What should you care about when signing a work contract

After the two sides show both their interest to establish an employment relation, the employer (school) will send the candidate teacher a contract for the teacher to sign. This contract is to stipulate the liabilities and responsibilities of both parties. So what should you pay special attention to in this contract? The following advice is from Heather, the placement consultant at JimmyChina.

1. Terms about salary and benefits

The most important task of the contract is to define the exact salary and benefits the school will provide to the teacher. This includes monthly salary amount, specific date of payment, travel and housing reimbursement, and any other benefits. Make sure that you fully understand all the items and that they are identical with what you have been promised. You should also take into account any income tax that would be in place. If you have any questions about the terms, you are advised to consult with the employer.

2. Start and end date of the contract

The contract gives a start date and an end date of your job. The start date is a targeted date which may change due to visa application process in the coming weeks. If this is the case, do not worry, an official employment contract will be signed after you come to China which will confirm the actual dates.

3. Probation terms?

Be aware whether there are any probation terms? Three points are of crucial importance here: how long will the probation be, how much will you get paid during the probation, and most importantly, how will you be assessed to qualify to progress to be a teacher. Normally, schools place great significance on a candidate teacher’s ability to present ideas and interact with students. In another word, so long as the students like the teacher, the school will consider him to be a good teacher. This is because emphasis is often given to triggering students’ learning interest in English teaching in China.

4. Reply deadline

Make sure whether there is a set reply deadline for the offer, either from the employer or from the recruiter. Normally it is to all involved parties’ interest to reply as soon as possible. As the place can not be held for one individual for an unlimited period of time, you are advised to reply as soon as you can.

5. Special terms or any terms you do not understand

You are advised to read through the whole contract carefully, and make sure you fully understand all the items, and consult the employer wherever you find some specially illustrated terms or any terms you do not understand.

One thing you can rest assured on is that any legally accredited schools would comply with legal regulations and the contract signed with foreign teachers. As long as you are clear about all the terms, you are absolutely safe to sign the contract.

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Major differences between public and private schools in China – maybe this is important

The difference between public and private schools is distinct in China. So it is absolutely to your great interest to know the type of a school when considering a placement it offers. Public schools usually refer to public high schools and universities and private schools privately run training centres. Both are recognised by the government and are allowed to recruit foreign teachers upon administrative permission. Legal procedures are also the same for both for recruiting foreign teachers.

The major differences between public and private schools are the following:

    1. Different teaching objectives

Public schools provide curricular courses. So teachers normally are given a syllabus and textbook to follow, although many schools may also allow teachers to apply their own way of teaching and assessment. Amid concerns that curricular studies are not sufficient for students to learn and practice the language, the market of after-class private English training grows. Therefore, courses in private training schools are usually set to enable students’ to learn more practical elements and to really practice listening and speaking. This is why so many private schools need foreign teachers to be in their teaching team. Nowadays, training in English skills is very common to see in China even at the pre-school ages.

Different teaching objectives result in different teaching methods and environment. But in many cases, a teacher’s personal attributes also matter.

    2. Different working time and holidays

Public schools’ timetable is in line with national academic terms. So you work from Monday to Friday, and rest on weekends. Every working day, you work 8 hours and normally have 1-2 class per day on average. It is up to individual school’s management policy whether you have to be in office if you do not have any class in one day, although many do require this way. Public schools have many holidays. In addition to the national legal holidays such as the Spring Festival and the National Day Festival, you also have two term vacations, one in July and August and one between January and February. The total duration is nearly 3 months.

Private schools provide extracurricular courses, so the working time and holiday arrangements are totally different. Normally, teachers are guaranteed 2 days off every week, but you do have to work in weekends or even in evenings in many cases. Workload is usually between 20-25 hours a week and you are free to spend your leisure time, that is, when you do not have any class even in working days.

