FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

We pride ourselves on our transparency and trust, and - when you're working with a country some 5500 miles away, it helps to know you have people here to help and guide you through the processes. Just ask if you have any questions, or you will hopefully find most answers to your questions in the FAQs below.
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What's so unique about this programme?

We specialise in, and focus on the growth of Verbal English language in China. It’s the area of English language we believe has the most future growth, and we anticipate a shift towards spoken English with new exam reforms and priorities focused on Chinese citizens becoming more globally aware – and able to speak the language of business.

We don’t do the same as the others…

Most English language teaching in China is focused on helping children to pass the Zhongkao (GCSE equivalent) and Gaokao (A-Level equivalent) exams. Companies such as Wall Street English, Disney English and English First are masters at paying native English speakers, (often from the USA, Russia and Eastern Europe) to provide private tuition, booster classes and to teach in private language schools for aspirational Chinese students. The competition over grades is high, and the Zhongkao and Gaokao are the Chinese child’s ticket to the the next stage of their formal education. The challenge here is that language can become something students MUST do to pass exams – a kind of supercharged conveyor belt of rote learning. These Zhongkao and Gaokao exams are so important to parents in China that many are willing to pay private tutors and send their children to private language schools. We do not run private language schools.

We take this approach…

Our approach is to enjoy it all – the travel, the teaching and the unforgettable sense of achievement. Have fun, let your personality permeate your teaching and give children opportunities to listen, speak and apply English in a more relaxed, fun way without the pressure of exams.

We support ‘real’ Chinese schools – the kind that ALL types of Chinese children attend on a daily basis, not only the wealthy and the privileged looking to boost their grades through attendance at private language schools and boosters. We enjoy helping all young people by helping Chinese schools and UK Graduates and Non-Graduates to further themselves and share in some of the experiences we’ve been lucky enough to have had.

What’s the pressure like on the children?

The Verbal Education programmes are free from exams! The competition to pass the Zhongkao and Gaokao written exams (the equivalent to our GCSE and A-Level) is extreme, with many Chinese children working very long hours and sacrificing social life and enrichment activities. This is a cultural phenomenon – that parents and children work very hard to give themselves a chance at passing these stepping stones to the next stage of their education.

What about government policy?

Government exam reforms mean that the wider aspects of a child’s life and subsequent learning of life-skills WILL be a strong part of the Chinese educational future. And, we know how important speaking is to the development of life-skills, whether that be in general day-to-day chatter between friends, or in the Skype links and board meetings in business – speaking is the lifeblood of everyday language exchange. If you did an analysis of how much English language is exchanged via conversation and how much is written down, you might be quite amazed at how little we write in comparison to speaking and listening.

Who teaches the academic written English?

English language in schools is generally taught by native Chinese speakers who also speak English. Although their English may not be perfect when they talk – they are experts in how to pass exams, and this is a key role of a Chinese English teacher. In English lessons, you will mostly find Chinese teachers teaching in Chinese Language, expect for what they write or point to in a text book. So, they get good at writing – but simply don’t have the confidence to speak!

What kind of school will I be working in?

You’ll be working in a government funded school, not one of the Western private enterprises that have saturated China in recent years. Not that there’s anything wrong with these places – they do a good job, but, we are not about treading the usual path. Of course, that kind of teaching might be right for you at this time. It’s just that the Verbal Education programme is different. You’ll find a deeper experience of ‘real China’ – intense cultural differences – and an altogether earthier, more traditional place in which to live and work.

How safe is it?

VERY! You’ll most likely feel extremely safe and the people are wonderfully hospitable – it’s in their culture to be welcoming and hospitable – more so in the second and third tier cities where foreigners are more rare. It’s likely though that even the thought of hopping on a plane and travelling 5000+ miles may feel a little scary. There’s the potential for being out of your comfort zone, even if you’ve travelled before. But, that extra challenge can bring a huge sense of achievement and something few other people will have done, and of course, a ‘CV supercharge’ which is second to none, not to mention a great testimonial from a University backed organisation and your Chinese school.

Why would this set me apart?

When you’re firing up your CV, looking for a life-change or fuelling up on life skills, remember that many people competing for jobs with you will have some kind of travel experience under their belts either as a gap year, a one-off project or some post-grad travelling… Thailand? Cambodia? Singapore? All great places to visit – but living and working among the people of China still holds a mystique that is revered by many and held in great esteem by forward-thnking business.

 

Do I need a Visa?

Yes, but the type of Visa depends on whether you do the the 3 month volunteer or 10 month work package, and whether you are a graduate or not (among other details)

There are two different types of Visa relevant to these posts, but don’t worry – we will quickly be able to help you know which one is which for what purpose.

Sometimes, depending on timescale, it may be that you have to pay for your Visa, but then receive a reimbursement directly into your bank account when you arrive in China. This would be in cases where there was very little time to turn a Visa around and we need to act swiftly.

 

What is a TEFL and why do I need one?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It’s an excellent course and renowned across the world as the necessary qualification in order to help you gain work developing English for non-native speakers. The course covers some grammar (and all that kind of thing) but it is focused heavily on how you might interact differently, using slightly different styles of communication with non-native speakers as opposed to how you might teach or lead native English speakers.

