you to properly prepare the entire family for the new adventure and significantly increase the chance of success.


Do your homework


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Taxes in China Foreign teachers are exempt from paying taxes in China up to the level of 5,000RMB per month and for the amount above 5,000RMB a tax rate of a few percent applies. Schools usually deduct this percentage from the pay so as a teacher you do not need to take any action to declare your taxes.

Quick deduction (CNY)



Over 3,000 to 12,000



Over 12,000 to 25,000



Over 25,000 to 35,000



Over 35,000 to 55,000



Over 55,000 to 80,000



Over 80,000



0 to 3,000


Tax rate (%)

Monthly taxable income (CNY)

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Monthly Tax Deductions


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Gui de to liv i ng an d wor ki ng in Ch in a


The Challenges of teaching Chinese students and what you can do to avoid them

Teacher-centred orientation As part of the Chinese traditional value of respecting seniority and the practical challenge imposed by large class sizes, most Chinese students are used to being told what to do by the teacher. When introducing a student-centred approach in teaching practice, students might not be fully cooperative or not know what to do. It is really important not to give up on using this kind of approach regardless and over time you will find that the students will come to trust you and interact in a more positive and meaningful way. Usually you will have a Chinese co teacher and you can use them as a sounding board on what works and what will not work with their students. You will often find that they are much more friendly and approachable outside of the classroom too. Don’t worry that is normal as well.


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Words and Sounds that are difficult to pronounce Different pronunciations require different muscles to work collaboratively involving lips, the tongue and jaws. Some are unique to a particular language. For instance, the pronunciation of /th/ does not exist in the Chinese language thus is one of the most difficult ones for students to get right. Similarly, lacking understanding in the originality of certain words, it is quite confusing for some Chinese students to ascertain which pronunciation is the correct one to choose from a range of options. For instance, for the letter combination of ch, most of the words originated from English are pronounced as /ch/:chick, church, cheat; but for words originated from ancient creek, they are likely to be pronounced as /k/: chorus, Christ, Christmas; but for words originated from French, they will be pronounced as /sh/: chef, chic champagne. Thus the challenge for English language teachers is to allow plenty of practice and seek common grammatical rules wherever possible.

Chinese students can be hard to interact with Ever since kindergarten, respect to teachers, self-discipline and follow instructions are over praised as valuable personal characters. So even as young adult with many years of English language learning experience, when asked by senior or authoritative figures such as a teacher, they could be incredibly shy and give out minimal answers using telegraphic speech which is associated to the early stage of the language development. To be able to hold a free-flow dialogue requires proficiency in all four major processes related to speech production hence could be a nerve-racking challenge for most Chinese students. When you plan your lessons you could think about incorporating some coping strategies such as ice breakers , interactive games with an educational purpose or another activity which gets them talking.

How to keep students motivated

Make the curriculum relevant

Employ teaching approaches that are suitable

Be a good Role Model

Encourage students autonomy and self confidence

But also remember that whilst you are in the classroom one of the most effective resources that you have to encourage students to learn English is yourself. So please don’t forget to use this wonderful opportunity for the students to become inquisitive, curious, thoughtful and insightful about other cultures and identities, such as your own.


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It should be obvious to you if you have been accepted as a teacher in China, or anywhere else for that matter, but preparation is key. Making sure that you get to know your students formally and informally, what their likes and dislikes are. You need to understand what they need to learn as well as what they want to learn.

Your school It is really important to keep your colleagues in your school on side. Be punctual, be friendly and always be willing to help. The Chinese concept of ‘Guanxi’ (关系) which translates as the ‘basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence’, is a central idea in Chinese culture and is all about connections, relationships and respect. If you do a favor for someone and treat them kindly, they will do the same to you. Offer help with English classes or marking – not only will it help your relationships with your colleagues and settling into your school, but they will treat you with the same grace if you are too sick to go to work or need help with a translation. By no means will everyone in your school speak English, and even those that do may be very shy about conversing with a Western native. However, that’s no reason not to smile and wave them a friendly ‘hello’ on the corridor. It is important to be seen as friendly and welcoming. The head of English will most likely be your lifeline within the school, but will be extremely busy, so help out where you can or offer them resources that you have found. You will quickly realize just how busy your students are too. Many will start the day at 5/6am, be at school 8-4pm and then complete three to four hours of home study. After school clubs and extracurricular activities can be of real benefit but do not try to push them on your school if they do not ask them of you, as the majority of the students may not have time to attend. Your school should tell you whether or not you are required to set your students homework.


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Your school or academy should assign you a ‘coordinator’ or ‘waiban.’ They normally speak very good English and are there to help you with any problems you may have, be it within school or of a more personal nature such as a trip to the doctors or an issue with your landlord. Treat them well because they will be your lifeline. In most cases, foreign teachers do not have their own classrooms, but instead move around according to where their students are. For this reason, your laptop bag or backpack will become a ‘bag of tricks.’ Depending on the age of your students, it will always hold stickers, stamps and resources for games. This ‘bag of tricks’ will quickly become mental as well as physical and you will always have a backup plan or game in mind if something isn’t working or a task takes up less than its allotted time on your plan.

The basic materials you require in the classroom will be provided by your school. The extent of these will vary depending on your schools finances, for

example, some schools will ask children to share text books, and some will get one each. If you are asked to cover any written work with your students, carrying a pad of paper will be a life saver when a student claims to have none. Make sure you have a memory stick with plenty of space on it in case you need to move lesson plans to and from the school computer. Arts and Craft material can be bought cheaply in China , so there is no need for you to bring these with you although if you want to bring some things from home that have a particular interest then please by all emans do so as the children love these kind of things.


It’s impossible to make concrete lesson plans before beginning your placement as you may not know the exact age of your students until you arrive. However, ideas for topics and games that can be adapted to match the needs of different age and ability groups will save you a lot of time and stress in the first weeks, so we always advise that you do some research. Free resource sharing sites like or are also packed with useful material.

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Lesson planning and materials

Reward systems Some teachers use their own reward systems within their classes and find that stickers and stamps work really well. These can be bought cheaply online, as well as in China itself. Those with English words on are particularly interesting to the students as well as educational. If you are teaching very young children, the chances are that they will not have a formal exam at the end of the year to test their learning. In these cases it is especially important to push short term goals, be it sticker charts, counting up team points at the end of a lesson or working towards something like a 5 minute clip of Despicable Me. That being said, competition is a great tool to use for all ages.



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You will quickly become efficient at planning. Your students too will quickly learn how you structure things –the games you play often will not need explaining, and they will learn to understand your gestures and key words. Lesson planning is much more about quality than quantity – presenting engaging and appropriate activities and with a lively and enthusiastic attitude that engages the students and encourages them to learn (sometimes without even noticing!). The amount of time that planning takes will decrease greatly once you develop a routine, learn what does and doesn’t work for you and grow in confidence as you play to your strengths. One lesson plan may be adaptable enough to cover say five lessons, just requiring small tweaks to tailor it to different abilities, which is very economical in terms of preparation time.


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Profile for ellen.h

Guide to living and working in China  

A comprehensive guide for new teachers looking to work and live in China as a TEFL teacher.

Guide to living and working in China  

A comprehensive guide for new teachers looking to work and live in China as a TEFL teacher.

Profile for ellen.h