    3. Different salary levels

Public schools are subject to local governmental financial budgets and policies from relevant authorities. However, private schools are supported by huge profits from the fast growing markets. So private schools normally provide much higher basic salaries. Although real salaries depends, we usually take it as a common guidance that a private school can provide some 2,000 – 3,000 RMB per month more than a public school in the same city. What’s more, it is very likely that a teacher earns much extra bonus due to excellent performance in a private school.

However, major benefits including flight fair reimbursement, free accommodation, and medical insurance are both provided, although public schools may have their own residence halls on campus and the majority of private schools normally rent apartments for teacher near the campus.

No matter whether you work with a public school or a private organisation, you are provided with free accommodation and a salary that is quite higher than average earnings of Chinese people. So you should be able to live a comfortable life here. Personally I advise you to judge which is better to you according to your personal needs. In general, I would like to say, if you want to experience the real Chinese education and have more time to visit around, a public school may be right to you. But if you want to earn more money and enjoy more flexibility in teaching activities, you are advised to consider a private school.

Please note that this article is only based on personal experience and should only be taken as general reference. Real circumstances may differ.

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Tips on the interview for a teaching job application in China

Many schools consider interview performance to be a crucial indicator of a candidate’s suitability to a teaching position. This is because interview is the only opportunity during the application procedures for the school to directly talk to the candidate and learn about the candidate’s English speaking, language organising, characters, and passion for teaching. The interviewer may also take this opportunity to conclude about the interviewee’s interpersonal skills, values, teaching experience and methods, and career expectations. To succeed on a job interview, you are advised to follow the following tips.

  • Make sure you follow the best method of conducting an interview

In our experience, the most desired way of interviewing is video calling on such IM tools as Skype and MSN, with Skype being the most frequently used one due to its outstanding functionality in audio chat. You should understand this because a face to face communication, even a virtual one, is believed to can help the interviewer to make a more reliable judgment on the interviewee’s attributes and qualities. Therefore, you are strongly advised to prepare a Skype or MSN account and a video camera for the interview. The next thing is to make full use of these.

On a much less frequent basis, telephone call is also used for interview purpose. However, it is not recommended due to its less interactive nature and the higher cost. In some circumstances, schools would still ask for a video chat in addition to a telephone interview done.

  • Make making yourself well understood your top priority

To some extent, an interview can be viewed as a lesson teaching test. The interviewer would consider the way you communicate with him/her the way you will do with students. So, speak slowly and clearly, avoid using slangs and idioms or cyber words, and repeat whenever you feel there may be misunderstandings. In a word, try every effort to make you well understood, so far as you believe you can be accepted by students who are basic English learners.

  • Show your passion and try to establish personal emotional connection

Chinese people are largely emotional, and thus normally will feel better about friendly and cordial talks than serious ones. In China, to establish emotional connections is a very important part of interpersonal skills (this is also true when you start teaching). Therefore you are advised to speak with smile and make the air more friendly and relaxed. Especially when this is about teaching, the interviewer will very possibly believe you to have great potential in teaching if you can do this. Remember, teaching is partially about establishing connections with the audience.

  • Get prepared for some frequently asked questions

Although this is not what you must do, it might help you to build a smooth talk to get prepared for some very typical questions. These may include self introduction, your education and work experience, relevant teaching experience, why you want to come to China and start a teaching career, and any other questions the interviewer may discover from you CV. In some cases, the interviewer may request you to give a mock class starter speaking or complete a specific teaching task (normally this should be notified to you in advance). Getting well prepared can always earn extra credits for your performance.

  • Ask your own questions

In addition to asking for clarifications about salaries and benefits, work time, accommodation, and any other special terms, it is a tactic for you to ask something about teaching and about China to show your passion toward teaching in China. Interviewers normally would welcome questions about from pre-teaching training and syllabus to about the city and China’s festivals. Just remember, do not ask too much. Two – three questions in total can be taken as a reference.