The course is two days long, and at the end you’re given a TEFL certificate.This is enough to get paid in China with…but, read on…

You can gain experience in China over the year in order to build up to 120 hours total experience – and there are online modules to complete which give you the final certificate which places you in the higher echelons of the TEFL qualified community, and ultimately gives you more choice and credibility as a teacher of English as a foreign language. It’s a great way to spend your life – teaching children in other countries or in language schools here in the UK, and for those who don’t choose the teaching route long-term, it’s a wonderful way to earn a bit of extra cash back here in the UK, or if you wanted to buzz off and take a career break at some point.

Why Verbal Communication not academic, written English?

VEC shares our passion for the development of verbal communication – conversation, extending vocabulary and helping Chinese children to understand the phrases and words we often take for granted. We have many years of experience in developing leadership and teamwork skills – all wrapped up in conversational English through school exchange programmes, and we bring a fresh outlook to the development of the English language. For example, there are dozens of idioms and

For example, there are dozens of idioms and colloquialisms used every day by people in the UK, and most Chinese have no idea what they mean…and why should they? After all, they make absolutely NO sense when looked at literally….. ‘fight fire with fire’, ‘give me a heads up’, ‘take a break’, ‘by the skin of my teeth’, and the list goes on. Then there’s the spoken slang and slurred language we get so used to…. who really greets people with the words ‘how is it going?’. Most people will greet in a more relaxed way – which can, to the Chinese sound like like “hazik-gu-un”

There are plenty other examples – but one of the key aims of the SpeechCraft training that we support TEFL courses with is to get the teachers imagining what on earth we actually SOUND like to the Chinese when we speak with our natural flow.

Try this task to get an idea of what we mean…

Grab a pen and paper, listen to a conversation between two people for one minute and scribble down all the words and phrases that:

a) make no literal sense (e.g. something as simple as “sit up” can be confusing… what on earth does the “up” bit mean to a non-native speaker!?.

b) sound different when using the spoken word – from how they might be written on paper. An example of this is the phrase “what are you up to” – which could easily sound like woyya-up to” when speaking in natural conversation. And, what on earth does “what are you up to” mean literally anyway!? In the formal, written study of English, children are likely to be taught “what are you doing?” not “what are you up to?”)

Very few others focus on speaking. It’s a neglected area, but an area we love. It’s fun, funny and fascinating.

I don't have to have a degree in English. Does that matter?

No it doesn’t matter. You receive a Foreign Experts Certificate, issued by Chinese government which his part of the process of getting temporary residence and extending the visa (don’t worry, you’ll be taken through all that no problem), you have to have a Degree – but the level of English you’re likely to be working with is low and the focus is mainly on speaking and listening.

The TEFL qualification gives you what you need and goes through the kind of grammar you need to be aware of and how to deliver it, but the reality on the ground is that a degree will have prepped you plentifully to work with young Chinese children and inspire them to want to learn more.

Equally, we have no intention of devaluing the education aspect here and you need to be honest with yourself about your level of English language, and more importantly – your interest in the English language… we tend to find that those who are genuinely curious about the English language – for example, how words and sentences are used in different ways with different intonation for different effect. Or, for example, how Shakespeare’s idioms are used universally and naturally whilst to many non-native speakers make no sense at all.

We also find that people who are always finding synonyms or different ways to say things on the internet are good-to-go for these kinds of programmes….that really just shows to us that you’re able and willing to explore, reflect, find out more and take pride in your native language.

If you’re not even sure whether you’re that curious and intent on helping develop the English language, our suggestion is that you do a bit of searching on the net…type in “Shakespeare’s Idioms” and see where it takes you… you never know, it might even spark a whole new area of interest for you.

What's a DBS Check and why do I need one?

DBS stands for Disqualifications and Barring Service. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. For example, any criminal convictions may show on the certificate – although in some cases, where something is not deemed relevant by the DBS it will not show up. In these cases, you are not oblliged to surrender extra information, although we encourage transparency – and if there is something you think would be best to share with us in the interests of safeguarding you, us or most importantly – children, young people or vulnerable adults, you can do so confidentially.

Tip: Many people now have DBS certificates anyway because they volunteer in the community with children or coach sport (for example). If you have a DBS certificate, our recommendation is that you apply for the update service which basically means that your DBS is portable.

Do I need insurance?

Accident / medical insurance is provided as part of the contract you sign with Verbal Education China. In broad terms, this means that if you’re hospitalised or need other emergency medical care, the insurance will be triggered.  However, there are some things to consider.

Real World Education Group Ltd. do not give advice on anything medical or health related. That extends to vaccinations and insurance. This is not only to ensure we are legally protected – it’s also to ensure you are given advice by medical professionals and insurance specialists, not educationalists.

We DO advise you to take out your own travel insurance for belt and braces. This is pretty easy and relatively inexpensive. We do NOT take out insurance on your behalf.

