Derren started teaching English in China with EF 16 years ago. He moved on to become a senior teacher, director of studies and then regional manager for EF’s Kids & Teens schools in Beijing before coming back to the UK to work out of their London office two years ago. Derren went live on i-to-i’s Facebook page to share his experience of working for EF and help you discover how to teach English in China. Listen to his full webinar here or read on for edited extracts.
Who is EF?
Education First (EF) is the largest private language company in the world, with a mission to open the world through education. It was founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult who had the idea of taking students from Sweden to the UK to learn the language. EF now has 612 schools worldwide, offices across 50 countries and employs 52,000 people globally.
EF is made up of 16 divisions, with EF English First as the division that deals with language schools abroad. Our main location for teaching English abroad is China but we do have schools in Indonesia, Russia and Spain.
EF also has a big research collaboration network that works with top universities around the world to look at how languages are learnt and how design and technology can be used in acquiring a language. The research from this collaboration forms the basis of the courses that we teach within our schools every day.
EF has been the official language supplier for the Olympic Games since 1988, teaching judges, volunteers and athletes so they all enjoy the Olympic movement in a common language. EF also acquired a professional cycling team in 2018. This team is made up of people from different backgrounds and experiences, all coming together in the pursuit of one goal. It very much symbolises EF as a company.
Why should I teach English abroad with EF?
Teaching abroad brings huge benefits: adventure, exploration, international experience and really getting to know a culture well. You immerse yourself in the food, the architecture and the customs. In my 14 years teaching abroad, I spent a lot of time exploring the different cultures and the diversity within China and Asia.
EF has been in operation in China for over 26 years and has over 300 schools across 60 cities. We have schools as far north as Beijing, all the way down to Shenzhen in the south and a lot of cities in between. I spent a lot of my time with our Kids & Teens schools in Beijing. Other people have spent a year in one city and then gone on to another city or to another country. You can move around with EF and still continue to grow in the role. Whatever experience you are looking for, EF probably has a fit for you.
EF was awarded best company to work for in Asia 2019. They have also received awards for teaching quality, innovation and charity work. Working in a global team with people from different backgrounds and experiences allows you to see different points of view. People really do benefit from this international experience.
What qualifications do I need to teach English in China with EF?
For our positions, you need a bachelor’s degree in any discipline and you need to have a TEFL certificate of 120 hours or more. To meet the visa requirements for China, you need to be a citizen of the UK, US, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa and to be aged 55 or younger. You also need to have a clear criminal background and the ability to live abroad for at least a year.
You don’t have to have any teaching experience to teach in China. We are confident that, if you meet the requirements I have outlined, we have the training and support to make you successful in the classroom.
What visa will I need to teach with EF in China?
EF has a dedicated visa team who will support you all the way from application through to in-country with all visa related issues.
You will get a Z visa that will allow you to enter China for work purposes. Within the first 30 days, the Z visa is converted to a resident’s permit that allows you to work legally in the country. The visa is for a year, as it is tied to the length of the contract and it is multiple entry, so you can come and go from China. Of course, you can renew your contract, and ultimately then the visa, as I did many times.
If you work in China, you are a resident of China for the duration of your contract, under the resident’s permit. You can come in and out for travel, but it is not a requirement. You could stay for the whole duration without leaving China on the visa.
Who will I teach as an EF English teacher in China?
EF has over 300 of its own private language schools across 60 cities in China. We teach students from age three to eighteen in our Kids & Teens schools. Students come to EF schools in the evenings and weekends to get further language education.
There is a maximum of 10 students in the class for our three to six year old age group and a maximum of 16 in our classes for seven to eighteen year olds. You really get to know your learners and can help them with their individual goals.
You will have a 40-hour working week. Of those 40 hours, there is a maximum of 15 to 18 contact hours per week, when you will be teaching in the classroom. The remainder of the time is made up of a whole load of other things, such as lesson planning, training, support and networking.
What are EF schools like?
Our classrooms are all bright, modern, open spaces. All of our schools have interactive whiteboards or touchscreen TVs. We use iPads and mobile phones to augment and enhance the learner experience, helping students to be engaged in the lesson and to acquire the language in a fun and engaging way.
