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Foreign teachers face stronger regulation

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-19 07:48

Soaring demand

But even if that happens, more foreign teachers will follow in their wake because the soaring demand for English-language teachers means that finding a job is little more than a formality for many foreigners.

Last year, 300 million people in China were learning English, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which noted that there were 50,000 English-language teaching establishments in the country and the market was worth as much as 500 billion yuan ($71 billion).

However, according to the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, of the 400,000 foreign nationals working in China's education sector in 2017, more than 60 percent were reported to be illegally employed.

According to a regulation issued by SAFEA, all foreign teachers must hold a valid work visa, be a native speaker with a bachelor's degree or higher and have at least two years' related teaching experience. In addition, they must not have a criminal record.

Though RYB Education claimed that Oswaldo has a valid work visa, the regulations mean that as a Colombian citizen whose mother tongue is Spanish, he is ineligible to work as an English-language teacher.

An undercover investigation by China Central Television recently showed that salaries paid to foreign English-language teachers are much higher than those for Chinese nationals doing the same job.

For example, at one training institution in Beijing, a Chinese teacher of English can earn 300 yuan an hour, while foreign teachers can earn as much as 1,800 yuan per hour simply by talking to the students.

When the undercover reporter asked to see the qualifications and working visas of foreign teachers at one training institute, his request was refused because it "violates the teachers' privacy". A different institute refused to show the reporter the relevant documents because it was a "business secret".

At another online English training institution, the reporter discovered that two of the English-language teachers were Portuguese nationals, even though the institution repeatedly assured him that all of its teachers were native speakers.

Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said the market for foreign teachers is like a gold rush, with abundant opportunities, few regulations and big profits for those who want to make a quick buck.

"For foreigners, applying for jobs in English-language teaching at training establishments is straightforward-often, simply submitting a resume is enough, and usually they are not required to undergo background checks, provide references or proof of qualifications," Chu said.

He added that parents and students are more forgiving of foreign teachers' lack of teaching credentials, especially if they are white-skinned native speakers, because they assume that all foreigners have the ability to teach their mother tongue.

The incidents involving Oswaldo and the teachers in Xuzhou show that the education authorities and training institutions need to introduce more, stronger regulations for the rapidly growing sector, he added.

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