However, we can give you the facts and you can decide what to do:

  • The insurance provided is Chinese insurance, organised by VEC in China. This is legitimate. However, we cannot guarantee exactly what individual policies cover
  • The insurance provided is accident insurance. Usually, this type of insurance protects you when you have an accident and you need quick medical attention – with a hospitalisation or emergency doctor. However, accident insurance doesn’t usually support you with ongoing, future bills or compensation
  • There may be exclusions in the Chinese insurance we are unaware of (and it is impossible to say at any one time as insurance policies change quicker than we can update our website). For example, insurance provided by the Chinese might cover you for everything, but it may not. Treatment for longer-term medical issues or where something is not deemed to be an emergency (such as an upset stomach or skin rash for example) may be best served by your own insurance
  • If you take out insurance in the UK, it will obviously be in English language and you will be able to monitor and understand any changes. Insurance policies will almost always have an emergency number you can use outside the UK to contact multi-lingual support teams – ready to help you with your health situation. We advise you to check this facility is built into your policy.

Real World Education Group Ltd. does not provide any insurance for your work or travel.

The likelihood is that you’ll never need it – but, travel insurance is not particularly expensive, and peace of mind is worth every penny.

What is the salary for graduate work posts?

Graduate: (10 month minimum) = 6000 RMB wage per month

The wage or grant you receive works out to be around two to three times the salary of a local Chinese teacher, and is similar to an upper Director in a school.

Remember that the cost of living is much lower in the parts of China you’ll be working, and on top of that you also get:

  • Accommodation
  • Meals (or 500 RMB if schools do not provide the meals for you. That’s around £50, and meals are very cheap, sometimes as low as the equivalent to 50p; not like Beijing or Shanghai for example)

This is a remarkably high wage and benefits package and some people feel a little awkward when they consider that a Director of a school may get something similar but also have to feed their families and pay rent on a house. For some people, this may not sound like much, but we have to continually think about living and working in a different environment in a different context. It’s not Europe and there’s little to compare with unless you’ve experienced this cost of living before, perhaps in another non-European country you’ve experienced before.

Before you feel too guilty though, remember that you are going  there with a passion to make a difference and to help others. That’s is priceless for a developing community in China, and government are supporting this venture.

Do I need to pay anything?

We are completely transparent about the likely cost to you, and theoretically it costs nothing and pays a lot, both in monetary terms and in life-enhancement. But, as with any new job, whether it’s a new suit or a training course, there will likely be a few sundry costs for you – but these should be negligible.

We will advise and support you to help shortcut admin and guide you through anything you’re not sure about, but you are ultimately responsible for things like applying for your visa, passport etc.


PAID FOR BY THE CHINESE:

– Temporary residence permit

– Medical certification 

– Travel / health / accident insurance (but you are advised to take out your own also)

– Food (or food allowance for self-catering)

 – Visa cost (in some cases where time is short, you will receive a reimbursement in the first pay packet)

 – Accommodation


YOUR COSTS:

FOR YOUR FLIGHT BUT RECEIVE 6000 RMB BACK AT THE END OF THE CONTRACT

– Flight allowance: 6000 RMB (approx. £700). Flights can cost as little as £350 and as much as £1000. You will be able to pick dates to suit flight costs and the Chinese are quite flexible in terms of arrival date in order to help get the cheapest option.

(note: The 6000 RMB is a standard amount for outbound and inbound flight costs combined, and may end up as more than you need, or it may fall a little short. Either way, the amount stays the same).


TEFL COURSE – between £125 and £180

(unless you already have a certificate)

If you don’t have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification, we can help you. It will cost you approximately £125 to £180 depending on whether you study online or part online / part face-to-face. It can take as little as two days to complete the face-to-face part which gives you a TEFL certificate, but it is also recommended to complete the rest of the course online to upgrade your certificate. You can enroll on a TEFL anywhere. We do not make money from providing TEFL courses. However, if there are enough candidates who need a course in a particular area (e.g. London) then we will provide a course especially for the outbound group at approximately £150 to £200 per person.


DBS CHECK – £75

(unless you already have a certificate – within 12 months of flying)

This will cost you £75 but we can facilitate this for you and it covers administration and the DBS. We work with Disclosure Checks Ltd. a reputable company in Thetford, Norfolk.


OPTIONAL EXTRA COSTS

– SpeechCraft training (by Real World Education) – gives a head start in how to communicate with Chinese and a few tips to get you started: £90

– Insurance (ranges – but usually approx. £100 for the year) – Chinese insurance is included but we advise to take out UK insurance for belt-and-braces.

 

Please consider: Graduate work posts

– You will be getting paid, NOT paying us, VEC or the Chinese or UK government. This means that you can quite quickly recoup outgoing costs – depending on how much and where you decide to travel in your spare time.

– Verbal Education China are paid by the school and government and in turn pay you, taking their fee and giving us a small administration fee as a partner.

– The cost of your own transport and food to and from the UK airport is borne by you

If you have any other questions about costs, do not hesitate to ask. As family people ourselves, we really do understand the need for transparency in costs and the irritation that can be caused when you find out there’s some kind of extra you’re expected to pay which wasn’t originally disclosed. No one is going to try to catch you out or hide costs. If any extra costs do arise (very unlikely), we’ll be sure to let you know at the earliest opportunity.

Accommodation included

Accommodation is provided by the school and is usually part of a block of flats or an apartment on or close to the school site. This is particularly convenient when you need support, but also obviously for travelling to and from the school.This is not deducted from your salary.

It is most likely that other foreign teachers will be in the flat / apartment too, but you’ll have your own room and bathroom. Others may be from any English speaking nation which makes for a really exciting, rich and diverse set of experiences and relationships, and virtually all will be graduates, just like you – if not straight out of University, most likely within the first few years.

