A surging demand for learning the English language in China has turned the export-intensive country into an importer of American teachers, creating thousands of potential jobs for recent graduates. As many as 300 million Chinese people are learning English, said Katie Wagnon, the recruitment manager at English First, a division of the Lucerne, Switerland-based EF Education First, which has offices and schools in more than 50 countries. The need for educators in the world’s most populous country has left schools scrambling to fill positions, and recruiters eager to capitalize on the market.
“Basically if you speak English and have a degree, you can get a job over here because English teachers are in such high demand,” said Lindsey Henrikson, a 22-year-old graduate of Northwestern University who teaches at the Pass College of Chongqing Technology and Business University. The downside is “there’s pretty much a 50-50 chance that you’re either going to have a horrible recruiter or a horrible school, and a lot of people end up breaking contracts early because of that.”
Schools in smaller towns will take a chance on teachers like Henrikson, who has no formal teaching experience and plans to work for a year before returning to the U.S. for law school. Her college-level students already know English grammar and how to read and write, so she is responsible for stimulating conversation through games and activities. In major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, however, the Chinese government is upping its standards, said Carrie Kellenberger, the global director of recruiting for Reach To Teach Recruiting who previously taught in China from 2003 to 2006. Teachers must be at least 24 years old, have one or two years of formal teaching experience after graduation and obtain a certificate to teach English as a foreign language, or TEFL.