Learn Chinese in China
blastsphere

Teaching math/science instead of English teaching?

27 posts in this topic

I was working on an master's in STEM in the US but am thinking about dropping out since it looks like it will take another year. I have some questions about teaching math/science in China:

  1. Are math/science teachers looked down by the locals? I heard English teachers are often stereotyped as "losers back home"
  2. With just a bachelor's and passing the substitute teaching test, am I restricted to just teaching kids? Or could I teach high school, college, or adults? Which offers the best salary and working conditions? Is there any advantage for having an master's in STEM as opposed to just a BS?
  3. I have 2 yrs experience as a TA in university. Is that relevant at all to teaching math/science in Asia? I've heard its possible to teach English in China without a teaching license. Is that true? Would passing a substitute teaching test in the US be helpful?
  4. Since I'm interested in other Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Malaysia, is getting a math/science job any different for those countries than China?

 

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In Hong Kong, you would need a post graduate qualification in education to teach. I am unsure if it is totally mandatory but I think more have it than don't have it.

Let's put it this way, having formal teaching qualifications will make you look less likely of having taken the easy option out.

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Are you looking at teaching in local schools or international schools?

 

If you're looking at international schools, I can help a bit. My wife teaches music and art at an international school in Tokyo, and did the same in Taipei before we moved here.

 

International school teaching jobs are pretty cushy compared to primary/secondary school teaching jobs in the US. Pay is good to excellent (for teaching), benefits tend to be very good, housing is often either free or heavily subsidized, moving and settling-in expenses are paid for, etc. It's going to be difficult to get a job at a decent international school (and you should stay far away from the sketchy ones) unless you already have teaching experience and a license. It does happen, but generally only with "specials" teachers (PE, fine arts, etc.) who are otherwise highly qualified and experienced in their field. Math/science teachers tend to have a higher barrier to entry. A master's degree would help; an incomplete one, not so much. You should get in touch with Search Associates or another reputable international school recruiter. They'll be able to give you a better idea of your chances.

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I would strongly advise you to finish your Master's.  Science and maths jobs in China generally require a postgraduate degree with teaching experience.  A teaching qualification, while not necessarily required, would only strengthen your position.

 

If you wanted to teach in a 'true' international school (American kids) then you would require a teaching qualification and it would be much the same as teaching in America.

 

I'd say there is an added prestige to teaching something that isn't English.  Everyone's first response will be that you're an English teacher and they'll generally be pleasantly surprised if you can tell them you teach Maths or Science.

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I would strongly advise you to finish your Master's.  Science and maths jobs in China generally require a postgraduate degree with teaching experience.

But don't those positions require a Master's in Education? How would a master's in STEM help if I already had my bachelor's in STEM and I don't have a bachelor's in Education?

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Another option you can consider is teaching math/science to Chinese students who plan to leave to study abroad, typically in the international division of a local Chinese public/private school. These schools generally have lower requirements of new hires (as far as teaching credential or experience) and you will get a chance to integrate more deeply into the local culture, but positions are harder to locate and offer lower pay/benefits than true international schools. You might still have to complete a TEFL course for visa purposes, but this can be done in a few months, by correspondence, and at a minimal cost. Some of these schools use of the IB framework, which could give you a foot in the door as far as teaching at IB schools.

 

A couple recruiting agencies associated with this kind of position are:

 

http://www.teachingnomad.com/ (no idea, just ran across them)

http://shyulun.com/en/index.aspx (had some bad experiences with them, but they had a good list of schools)

 

I also advise contacting the schools directly so the recruiting agencies don't get a big chunk of your salary. You can find such schools by googling "<city name> school international division", but like I said these schools can sometimes be elusive. Also, communication is very different in Chinese business culture so don't be discouraged if your first few attempts at contacting them fail to get a positive response. For example, Chinese rely heavily on texting, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings, and are not so big on using e-mail.

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As msittig has pointed out, my comments were all about international divisions in Chinese high schools, teaching to Chinese children.  This would not require a Master in Education, but would require a Master's degree in a subject related to the one you wished to teach.  

 

As a further example to what you may expect, you can look at this website. (Disclaimer: I do not, nor have I ever worked for Dipont and I do not vouch for them as an employer.  I provide this as an example only.) http://www.dipont-edu.org/welcome.php

 

I'd follow msittig's advice though and try and make direct contact with a school you like.  If you can't find it on google, try and find the principal on linkedin.

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I teach STEM in the international division of a Chinese high school, with a BSc in STEM. Most locals have never met anyone who does my job, so they don't have any feeling about it.

 

A Master's degree in the STEM subject is not necessary - nor would it be helpful for actually doing the job. You don't need a Western teaching licence, but you will probably need a TEFL certificate to meet the visa requirements.

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So as people have mentioned, teaching science or math content in English generally pays much better than just teaching ESL. There is a pay hierarchy between private Chinese high schools/international divisions and international schools that enroll foreign students. The latter, which are foreign run, are not generally licensed to enroll Chinese nationals, but tend to pay a lot more and have much better benefits and professional development opportunities. However, the international schools with foreign students, generally have a minimum two year teaching experience requirement and most want a valid teaching credential in a Western country.

Depending on why you want to head to China to work, the Chinese schools with international schools can be a decent gig. However, you'll generally have more teaching load than a typical ESL teacher. The pay will be quite a bit better. Say twice or three times as much as your base pay as an English teacher. The international schools working with international schools have better pay at better managed schools. The students will generally come from more varied backgrounds. The best piece is that you can easily go to work in other countries if you decide to later move on from China. A master's degree could very well increase your salary at on of these types of international schools if it's related to what your teaching.