Free food provided

Most schools provide three meals a day free of charge. It’s obviously authentic Chinese food, not your typically Western Turkey Twizzlers. The cost of food is not deducted from the salary in the case of graduate paid posts.

If a school doesn’t provide the meals (for example, if they do not have a catering facility which caters specifically for foreign teachers boarding) there is a food allowance of approximately 500 RMB per month and a kitchen in your accommodation. 500 RMB is ample by the way (see notes on cost of living and do your own research).

What would be my working hours and holiday pay be?

Here are some details about working life that are built into the contract:

Teachers do not have to work more than 20 – 25 hours per week (Approximately 45 minutes for one lesson). If you have an interest or hobby you think the young people would love or benefit from then please do offer to contribute to the wider life of the school in this way. It’s not paid but it will bring great benefits – goodwill, respect, mutual value and community cohesion.

You’re not expected to work at weekends, and you will most likely find that you get invited to all sorts of gatherings, traditional activities and other fascinating and enriching opportunities.

Paid holiday: you will be paid throughout all the main national holidays, but during the October and January holidays (New Year Festival holiday) you will not be paid. January is when the whole nation is celebrating the New Year and most people find it a great time to enjoy the local customs or get out and travel around other parts of China. You would have to pay for further traveling – but as you can imagine, once you’re in-country it can work out pretty cheap.

 

Where are the placements based?

There are a number of places…most of which you won’t have heard of. If you apply for a post as a teaching assistant or teacher in China through another company, the chances are that they will be a private outfit recruiting for and running their own centres. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just that we are supporting a different agenda… i.e. not the inflation of large, Western corporate company presence in China. We are about supporting schools who need input from English graduates to help nurture their children into the next generation of leaders who will work with, sympathise with and enjoy the company of UK citizens. We are simply not ‘out for a quick buck’. So, the kinds of locations we’re talking about on this programme are:

So, the kinds of locations we’re talking about on this programme are the second and third tier cities, not the East coast economic powerhouses such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Examples include:

Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Henan, Shandong, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, Yunnan, or Guizhou

Is this role different from other types of teaching jobs in other countries?

Yes, actually, this role is different in many ways because it is heavily focused on oral English – helping children to speak the language – and the grammar side of things whilst important, is not the be-all and end-all. They actually get a lot of that already through their ‘normal’ English lessons. This is about enhancing those English lessons and giving children confidence to speak and listen to each other and to English native-speakers.

So, if you llike to talk – then this is for you!

If you’d like to be someone who likes to talk but you don’t get enough opportunity because you’re not as confident as you’d like to be…yet… then this is for you!

And, if you appreciate that it can be great fun helping Chinese children to speak – then, this is definitely for you.

Why do you work with the second and third tier cities - not the big 'Mega cities?.

There’s an element of choice for you, but equally – there are some areas the Chinese (and we) need to focus on and who particularly need help. There’s a lot out there about the powerhouse Tier-One cities in China – the economic ‘Mega-cities’ of Shanghai, Beijing and Guanzhou. But, whilst these cities are fabulous in their own way as well as being great for tourists, if you’re looking to get off the beaten track and into ‘deep China’ as well as seeing what all the fuss is about with these cities, then this programme is likely for you. This programme is aimed at supporting the Tier Two and Tier Three cities – often the unknown cities of China many Westerners didn’t know existed. And, when you drill down even further, you’ll find towns and villages where you might even be the first foreigner to visit. You’d be working alongside local people who fuel the local economy, and you’d be contributing to the growth of a community, deep in the heart of the world’s most populous country.

What support is there to help me with the teaching?

There are few more rewarding jobs than teaching…aside from getting paid, there’s a genuine buzz from helping young people to reach their potential through inspirational teaching and learning.

You know those teachers you had at school, college or university who just inspired you with what they said or did? Well, that’s going to be you if you take up the challenge. You may not get it right all the time, but if you have a passion for motivating others and giving something back to society then teaching in this context will work for you.

The skills to work with children and young people from China can be developed over time and there is no real magic solution to the ‘perfect’ lesson, but there are some things you should remember when considering this, as you may fall into one of a few different categories, but in our experience these are the most likely four:

  1. You’ve never thought of teaching before but you like the idea that it will improve your career prospects and develop you as a person in a meaningful way and actually it could be fun and you might even be good at it
  2. You’ve thought about teaching but it’s not necessarily your final career choice. Your experiences of working with children or young people have been a real buzz but you’re not convinced about it as a career
  3. You’re keen to teach, even just for a while to see what it’s like but you’re not sure you have the skills or temperament and personality to make a difference and do a good job
  4. You want to teach – it’s in your bones and you love the sense of achievement and the challenge

Experience tells us that NUMBER 3 is by far the most common….you get it and think it would be an amazing experience and CV builder, but there’s a reason why teachers train for a whole year at the end of a degree and then carry on into a probationary period in a UK school.

The last thing we want to do is devalue an education system by parachuting in under-qualified people to do what is essentially revered as the most valued and sought after thing in the world… education. Go to many countries with a lower level of access to education or where quality is variable and you’ll see how parents strive to get their children an education at all, let alone a good one.