  • Call the other party’s name and do not forget to say “thank you”

Like Dale Carnegie said, every individual is happy to see others care about his/her name. So, before the interview starts, make sure you know exactly what the interviewer’s name is. It is ok if you ask the exact spelling. Mention the name whenever you think it is proper during the interview, and end by calling the name and saying “thank you”. Sometimes it really works.

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Something You Have to Know about Beijing and Shanghai

Beijing and Shanghai may be among the most frequently referred keywords about China for one who is new to the country. It is a usual experience of ours that many prospective teachers seeking teaching positions in China deem Beijing and Shanghai to be their preferred location. This is sometimes due to they have friends or used to live or work in the two cities, more often, however, it is because they have no idea about other alternative choices nor about the intense competition for job placements in such cities.

This article is a collaboration of Frank and Heather, both of whom have three years’ experience in English teacher recruiting with JimmyChina and are born and educated in China. On a personal basis, we will ensure to present a real to life and objective introduction to our experience of living and working in China. We would like to invite you to think about the following questions:

What do Beijing and Shanghai really mean to China and Chinese people?

Beijing and Shanghai are so well known globally because they are the largest and most prosperous and cosmopolitan cities in the country. Together with Hong Kong, they represent the impression of the economically rising China in many foreigners’ mind. So what Beijing and Shanghai mean to China is just like London does to England and New York and Washington to USA. But just like London is not the only city in the UK, Beijing and Shanghai can not accommodate the big population of people who have been driven by the huge economic growth to seek for career developments and wealth. There are many “Mancheters” and “Birminghams” on this vast territory.

Beijing and Shanghai, together with Guangzhou and Shenzhen have been the gold mine for the past generations in China, while are now over crowded for the new rising generation 1980s which is going to become the mainstream of the society in the forthcoming decade. The new generation have been witnessed to be escaping from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Thinking of the fierce competitions in these cities, they believe there are more opportunities in those fast growing cities where living cost are also much lower, taking Tianjin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan as examples.

In a word, Beijing and Shanghai are the most prosperous cities in China, but definitely not the only cities that can provide convenient modern life. If you come to China, of course you should visit around the two cities, but you definitely do not have to live and work there, for which you should consider the marketplace competitions and living cost.

What are competitions like in the marketplaces in Beijing and Shanghai?

Beijing and Shanghai are truly cosmopolitan cities, maybe among the only few if not the only two in China. The English teaching market has been quite established, resulting in both entry requirements and competitions being much higher than other areas. It is very commonplace that several candidates compete for one placement. Schools, despite providing very competitive salaries, normally ask teachers to be nationals from certain countries (for example UK, USA and Canada), have a bachelor’s degree or above, have a TESOL/TEFL certificate and have at least two years’ teaching experience in specified area. Some may also have specific requirements on candidate’s age and gender. And it is also very common that schools ask for a master’s degree (Please note this is only general experience and thus can not apply to all situations). In contrast, in many other major cities candidates are only required to be a national from a major English speaking country and have a bachelor’s degree, and emphasis is usually put on your interview performance.

So if you seriously want to come to Beijing and Shanghai, we strongly advise you to take into account the high requirements you may have to face up to. If you otherwise wish to work in a city close to Beijing or Shanghai, this is also available. Foe example, if you work in Tianjin, you can go to Beijing in half an hour, and if you work in the Wuxi city of Jiangsu province, you can arrive at Shanghai within one hour by train.

What is the living cost in Beijing and Shanghai?

Although we live in this country and gain knowledge about Beijing and Shanghai every day, we are surprised to learn that they are respectively ranked 20 and 21 among the world’s cities in terms of living cost, right after London and before New York and Paris. Guangzhou is also ranked at 38. This rank was compiled by Mercer Management Consulting and recently published by Forbes this July. From this perspective, if you work and live in Beijing, you are earning a developing country’s income (of course it is the highest level in this developing country) while spending a developed country’s cost.

What other choices do I have?