It's best if you want to make international teaching a career to get experience teaching Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes as soon as possible.

The good news for you is that many international teachers don't want to go to China, science teachers are in short supply, the pay in China has been good, and there has been huge growth in international schools over the last decade. There are some very poorly run schools. You may find International Schools Review to have some decent information, but beware there are some real blowhard idiots on it too.

Good luck.

Eion

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Thanks for all the replies. When you guys say its necessary to have teaching experience, such as for international schools, would my 2 years of experience as a TA at a US university count at all?

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Another I question I had: Since I know many teachers in the US don't like their jobs because of their principals, difficult students, being pressured to improve the test scores for their students, how is it different for teaching in China? I heard in Asian countries, teachers get alot more respect and students are much better behaved than in the US. Is that true? Can anyone here say whether they liked teaching better in China than in the US or vice-versa?

 

If Chinese students are that bad, I'll have to go into university teaching. Would I be qualified for university teaching jobs if my bachelor's or master's is not in Education?

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can anyone answer my last question about university teaching jobs?

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You will be qualified if you have a PhD.

Unless you are teaching TEFL, a Chinese university is like any other university when it comes to hiring faculty.

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Your best choice is an international division of a Chinese high school. If you are sure you want to drop out of your master's.

You might need a master's if you want to teach at an international school, so it is better to look at international divisions of Chinese high schools instead.

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Can anyone else share their experience teaching at a Chinese high school? I've heard students at these schools can be lazy and unmotivated, have no respect for foreign teachers, and just sleep in class and ignore you? How true is this?

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It depends a lot on the school and the subject you're teaching. If you're teaching English as a ESL class, then it's possible that a majority of your students don't care as the foreign English teachers don't teach things that they'll need to know on the Gaokao. It will probably worse once English is taken off the Gaokao (university entrance exam) in 2020. 

If you're talking about a school that runs an international program where students are heading overseas and you're teaching a regular content subject I'd say the students are generally more motivated. A lot will depend on how strong the students' English level are in the classes you are teaching. I have friends working in these types of schools and the quality of their students varies considerably. On average I'd say the students are more motivated than a typical American high school. 

Have you decided what type of teaching and school you're going to target in China?

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I plan to teach STEM in the international division of a Chinese high school because I don't have a teaching license yet. Once I get the license and teaching experience, I plan to teach at mid/upper-tier international schools

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If you're at a good Chinese high school in a major city (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou) then the students' English ability should be good and mostly they will be focused on learning the content. As you get out to smaller cities or into the interior, the level of students' English drops and you end up having students who struggle to succeed. Sometimes "laziness" is due to a student not thinking they can succeed, so why try at all. Sometimes the disconnect between the language skills they have and what they need to excel is pretty big.

You may be able to find more information on specific school's on International Schools Review's paid members' forum - https://www.internationalschoolsreview.com/ . In the member's section you can ask others if they know about particular schools though there are not too many people working at those types of schools who are on the forums. Some, but not too many, though lots of people work in China.

Getting a license while you're overseas can be a hassle. That's one thing the PsyGuy fellow on the ISR Forums actually knows something about.

 

Get IB teaching experience if you can. AP is the next best or A levels if you want to work at British schools (I wouldn't as they are more demanding when it comes to teachers' time). Get your credential and at least two years of post-credential teaching, then you could be quite marketable with mid/upper-tier international schools.

Good luck.

 

Eion

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Thanks for the reply

 

I've gotten interviews at 2nd-tiers, such as Hangzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, etc. How is the students' English levels at those cities?

 

As for International School Review, I already am a paid member. I only found info on international schools. But for now, I've only gotten interviews at Chinese high schools, not international schools

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@blastsphere,

 

You probably won't get interviews at good international schools serving foreign students without a teaching certificate. Years ago (2004) I was hired as a middle school teacher without a degree at a school serving international kids and it was a very poorly run place. It was also poorly paid. I decided to head back state side and then head back overseas once I was better situated with experience and a credential. 

What you're planning can certainly work. I've had friends who have worked years at Chinese high schools, but who never earned a credential and the problem ends up that you're not really able to get work at the international schools in China. It can be comfortable working at these schools and you make better money that ESL teachers, but it's still much less than you make at a solid international school serving non-Chinese kids (well, kids without mainland Chinese passports; effectively many of my students are culturally/ethnically Chinese and I don't mean overseas Chinese). Also many countries won't allow you to get a work visa as an international teacher without being credentialed as a teacher. Right now it's not the case in China, but stuff like that can change over time.

 

I don't have friends that work at Chinese high schools in those cities. The people I know working at Chinese high schools are in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. However, my gut says there will be students with strong English skills in those cities as they're fairly well off and it's the type of place where students are likely to have had foreign English teachers over the years. So if you're at a good Chinese school in those cities, I would expect it to be a decent situation. You're going to have to make a bit of a leap of faith to take one of these jobs and honestly if you end up at one of these Chinese high schools I'd recommend you not stay there longer than 3 or 4 years before trying to make a move to a real international school. This will be helped if you can teach IB or AP at the school you end up at, and it's even better if you can teach multiple subjects at that level. So a teacher who can teach Biology and Chemistry, or Chemistry and Physics, is much better situated than someone who can only teach biology or chemistry or physics. A math/science combo teacher is also in a good spot (math/physics).

 

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