Your job is to try hard – to prepare lessons using resources from your TEFL course (there are plenty) and continue to grow and learn from teachers on the ground in China, and from whatever we can help you with. There is a pragmatic reality to this… you have a unique skill set as a UK University Graduate. You already have life experience, the skills of analysis, diplomacy and leadership – even if you don’t know it. You’ve probably taught others many things many times, often without even knowing it. You now just have to believe in yourself, ensure you follow the TEFL course – 120 hours teaching experience you need to finalise the qualification (which you can get whilst on the job) and take the teaching side of it seriously. We may labour this point a little, but teaching and education generally is dear to our hearts and we will not compromise on what we expect in terms of why you’d want to do the job and how you attempt to be resourceful in developing your skills which in turn will help the development of young people.

So, here are a few details which may help you understand how you can focus on teaching as well as having a great time out there…

  1. Your TEFL course will prepare you well to teach in a foreign country – indeed, that is its purpose. It’s a very well-established course – refined over many years, with hundreds of thousands of successful people enjoying what opportunities it’s brought to them
  2. You will be supported by a Teaching Assistant who can speak both English and Chinese will be there to help in the classroom and with individual students.You can ask them questions, seek support and in most cases, plan together
  3. There will be an English speaking teacher assigned to you to help you outside the classroom, such as with your apartment, local travel and other challenges which you’ll need to navigate, so make friends with them quickly!
  4. You can also contact Hope if you need help with any problems or issues that might arise. She’s always around as a supportive voice and can help with all manner of liaison with the school, although in most cases the schools are amazing at helping you
  5. We at Real World Education will signpost you towards ideas, tips, information and resources for you to use… and we will enable the sharing of resources between UK teachers in China
  6. All foreign teachers can prepare lessons in their apartments so they can have more private time. Many schools insist that Chinese teachers do their preparation within the school

At Real World Education, we can help you if you need a bit of inspiration or you get stuck with a teaching and learning based problem. We have a wealth of experience in working with children and young people in a huge range of teaching and learning contexts both in the UK and in China, and are more than happy to give you some pointers or put you in touch with an expert who can help. It’s in both our interests to help you.

 

Can I move school after a few months?

Theoretically it’s possible, and we understand that you may wish to do that. However, please balance that against the needs of the school and local community. Imagine, you have this wonderful foreigner arrive to enrich the community and to help the young generation to develop their English skills…. chances are that you may well feel that you want to stay on as your relationships will have developed, and you’ll see a real need for your skills.

Movement from school to school cannot be fully guaranteed but Verbal Education China do understand and will always aim to help you with your development and travel opportunities as well as the school’s.

Will I be with another English person?

You might be, but you may well find that you’ll more likely be near or with Russians, Australians and Americans, unless there is a need for two or more English in the same school.

There is actually a real ‘shortage’ of English people (from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland), hence we were approached to assist with this important government agenda – to link the UK with China.

So us Brits are spread few and far between. However, the intention is always to place people in clusters in the same area even if they’re in different schools. So, for example, if 10 people are placed in Sichuan, you’ll probably find that they’ll be in different schools but within travelling distance of each other. And remember – you get weekends and holidays to travel and see the others, or for them to visit you.

How did this all come about?

Who or what are VIP and VEC?

The Verbaledu Intercultural Project (VIP China)

VIP began with the National Oral English Teaching & Research Bureau and Beijing Normal University, working together to develop a speaking and listening language course for Chinese children.

Who and what is Verbal Education China (VEC)

With Professor Cathy Yang (Beijing Normal University) as president, VEC is the company formed some 10 years ago from the evolution of the Verbaledu Intercultural Project (VIP China). The aim was to grow the number of native English speakers delivering Verbal English in second and third tier city schools by paying a good wage and providing living expenses – something that can only be achieved properly and legally by forming a company.

Why can’t the individual schools, colleges and universities advertise and employ me directly rather than working with Real World Education and VEC as partners?

Employing foreign teachers is a specialist and highly responsible thing to do – and – in almost all cases, educational institutions in China are expected to work with a government approved company with a licence to engage in this process. In order to be granted a visa to enter China for this type of work, there must be a very specific legal partnership in place. This involves an official Chinese company stamp, an official invitation letter from the relevant educational institution, a UK DBS Check (Disqualifications and Barring Service), proof of appropriate qualifications, a medical certificate and a set of references. Sounds tough? It can be, depending on who you work with.

Fortunately, Real World Education and Verbal Education China take over the ‘heavy-lifting’ – nurturing you through the processes of pay, paperwork, insurance, logistics and finance.

This system actually helps everyone. How come? Well, we believe that it forces communication between partners, helps develop trust and enables the schools, colleges and universities continue doing what they do best – research, development and most importantly, making a difference to young people.

  1.  – We ONLY work with China (we don’t dilute our skills across more than one country)
  2.  – We ONLY work with Verbal Education China (Based in Beijing)
  3.  – This is not a ‘recruitment conveyor belt’. We do NOT employ recruitment consultants with little or no interest or passion for education or who are simply interested in hitting a sales quota for recruitment
  4.  – We are an Education Consultancy – NOT a recruitment company. We have evolved from working in schools as teacher and senior leadership with a genuine interest in developing teaching and learning, not just business. This has, over the years involved working in China, Iraq, the UK and Rwanda and other major organisations. Why does this matter? Well, we believe that our genuine experience and interest in Chinese culture and development is vital in supporting people with a nurturing, nuanced, bespoke approach
  5.  – We have long-standing partnerships with some fabulous people in China….we say ‘people’ rather than ‘businesses’ because this is exactly how we view our relationships. We are about ‘people to people’ not ‘business to business’.

