07 Sep

Teaching at International Schools in China: The Good and the Not-So-Good

10493 times Last modified on Thursday, 17 January 2019 19:57


Guest blog by International School Community

Around the world, there are countries that have only one or two international schools and others with hundreds of them.  In countries with multiple international schools, one can find American, British, and the schools that use an international curriculum (e.g. DP, IPC, etc.). The question in prospective teachers minds is: How do each city’s schools compare to each other when considering working in these countries with many international schools?

In this article, we would like to highlight some pros and cons to working at a variety of international schools across China. Using the International School Community website’s database, we found 103 international schools in China that have had comments submitted on them by our members.

Finding out what life really looks like is the key to discovery of the best fit for you in your job search.  You might not consider teaching in China as your first choice, but do not close the door on what could be an excellent job opportunity and amazing cultural experience for you.  China is most likely not at all similar to your home country, so it is important to keep your mind open and learn the most you can about all the ins and outs of living and working in a city in China.


An international school teacher working in Beijing.

The School Building

Who wouldn’t want to work in a state-of-the-art and purpose-built school building? In fact, many international schools in China do have such a building.  But just like in other countries, there is a wide range of campuses. If you are considering working in Beijing, here is a comment about Tsinghua International School - “The school building is on the Tsinghua campus. It's on the edge of the Haidian district, a long ways from the more interesting parts of the city. The area around the campus is nice enough; a typical Chinese cityscape. The grounds of the university campus vary from nice, very collegiate, to rundown. The school itself is in a refurbished building. When I worked there, I was told the plan was to build a new school somewhere, and the current school location will be turned over to the Chinese high school. The remodeled floors for THIS are decent; nothing special, but clean and bright. There are only classrooms in the building. PE, and cafeteria are shared with the Chinese high school.”  

Here is another firsthand account about a school building in Shenzhen at Buena Vista Concordia International School – “Beautiful, purpose-built school in the Buena Vista area of Bao'an. All buildings in the residential/commercial area utilize an American Southwest theme with brown and orange being the main color scheme. School has a full-indoor gymnasium, outdoor soccer pitch and track, space for art and music, as well as four large lab areas.”

The Journey to Work

Getting to work every day is something you don’t want to last so long. It should not be a stressful daily event to endure. Many international schools in China organize coaches that shuttle you from the area in which you live to your work. However, the journey could vary based on the city you live in and its location in that city. Here is a comment about Concordia International School in Shanghai – “The school's location is ideal. It only takes about 35 minutes to get to the airport. It's also close to the city center. Most faculty and staff walk to school or ride a bike. It probably takes about 10 minutes to walk to school.”


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A coach in Shanghai.

Another journey to work, this time about Guangdong Country Garden School in Foshan – “The campus is located in a very large residential community near the border of Foshan and Guangzhou. It takes about 2 hours to get from the school gate to the center of Guangzhou if using buses, or about half that time if you have a private driver. You will never find a normal metered taxi near the school. It feels isolated and boring here, and very few people here speak any English.”

Hiring Policies

The hiring policies are as varied as they can be when it comes to how international schools in China hire their teachers.  Some international schools are really strict on hiring qualified teachers with experience and others are willing to hire teachers without the correct certification.  In Xi’an, here is what someone had to say about Xi’an Hi-Tech International School – “Potential staff need to be professionally qualified in their own domicile, preferably with public school work experience. The age limit is 55. Native speakers having taught in an IB school will receive priority. Those willing to be trained will be also considered favorably.” 

In another part of China, here is a comment from a teacher who worked at Yew Chung International School in Shanghai – “They rely a lot on hiring people who are recommended by current employees. You still go through the interview process, etc. My initial contact to the school was through a connection I had to somebody already working here. Interviews are usually long-distance phone calls or over Skype.”

Expectations of Teaching Staff

Can one rely on the interview from the school’s administration as the only source of the information about what life is like teaching at an international school in China? It is helpful to hear what the teachers are actually saying about their work/life balance. At Western International School of Shanghai, one current teacher said – “The work load is without a doubt high, but it can be expected in such a competitive environment as Shanghai. WISS is involved in dozens of programs and activities concurrently at any given time, which means high workload for the teachers involved. Extra-curricular activities is a must and so is one Saturday in the "Saturday School Program" per year.”

The main gate at Dulwich College Suzhou.

Another teacher who worked at Dulwich College Suzhou in Suzhou wrote – “Very high expectations. Be prepared to work hard; long days, lots of meetings, evenings and Saturday events. CCAs on a point system but basically one each of the three terms.”

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For more firsthand comments about working at international schools in China, check out the International School Community website.  We are the “go-to” website for up-to-date information about the life of international school educators.  Join today and receive a free two-day trial of premium access to all features on our website.

Teaching Nomad is your connection to teaching in Asia & The Middle East! We are a western owned and operated teacher placement agency with offices in Denver & Shanghai. We take a lot of pride in connecting teachers with great teaching opportunities.


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