It is with great sincerity that we say as an expat you have a great deal of location choices here in China. This is because China has a vast territory and there are major cities and medium towns in nearly every part of the country, with such provinces as Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Hebei and Henan being some of the popular destinations. We encourage you to refer to our former posts “Find the most ideal English teaching position in China”and “Where else in China should I consider apart from Beijing or Shanghai?” to learn more about cities in China. You are also welcome to consult us to gain more information.

We would also like to provide some data for your reference:



Population (2010)

GDP (billion RMB)

Beijing Beijing



Shanghai Shanghai



Guangzhou Guangdong



Shenzhen Guangdong



Hangzhou Zhejiang



Suzhou Jiangsu



Nanjing Jiangsu



Tianjin Tianjin



Wuhan Hubei



Chengdu Sichuan



Chongqing Sichuan



Jinan Shandong



Qingdao Shandong



Zhengzhou Henan



Shijiazhuang Hebei



Ningbo Zhejiang



Wenzhou Zhejiang



Wuxi Jiangsu



Yangzhou Jiangsu



Changsha Hunan



Dongguan Guangdong



Xi’an Shaanxi



Xuzhou Jiangsu



Shaoxing Zhejiang



Taizhou Zhejiang



Dongying Shandong



Nanchang Jiangxi



Hefei Anhui



Changchun Jilin



Shenyang Liaoning



Foshan Guangdong



Dalian Liaoning



Yantai Shandong



Tangshan Hebei



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Step by Step Guide to Z Visa Application (Chinese Work Visa)

A foreign teacher (expert) needs a Z visa (Chinese work visa) to legally work in China. Following is a step by step guide to the visa application written by JimmyChina, a specialist English teacher recruiter based in both theUK andChina. We hope this information can be helpful to you as a prospective English teacher in China.

Z visa application roughly contains two stages: applying for work permit, and applying for the visa. On a more friendly basis, we further divide this to be three steps. Please see as follows.


Typical duration: 10-15 days (This is only for your reference, real time consumed depends)

You come to this stage after you have signed the contract with the prospective employer and with us the recruiter. This stage, where you are obliged to prepare documents for the employer to apply for the work permit for you, is the key preparatory step for following procedures.

Work permit is an essential part of the proof documentation for visa application, which must be presented to your local Chinese embassy for visa application purpose. Work permit is a general term, and is comprised of two documents: Confirmation Letter of Retaining Foreign Experts and Visa Notification. Your prospective employer needs to apply for the documents for you to local Sate Bureau of Foreign Experts inChina(more details please refer to step 2), provided you provide the following documents:

CV (containing detailed information about education and relevant work experience)

Certificates of bachelor’s degree and any other qualifications above

Personal info page of passport

Passport photo (electronic copy)

Official medical form (enquire local GP for details)

TESOL/TEFL certificate (if applicable)

Reference letters (if applicable)

All these documents can be given to your prospective employer as scanned copies.


Typical duration: 20-30 days (This is only for your reference, real time consumed depends)

After having received all your documents, the employer will have to apply for the work permit for you to apply for the Z visa. Although you do not have much work to do at this stage, we suggest you to be ready for any notifications regarding further information or any other documents.

You will also have to allow for 1-2 weeks for the work permit documents (also referred to as “Employment Approval Documents”) to arrive at you by post.


Typical duration: 5-6 days (This is an officially suggested processing time for Chinese work visa application)

Applying for a Chinese work visa is simple. You simply need to make an online appointment with the Chinese Visa Application Service Center (CVASC) inLondon orManchester, and then submit your documents to the CVASC at the centre or by post. Please note that applications without appointment will not be accepted.

You need to submit these documents for Z visa application:

One completed application form (please click the link to learn which forms you should fill)

A recent passport photo

Passport with enough validity time and blank pages

Employment Approval Documents: 1. Confirmation Letter of Retaining Foreign Experts, 2. Visa Notification (originals)

You must send original documents for visa application.

To learn more details about the Z Visa, please refer to the website of the Chinese Embassy or the CVASC;

For any personal enquiries, please contact JimmyChina by calling 01213144442 or emailing info@jimmychina.co.uk.