 

Why is China unique? Why shouldn’t I just stick to the ‘standard tourism trail’ like most travelling graduates do?

There’s no denying that entry to China can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. It can be time-consuming to pick your way through the processes and for many, it is still a country of unknowns and new experiences. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why more graduates hit Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore etc. on their way to discovering the world and filling up their CV with ‘things’ they think employers want to see. There are indeed far fewer who go to China, but far from it being a ‘tick in the box’ experience (something employers are getting used to seeing on CVs), China exudes unique mystique, diversity and excitement – and sets you apart from the crowd.

Why is Real World Education specifically partnered with VEC rather than other recruitment and English Language companies in China?

This is a really simple one – although we could write an awful lot about it if we got carried away! First, we are often approached by English Language providers hoping to develop links. However, in most cases, if we’re honest – we don’t know enough about them and, knowing China as we do, relationships are a slow-burner and the kind of link we have with VEC takes time, care and nurturing. That’s not to say that other companies are not honest and well-meaning, but the level of professionalism we expect from a group company is extremely high. VEC are one of a very small number of companies we have considered to meet these standards. We’ve spent considerable time, money and energy getting to know the people ‘as people’ – getting ‘under the skin’ of their intentions and building relationships. Check out some of our ‘rough and ready’ videos and audio to see what we mean. In relationship terms – to be honest, we only like to work with people we like, and we can honestly say that these guys are superb. They’re friendly, helpful, honourable and conscientious and we love working with them. We hope you will too!

What else is there to say about Verbal Education China?

VEC was the first company to be granted government approval to place interns and teachers into schools to teach Verbal Education. The team’s experience and skills are highly valued by Chinese schools and communities, and with the location of their headquarters being in Beijing, they have strong links with some of the top Universities in China as well as the convenience of being close to some of the most coveted travel experiences. As one of the presidents of the company – Professor Cathy Yang (Professor of English at Beijing Normal University – one of the top Universities for teacher training in China) brings credibility and inspiration. She is the author of the text book ‘Let’s Talk’ which helps thousands of young people and teachers in China to improve their spoken English, and she is a highly respected scholar of English Language. You won’t find a lot about them online – but that’s because they don’t need flashy websites and a non-Chinese web-presence. They just need a partner like us to jointly focus on the one thing that matters the most… engaging with people.

A message directly from Verbaledu Education China (VEC)

“We are located in Beijing, China. Our mission is to advance the English communication skills of middle school students throughout China. Established in 2007, VIP China has helped over 3000 foreign teachers find placements in schools throughout China, as well as developing and maintaining relationships with over 1000 schools. We have collaborated with Peking University, Beijing Normal University, Shandong Heze University and Huangshan University to keep improving and empowering the next generation.”

Can you tell me more about the schools and the area we'll be going into?

Well, it’s worth reading a preamble before we give you some specifics about the programmes, so please do read the answer to the question “Can you tell me more about China?”.

However, we can tell you that our final checks are almost complete on ten placements in Langzhong City, Sichuan Province. We are currently vetting accommodation and details on food arrangements (among other details). More details will be available to people who show an interest generally in working in China.

Do you only work with China?

Yes, we only work with China. Having spent many years working on school exchanges, training, leadership development and host of other international projects,  we specialise in the unique nature of educational operations between China and the UK. This is a complex and ever-changing landscape and we like to think that we get as far into the detail as we can, to bring the best insights we can. We will never know everything – but we’re always on the lookout to learn more and feed that into our work in connecting the UK with China.

We’re transparent about ‘how it all works’ and what the benefits and challenges are for you in working with or in China, and we believe in helping you to make informed choices with as many of the facts at your fingertips as possible, rather than us trying to simply promote something which may not develop a sustainable future for you, for us or for China-UK relations.

Indeed, we believe that our work in connecting children, young people and graduates with China can help future relations between our countries and our main motivation for engaging with the placement of foreign interns is exactly that – building relationships (more about that later).

What else does your company do?

What we are…

We’re lots of things actually – but – our core business is specialist education provisoin and consultancy. We offer programmes such as school exchanges, strategic education development at government level,  linked to PE teaching, football coaching, leadership skills and event management. We also offer support, advice and training around marketing for education and for businesses wishing to connect with education.

What we’re not…

We’re not a recruitment company (although we do recruit on a bespoke basis such as this graduate intern programme if we believe that the focus is worthwhile); we’re not a tour operator (although we facilitate exchange programmes between China and the UK and supercharge existing tour programmes with additional student leadership and English language services), and, we’re most definitely not a travel agent (although we do like to travel sometimes! 🙂

We’re different because…

We always start from an educational perspective, not a money-oriented perspective. We believe the money will come if we provide quality education services and build great relationships. In fact, we get all anxious and embarrassed if the quality of our delivery isn’t good, and we genuinely believe that we owe something to the world.

