>The spiral of English teaching in China

>A teacher commented: “After a long teaching career I am sad to see these things go in cycles…”

Language teaching screeched to a halt during the Cultural Revolution but began to pick up in earnest about 1980. Still, China had a lot of catching up to do not to speak of the need to overcome the natural inertia that is always a part of the academic territory.

I wouldn’t say that things are turning in a perfect cycle. I would say it’s more like a spiral. Although it is turning when it comes around it gets closer to the center.

Many foreigners who work here, not just teachers but all foreigners, wish that their work or business was more organized.

I think teachers wish they had more support and instruction in how to go about their jobs. They would like better planning on the part of the school to eliminate last minute changes. I think they would like better classrooms, equipment, materials and books. The would like better salary and living conditions. They would like higher standards in all areas.

I think China is going in that direction. Of course, it will take time. Academia doesn’t change at the same speed as it takes Chinese contractors to throw up a shopping center or apartment building.

But one thing that the improvement seeking teachers will need to be aware of is that China will also have higher standards for foreign teachers and many current teachers will not qualify. China will formulize the requirements and certification for teachers.

Additionally, when the ministry of education starts dictating what books to use and exactly what to teach and how to teach it teachers will have a whole new set of complaints. Gone will be the relative freedom teachers have today to accommodate their approach to the specific needs of individual classes.

Public schools in New York began a program where every school teaches the same page of the same book each day in every school. People who want the government to step in may not be aware of what they are getting.

Up to now I think, considering this being the most populous nation in the world with perhaps also the greatest desire in the world to learn English, the Chinese are doing a pretty good job. Rather than the government dictating what everyone should do and how to do it while perhaps not really knowing the best way to go about it, the government is allowing quite a bit of freedom and hopefully seeing what is working well and what is not working well.

As for the present, the foreign teachers here are like pioneers. The conditions are not so easy. Many things are rather rough. The compensation may seem meager. But as soon as conditions improve and living standards improve you can be sure the teaching field will become crowded with highly qualified teachers coming over.


One Reply to “>The spiral of English teaching in China”

  1. >I have read many complaints by foreign teachers teaching in China. When I taught in a private school in Guangzhou five years ago, a foreign teacher in that school usually played his DVD films with Chinese subtitles for the students in what was supposed to be his oral English class. He was one of the most favored teachers of the students, though he taught nothing. He could earn his 4,000 yuan a month without much effort while we Chinese teachers had to sweat and be complained by the students. In my opinion, Chinese teachers have more responsibilities for the students’ improvement. Foreign teachers can still enjoy higher pay with less responsibilities. If the students failed, foregn teachers would not take the blame. But, Dave, I know you are more than professional.

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