The Booming Market for English Teachers in China
If you're considering teaching overseas as a way to see the world and enjoy an encore career, look east to China.
Private schools there are on a hiring tear because many Chinese parents want their children to learn English to thrive in a global economy. China is becoming the fastest-growing private English education system in the world, according to a survey by Disney English, a Magic Kingdom subsidiary that runs 22 Chinese academies that teach English to preschoolers. Another recent study says that China's private education market is projected to grow 45 percent between 2009 and 2012.
Some English language programs in China are soliciting people 40 and older to teach. Their ranks include the Teacher Ambassador Program, a joint venture between United World College, a chain of 13 international colleges and schools, and the U.K.-based Ameson Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes East-West cultural and educational exchanges.
The program, called TAP for short, currently is hiring recruits with bachelor's degrees and prior teaching experience to work in high schools in 13 Chinese cities this fall. While teaching abroad isn't new, the confluence of Americans looking for ways to give back later in life and a growing Chinese appetite for American teachers is, says Deborah Stipek, a Stanford University education professor and TAP advisory board member.
Other programs accept teachers of various ages. Jobs posted on the YouCanTeachEnglish.com job board seek applicants between 25 and 55. InterExchange, a nonprofit offering multiple work-abroad programs, hires English-language teachers 19 to 45 to work in China. GoAbroad.com, an online search engine for study, travel and work abroad opportunities for people of all ages, lists 180 programs at 87 organizations in dozens of Chinese cities offering teaching positions.
If you're looking to teach overseas as a way to live frugally while stockpiling money for retirement, you might be disappointed. Roger Jones (right), 55, moved from Los Angeles to teach English at Sichuan University in Chengdu in 2006. Since then he's paid off credit card debts and traveled extensively but hasn't been able to set aside retirement funds "or save piles of money," he says in a Q&A with YouCanTeachEnglish.com.
There are other drawbacks. In some parts of China, pollution is a problem. This spring in Chengdu was the worst allergy season in recent memory, Jones writes in a recent post on his blog, Running Into Myself. "My eyes are constantly stinging and watery, my sinuses feel like someone shoved a fistful of dry pine needles up my nose, my breathing is labored and shallow, and my cough persistent," he writes.
Recruits accepted into some overseas teaching programs can face fees of $3,000 or more to pay for orientation, training, Chinese-language lessons, overseas teacher certifications and other services.
For boomers and others who take teaching jobs, however, the pluses often outweigh the minuses. For many, it's a chance to see the world and get paid for it. TAP, for example, pays salaries equal to $1,000 to $3,000 a month, plus health insurance -- not bad for a country where living expenses are substantially lower than in the United States.
Allen Glick, 65, an ex-Marine who worked for years in residential and commercial construction, had already switched careers to teaching before moving to Suzhou, China, two years ago to teach English through TAP. Part of the draw was his ex-wife, who was teaching at an international school there, and with whom he's since been reunited. "Living in China has been like a second honeymoon," Glick told TAP organizers. Students are utterly respectful, he says. "I seem to hold an honored position among them. Many of my teaching colleagues in the States would stand in line for days to have students like mine."
To prepare for his move to China, Sichuan University's Jones perused online message boards frequented by overseas teachers to better understand what the job entailed. He also recommends being clear about what you want; preparing for a "gap year" spent teaching is a lot different than deciding to move somewhere for several years or for good, he says.
Once you've decided what's right for you, be sure to set practical goals, Jones says in his interview with YouCanTeachEnglish.com. He suggests taking language classes and learning the differences between the U.S. and Chinese education systems.
"For example, in China you may have large classes, up to 50 students for (spoken) English classes," he says. "There's a huge emphasis on rote learning in the country's education system; education is controlled by the single political party; there are "forbidden" topics -- Tibet, Taiwan, religion, politics -- that can't be discussed in class."
Read more: Retiring Overseas in Style
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