How do you operate? What's your relationship with VEC or other Chinese agencies?

We currently work exclusively with one agency – VEC. This is so we can monitor quality, standards and care without becoming overstretched. If you imagine that we estimate that interaction between us and a Chinese counterpart can often take around three times as long as it would do if we were communicating with a native English speaker, then multiply that by however many other agencies we might work with… then take into account that they’re all different and operate in different ways, you can hopefully see why we think it’s important to develop a small number of relationships and grow them rather than bomb forwards with little or no quality assurance mechanisms.

How does it work financially for Real World Education?

The way it works is that we take a pretty small commission from VEC for any graduate who is placed in China and spends at least 45 days in country.

Now, it’s worth noting here that this is not big business for us – it’s not a major money-spinner. This commission covers admin costs and a small profit that goes back into the development of other programmes such as SpeechCraft training and WeChat English Friend.

What do we get out of it?

A key factor for us is that It helps us to quality assure, do some market research, grow spin-off networks and find out more about local cultures.

The two most important factors for us are these…

  1. For every graduate we place in China we expect to get some ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground – keeping in touch with us about experiences, patterns, and trends. Don’t worry though…you won’t be staring down the barrel of a WeChat the whole time, but we will expect some informal contact in the interests of quality assurance of course, but also to help us get a better idea of trends and training needs in some of lesser known areas of China.
  2. When negotiating contracts for other services with Chinese government or business (such as training or strategic development consultancy) we’re able to show the Chinese and UK governments how we are supporting Sino-English relations, and Chinese economic and societal development. This builds trust in our motives and is likely to lead to stronger, deeper relationships – and – although it is a cliche, it’s true to say that the relationship is core to Chinese business development.

We hope this makes sense and is an honest appraisal of our role and desire to involve ourselves as a premium education consultancy.

What is WeChat?

WeChat is basically the equivalent to WhatsApp – but with bells on. It’s a Chinese app developed by Chinese tech giant Tensent. It also has a social media platform underpinning it, along with extra features such as video calling and a desktop app that allows 50MB file sizes to be transferred and a faster interface….ok, we’re starting feel a bit geeky now, but it’s something you’ll have to jump on board with if you’re going to get along in China. Everyone’s on it (WeChat that is), and people use it for business just as readily as they do for hooking up for a social gathering. You can almost guarantee that if grandma will be on WeChat if she has a smartphone. In fact, we will place a £5 incentive for every smartphone user you find who doesn’t have it….now that’s putting our money where our mouths are!

So, in order to get you thoroughly acclimatised to the socio-cultural patterns of technology usage, we familiarise you with WeChat as you get closer to leaving the UK to link directly with VEC and it will become the main way of communicating with us as and when you require a helping hand.

We’re currently piloting a programme that connects UK college Uni students and graduates with Chinese students on WeChat, and we have a working name of ‘My WeChat English Friend’ – but we’re open to other naming suggestions, and if you’re interested in helping us to develop this area (another CV enhancer of course), then please let us know in your application.

Tell me more about China please?

Yes, no problem – although there’s clearly no way we can give you a full overview. But, what we can do is blow away a few myths about China, and to hopefully whet your appetite for your new adventure. So, here’s a little oversight about China as we know it from our own work, reading, experience, travel, networks and curiosity…

A prolific Geography lecturer once said “whatever you say about China is likely to be true”. This is because China is incredibly diverse and has a mystical, eclectic culture – you shouldn’t pin it down to a few snapshot phrases, nor judge it based on the snippets of Western media. China is misunderstood on a regular basis by many in the West and our advice is to read, read read. A good place to start would be Rob Gifford’s book called China Road. Although it was published in 2011 (and things change fast in China), much of what you learn from it won’t change in a hurry and it really helps you to conclude that there are few conclusions you can genuinely make about China – so – don’t judge too quickly.

Why is China misunderstood? Well, our theory is that people tend to pick up little chunks on the news and movies and then build a whole picture around those chunks. Gestalt psychologists would have a field day – people creating their own ‘big-picture’ from the sum of a few small pieces of information gathered together from quick soundbites then bolted together to create a perception.

The fact is, China is astonishingly diverse in its socio-cultural patterns; it’s unpredictable at times and rarely what people expect. A few examples required?

  • – Not every five year old in China can play the piano like Mozart
  • – Although China has the largest army in the world, it does not feel like a militarised country
  • – Not all Chinese people pre-plan everything down to the last detail, nor plan way in advance (in fact, that side of things you might find particularly surprising)
  • – You CAN get Facebook, YouTube, Google and other in China – you just need a VPN (Virtual Network) – pretty easy to get for people with a middle income
  • – Not all Chinese people work extremely hard… lots do, but they’re people and people are all different with different attitudes
  • – LinkedIn is not blocked (at last time of checking!)
  • – China is arguably one of the most capitalist countries in the world, despite many thinking that it’s still a deeply communist country – it has a virtually free market where private enterprise is strongly encouraged. There is often a complex interrelationship between government and business, confucius philosophy and socialism… can you categorise China in ideological or political terms anymore? We’re not even going to try to answer our own question on that just now, but you can do your own research, whilst you’re out there and let us know what you think
  • – China is multilingual and multicultural. They’re not all the same across all the different provinces, and no two provinces are run in exactly the same way. Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese and a myriad of dialects and local variations are all spoken to different degrees
  • – We sometimes here people say something like “yes, I suppose that’s because they’re a religious country”. Well, China is in essence not a culturally religious country despite regular references to Buddism and meditation; neither is it steeped in ‘magic’ as some might lead us to believe from watching a few too many martial arts movies where people can fly and drink magic potions that transform them into snakes. Religions exist but not everyone follows one religion, nor is everyone religious and our experience and research would suggest quite the opposite
  • – Contrary to some stereotyping, not everyone in China does Kung Fu, and those who do, =rarely do it to a standard where they could take on 10 Westerners in a bar brawl and leave them in a heap one on top of each other before walking slowly away and not looking back!

