China cracks down on expat English teachers

Posted on 2 Sep at 6 PM in Working Abroad
Story link: China cracks down on expat English teachers
China cracks down on expat English teachers

China cracks down on expat English teachers

For the last few months, the Chinese authorities have mounted a crackdown on Western expats teaching English.

Once considered a necessity for Chinese eager to learn the world’s international language, China’s expat teaching community is now in a state of shock due to an aggressive clampdown by local authorities. Arrests, imprisonment and deportation are being used as weapons against the community, with half a million English teachers working in government schools now unsure of their futures. Many arrived as a response to the vast country’s international education boom and are working in international schools, private schools, government schools and language centres in all China’s major cities.

It has to said that, although young graduates and experienced teachers have all the necessary qualifications to do the job, the huge demand for English teachers has resulted in others without the relevant internationally recognised degrees or experience getting jobs. Thousands, it’s believed, have only a TEFL qualification acquired via three to four weeks’ study at a course provider. As a result, huge numbers of Chinese are learning the admittedly difficult language from unqualified and inexperienced teachers. Official demographics suggest that, out of the 400,000 foreigners working in the country’s education system, some 60 per cent are doing so illegally.

According to local media, it’s not just poor qualifications and illegal working which is causing the crackdown, as there are also links to drug-related offences involving both teachers and pupils. Spot urine tests caught out 16 students and teachers from one of the country’s largest ESL schools, with similar arrests allegedly taking place in Beijing, Shanghai and other major Chinese conurbations. Another reason for the crackdown is purported to be ideological, as the authorities have always been wary about foreign influence within the education system. Comments such as ‘disruptive foreign influence’ are being made, and expat teachers who criticise the political system and its lack of free speech are likely to find themselves summarily thrown out at best and imprisoned at worst.

Nowadays, this combination has spurred warnings to those determined to live and work in China, with experts saying the risks far outweigh the rewards, especially for English teachers. The current situation between the USA and China isn’t helping either as, when tensions increase, foreigners and their systems are regularly demonised by the authorities. However, one way to teach Chinese is still open for digital nomads and those still living in their home countries, provided they have the right VPN and good internet access. Teaching English online is now increasingly popular as well as financially rewarding, and can be done without risking arrest and deportation.

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