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Find the most ideal English teaching position in China

China’s big population and increasing demand for learning English have created a fast growing market for English training in the country. Amid this historical trend, thousands of English training schools and organizations as well as college and universities have been recruiting foreign teachers to enhance their teaching ability especially in listening and speaking. Nowadays, having a foreign teacher can greatly add to a private school’s profile. Therefore, foreign teachers will find it quite easy to find a teaching position so long as you are a national from a major English speaking country and you have a bachelor’s degree. It is, however, not as easy as this to find you the best one from a bewildering array of choices.

For a prospective teacher who has never come to China and thus has no personal preference before embarking on job hunting, it is essential to take into account a few factors to decide for a teaching job. We will put them as follows, hoping these can be of help to you.

1. Geographic location of the school

China has a vast territory of 9.6 million square kilometers, with mysteries of 5,000 years’ history buried in every inch of the land. China’s geography ranges from the rain forests in the south to the snowfields in the north, from the world’s biggest and highest plateaus area in the west to lower lands in the east. This gives you a wide range of location choices, you may like to work and live in the following parts.


Southern China is believed to be the most vibrant part of China, with many cosmopolitan cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou, beautiful natural resorts and places of cultural and historical interests, as well as thriving private industries and vibrant nightlife. The south is warm and humid, much of the landscape covered by hilly grounds and some flatlands and mountains. There are not heating facilities in the south, and so it is chilly in winter especially in the mid area. People in the south normally speak their own accents and do not speak standard mandarin Chinese. This is because the standard mandarin Chinese is based on a northern accent. People in the south are said to be more capable of doing business, so there are many rich people there. There also many people of minority nationalities living here.

Major province and cities in this area:
 Guangdong Province: Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Zhanjiang
 Shanghai City (municipality directly under the Central Government)
 Zhejiang Province: Hangzhou, Ningbo, Yiwu, Wenzhou, Shaoxing, Taizhou, Zhoushan, Jinhua, Jiaxing, Chaozhou
 Jiangsu Province: Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, Changzhou, Xuzhou, Yangzhou
 Jiangxi Province: Nanchang, Jingdezhen, Jiujiang
 Hubei Province: Wuhan, Yichang, Shiyan, Xiangyang, Jingzhou, Huanggang
 Hunan Province: Changsha, Yueyang, Changde, Zhangjiajie, Xiangtan
 Anhui Province: Hefei, Wuhu, Bengbu, Huainan, Anqing, Maanshan
 Guangxi Province (Zhuang Autonomous Region): Guilin, Nanjing, Liuzhou
 Guizhou Province: Guiyang, Zunyi, Anshun
 Fujian Province: Fuzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou
 Yunnan Province: Kunming, Qujing, Yuxi
 Hainan Province (tourist island): Haikou, Sanya, Qionghai


Northern China is roughly plain grounds except mountains in the northeast, climate being dry and cold (heating is available in winter here). Compared to the south’s natural beauty, the north gives people a more culture- and history-related impression. People from many northern areas speak standard mandarin Chinese or accents very intimate to it. People in the north are believed to be frank and straightforward and easy to get along with. North-south difference is distinct in China.

Major provinces and cities in this area:
 Beijing City (the capital)
 Tianjin City (municipal city directly under the Central Government, half an hour’s train to Beijing)
 Henan Province: Zhengzhou, Luoyang, Kaifeng
 Hebei Province: Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Cangzhou, Tangshan, Qinhuangdao
 Shandong Province: Jinan, Qingdao, Yantai, Zibo, Dongying, Weihai
 Shanxi Province: Taiyuan, Datong, Linfen
 Liaoning Province: Shenyang, Dalian, Anshan, Yingkou, Jinzhou
 Jilin Province: Changchun, Jilin, Siping
 Heilongjiang Province: Harbin, Qiqihar, Jiamusi, Mudanjiang
 Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region: Hohhot, Baotou, Chifeng
(Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang are the three provinces in the northeast China, with Heilongjiang located in the fastest north.)


