If today China is not yet the biggest market for English language teaching in the world, it soon will be. With almost 1.5 billion inhabitants, China has emerged as the world's largest potential market for just about anything - including English. Its inclusion in 2002 into the WTO has finally confirmed its status as an acknowledged player in the world's market place.
Few countries offer a safer working environment than China; few offer anywhere near the cultural, historical and geographical diversity. Prominent institutions like the British Council and the Voluntary Services Organization (VSO) are already running significant operations in China, while school chains such as Berlitz, EF and International House are moving in.
Most ESL/EFL teachers arrange jobs before arriving in China, normally by contacting recruitment agencies or individual employers. Positions in public colleges and universities are often pre-arranged by applying to Chinese embassies or consulates overseas, or to the International Employment Office in Beijing. It is also possible to apply to the provincial education offices or directly to the institutes themselves (addressed to the Foreign Affairs Office, or Waiban).
With China now engaged in huge levels of international trade, there is a great demand for Business English in the Chinese Commercial sector. Many companies are now setting up their own in-house English teaching programs and recruit either from the ExPat community, or from overseas. English teachers from abroad are given one of two labels: 'Foreign Teacher' or 'Foreign Expert'. Foreign Teachers are university graduates under the age of 25, many of whom do not have recognised TESOL qualifications. Foreign Experts are experienced ESL/EFL teachers with an MA TESOL/TEFL/Applied Linguistics to their name.
While working conditions are generally very good for English language teachers, anyone considering this unique destination should not forget: western entertainment and commodities can be very hard to find outside the big cities. Most ESL/EFL teachers who have worked in China agree that at times it can be both exhausting and frustrating. Almost all concur that their time in China was one of the most rewarding of their lives.