We follow an EF curriculum, built in-house by our product team. This means it is always up to date and relevant and follows the latest research and user-related technology. Teachers get teaching notes, flashcards, audio, media – everything that you need to deliver a successful lesson, along with the training and support to use these tools successfully in the classroom.
What are the benefits of working for EF?
Our EF package is made up of a competitive salary, an ongoing performance bonus after six months, a monthly flight allowance, 21 days holiday and health insurance with three levels of cover to meet your individual needs. For some of the cities the upfront flight is paid for as well. You can check specific salaries online but all of our packages allow teachers to live comfortably, save, travel and potentially live a more lavish lifestyle than they could afford in their home country. EF also has a dedicated visa team who, together with your recruiter, will support you all the way from application through to in-country with all visa related issues.
You will come into China as part of a cohort of teachers. These are grouped prior to arrival, to allow people to connect and build relationships with the cohort they are coming in with and aid that transition to living and working abroad. With EF’s package, you get picked up from the airport and put up in a hotel for the first two weeks for free. During this time, you get support to find your own accommodation. This allows you to decide where you want to live within the city and what level of living you want.
There is no cost to the programme. It is a full-time salaried position with EF. The contract with EF is for a minimum of year but you can renew your contract many times. I spent 14 years with Kids & Teens schools abroad.
What support is offered to EF’s TEFL teachers?
Wherever a teacher is on their teacher journey, EF provides the support and the training they need to continue their growth as a teacher.
On arrival, new teachers get two weeks of onboarding and four weeks of induction, followed by ongoing professional development. During this period, there are opportunities to observe experienced teachers, team-teach with experienced teachers and be observed by experienced teachers and managers. For our more experienced teachers, we have courses in lexis, grammar and reflective practice and we work with Cambridge and Trinity College London to offer further certifications.
EF also runs social and cultural events four times a month that allow teachers from across the city to come together to socialise. These activities range from foodie nights to KTV (karaoke) to exercise to day trips.
Do I need to know Chinese to teach English with EF?
You don’t need to know Chinese to teach English in China successfully. All of our schools use the direct method of teaching so only English is spoken in the classroom. For our younger groups, you also have a teaching assistant who can provide support if there are any language barriers.
However, it does help to know some of the basics to really immerse yourself in the culture. Prior to arrival, teachers have access to our online training platforms to help learn the language, although there is no better way to learn it than when you are living and working in the country.
Why have you stayed at EF for 16 years?
The main driver for me has been the career development opportunities with EF. I was having a great experience living and working abroad and EF gave me this career platform to grow as a teacher and as a person. I started off as a teacher, went to senior teacher, director of studies and then regional manager for our Kids & Teens schools in Beijing before coming back to the UK to work out of our London office. Other people have gone into research or training or recruitment or marketing or another division of EF.
On a management pathway, people can work their way towards a director of studies, academic manager, project manager or production manager. For those looking to take an academic pathway, you could be a teacher trainer, product manager, editor or writer. In marketing, we have got activities co-ordinators, online executives, teacher recruiters. In international (another division of EF) we have tour leaders, overseas recruiters, online English teachers. EF employs 52,000 people globally so there are huge opportunities for growth and development.
Is EF recruiting TEFL teachers for China during the pandemic?
EF is still actively recruiting during the pandemic. Our schools are open but we will only take teachers over to China once it is safe to do so. It takes three to four months from initial application to arrival in country so, if you applied now, the earliest you would be looking at arriving in China is April to May time. Hopefully by then, with the vaccine rollout going on around the world, things will be more back to normal and people will be able to travel.
We have open enrolment throughout the year. Once you apply to EF, you will be contacted within three to five working days by one of our recruiters. They will have an initial conversation with you and, from there, will schedule an interview. If you are successful at interview, you will be given an offer. If you accept the offer, EF will start the visa process and that will lead on to arrival, orientation and teaching in our schools.
If you are interested, speak with one of our recruiters. You will get full support, from application to arrival, throughout these difficult times. As a global employer, the safety of our teachers is paramount. You will be taken care of.
I hope you are interested in teaching in China. I have worked with EF for 16 years and have been on this amazing global career with the company. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I look forward to hearing from you.
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