Thursday, June 23, 2016

English #1 Ok

Ever since I moved to Hong Kong, other expats and would-be expats have asked me about English teaching jobs in Hong Kong. I could never tell them anything because I've never taught English in Hong Kong and I never really knew anyone who did. Until now.

When Lily went to Canada just before her father died, she lost her job here. When she came back, she had 90 days to either get a work visa or leave the country. When I was in Jerusalem, she got a job. Now she works in a cram school.

Cram schools are essentially where students go after their regular school to study whatever subject they're not testing as well in as their parents would like. Most cram schools are English, but they also have math, science and whatever is in demand.

Not that many years ago, foreigners flocked to East Asia to teach English. It was considered an easy job that paid well and left plenty of time off to party and go to bars, not to mention all the cheap & easy travel opportunities that you only get when you live in East Asia.

Those days are over. It's still easier to travel around Asia when you live here, but too many foreigners flooded the market. Now the schools can pick & choose more than they used to. That means more competition for jobs and more qualifications & requirements needed to get what few jobs are available.

The bare minimum government requirements are a bachelor's degree from a recognized university, no criminal record and native English speaker status. You have to be from the UK, US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or South Africa. If you're from anywhere else, they assume you're not a native English speaker, no matter how good your English might be.

Now that there are too many foreigners looking at too few jobs, more schools are requiring degrees in English and previous teaching experience and/or certification. It's also easier for them to discriminate based on nationality. They've always preferred Americans, Brits and Canadians, but they used to take whoever they could get back when there were fewer foreigners. You're also out of luck if you're over a certain age, black or Asian. Ironically, most schools don't want Chinese Americans, even if English is their native language and they were born & raised in America. Some ads will even state “No ABCs”, meaning no American Born Chinese. Since these are English schools, they should probably come up with a different acronym.

Not only are there more foreigners than there used to be, but schools are moving more toward internet and virtual classes. That means each school needs to hire fewer teachers to teach more students. Instead of 1 teacher for every 30 students in a classroom, they can have 1 teacher for 100+ students online.

Lily lucked out in a few ways. She's young, female and Canadian. Schools like all of those things. She's also been living in Hong Kong for several years. That tells schools that she's not going to run away any time soon. Hiring someone right off the boat is always dangerous. You never know who can't handle living in a foreign country until it's too late. And she already had a work visa, so she's already been government approved. That makes life a lot easier for the schools.

Lily just started working at her school, so she doesn't have a lot of amusing stories yet, but from what I've heard from other EFL teachers, she'll have a lot sooner or later.


No hate, please. There's enough of that in the world already.