The west area is less developed due to its geographical disadvantage, but is also well known for its unique landscape and well preserved natural views. These vast highlands, with mysteries buried underneath its deserts and snowy mountains, attract millions of visitors from around the world every year.

Major provinces and cities in this area:
 Sichuan Province: Chengdu, Chongqing, Yibin, Deyang, Mianyang
 Shaanxi Province: Xi’an, Xianyang, Yan’an, Baoji, Hanzhong
 Ningxia Province (Hui Autonomous Region): Yinchuan, Wuzhong
 Gansu Province: Lanzhou, Jiayuguan
 Qinghai Province: Xining
 Tibetan Autonomous Region: Lhasa
 Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Urumqi

On this vast territory, we do not believe there is only one city that can meet your requirements. But we do encourage you to work and live in one city and travel to many other cities and areas. Believe us, China has much more than you think to offer you, and your earnings will be enough to support you travelling around. When considering for a city, we suggest you to take into account such factors as size, history, traffic, climate, living standard, natural environment, living facilities, etc.

2. Salaries and benefits

Salaries and benefits vary greatly in different places and individual schools. Normally salaries in popular cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou are higher, where living standards and qualification and requirements are also much higher; salaries provided by private training schools are higher than public schools and college and universities, while public organizations may have more holidays and less work hours. It is up to you to decide which is the most suitable for you. As a middleman, we will endeavour to make sure that you understand all the objective information to make the decision.

Typical benefits provided to foreign teachers include: airfare reimbursement (usually conditional on you completing the contract), free accommodation or reimbursement, travel reimbursement (often conditional), heather insurance, yearly paid holidays, free mandarin training or other social activities. When recommending a school, we make all this clear to you. However, it is to your interest to ask for more details of this, for example, sample photos of the accommodation provided.

3. Students’ age range
The majority of English learners in China are students ranging from kindergarten and pupil to middle school and university ages and adult learners. Children do not really need formal education, teachers should use more interactive and relaxing methods to build up students’ interest and help them to learn the surrounding world in English, while middle school and college and university students usually have practical purposes for their English training – to pass examinations. And adults often seek to improve their English skills in business negotiations or public speaking. As a result, teaching different age groups may require different qualities, skills and methods. It is absolutely to your interest to consider about this before taking up an offer.

4. Work time

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of employers for English teachers in China: private training schools and general education schools. Normally, private training schools give much higher salaries than general education schools. This is partially because the former often works in nights or weekends although some also have courses in working days while the latter follows the academic term schedules. What’s more, the latter also gives teacher more holidays, tanking the summer vacation as an example. It is up to you to either earn money and really learn skills for the market or get immersed in the general education environment. No matter which applies to you, work time may be an important concern.

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Did you know that Facebook is banned in China?

Those going to China to work will most definitely rely on programs like Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends. However, do you know that Facebook is blocked in China? And it has been banned for quite a long while now. (Information correct as of March 2011)

So here is a list of software I know which is banned in China, so you are best off making other arrangements to keep in touch.

Banned software:

Google (Partially, Google search is router through Hong Kong, gmail is functioning ok)

Software which is ok in China

Skype – free communication software, highly recommended (www.skype.com)
Renren – This is a Chinese copy of Facebook, but in Chinese http://www.renren.com
Baidu – a Chinese copy of Google, the market leader in China for search http://www.baidu.com
MSN – MSN messenger and Hotmail is functioning correctly in China
QQ – This is a Chinese copy of MSN, they have an English version as well (www.imqq.com)

It is also advised in China to take an unlocked mobile phone (not locked to a network say Vodafone) and then purchase a pay as you go card once you are in China (they cost about 100 RMB or around £10). Another thing to remember is in China the mobile phones incur extra roaming costs between cities (a bit like if you use your phone in Europe you incur higher bills, in China it’s between cities).

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