In conclusion, it’s often thought that when people who ‘know China’ talk about the huge culture differences between our countries, they’re really not talking about the food, the clothes, and the traditions – they’re often talking about deeply embedded ways of thinking, communication and interactions and socio-cultural patterns.

A few truths…

Our experiences (and those of virtually everyone we meet) are that the Chinese are very hospitable. They are extremely friendly and go out of their way to help. This we believe to be a common, cultural thread throughout Chinese society.

However, there are things you should know, because, as with any country – it has its challenges legally, politically and culturally – but that’s all part of the experience of course!

So, when you’re thinking about applying, bare the following in mind…

  1. – Your apartment is paid for by the Chinese agency or school. In many cases the apartments you get assigned to are really nice – nicely decorated, hot running water, carpets etc. and whilst basic, they are pleasant to stay in. However, we have had the odd report of an apartment being assigned which is different from expected, and not like someone may experience in the West in their own homes. For example, no double glazing, cold water and limited kitchen and / or storage facilities. This is the type of thing that we would support you in checking with VEC before you arrive at the school. However, read point number ‘2’ to get a little more context
  2. – The wage you would earn is a flat rate 6000 RMB (or Yuan as Chinese call it casually). This is equivalent to £600 per month. Now, that may not sound like a lot but, should you prefer to live outside the assigned accomodation you should easily be able to afford it with good budgeting….why? Read on…
  3. – The cost of living is very low. For example, a meal can cost as little as 50p (depending on what you have of course) and a taxi is likely to cost around £1.30 as a standard price for a decent length journey. We’re always astonished by how cheap taxis are in China
  4. – £600 is approximately twice what a fully qualified, working Chinese teacher gets in an average second / third tier city and they will almost always have to rent an apartment using their wages – you won’t unless you choose to
  5. – £600 is approximately the same as many of the Upper Directors in second / third-tier cities
  6. – You would have the option to rent a flat elsewhere if you didn’t like it – but, in most cases people are more than happy, and it’s a decent offering – and – remembering why you might be doing this – it’s a true slice of Chinese life.

When considering all the above – please remember that in most cases there are few or no issues. However, working with a country some 5000 miles away with a population of 1.2 Billion people and cities many people don’t even know exist – it’s not an exact science. This is also why your age, outlook, and level of maturity is important – graduates tend to be ready for the next big challenge in life and have a strong sense of resilience through a quest to explore the world.

So, we would simply advise you to consider why you’re wanting to go and whether actually living among ‘real’ Chinese people who often live in very challenging economic situations is part of your core aim. There are few prospects of upward mobility for many Chinese and they can’t jump on a plane back to the comfy bed and flat screen TV. On the other hand – it’s all relative of course…what you get used to will affect how you feel about a place or an experience. So, we’re not belittling the need for comfort, nor are we intending to patronise you. We’re just being as clear as we can be – and – advising you that, whilst we, you and the Chinese agency will do whatever we can together to help you solve problems and support with things like accommodation and food, you may sometimes feel like you’re on your own in the big wide world – even though in this day and age, we are just a ‘WeChat’ away if you need some support. But please remember that if we’re talking about ‘supercharging life skills’ – our philosophy is more about empowering you than solving problems on your behalf.

And that is why we are an education consultancy and not a recruitment or tourism company.

Best wishes and we really hope to chat to you soon. Don’t hestitate to get in contact with any questions or problems.

Rob Walden

Director

Getting paid to go to China...too good to be true?

Actually no.. it’s not too good to be true. This is an incredible opportunity at an unprecedented time for world development – and if you’re showing interest at this stage then you’ve jumped on board at exactly the right time.

It’s very real and very important to the Chinese, and no doubt to you – especially if you’re feeling that little buzz of excitement about whizzing off 5000 miles away and doing something truly unique.

But, we do take it seriously and so we keep labouring the point that it’s not a ‘holiday’ but a job – a job that the Chinese government are investing huge amounts of money in to help drive its country forwards.

So in that respect, it’s ‘truly great’ rather than ‘too good to be true’.

Can I see the big cities and the main tourist sites?

Yes you can, and the likelyhood is that you will as a matter of course anyway. Equally, we’ve been popping in and out of China for twelve years and never been to the Great Wall – so – it’s not the be-all and end-all, but you’ll definitely get chances to travel at weekends and through the national holiday in January – February and October, and you’ll get 19 paid days to make use of too.

If a group goes at the same time (which is likely, for examply in August 2016 when we send around 10 to Sichuan province) then Hope will collect you, do all the paperworky stuff and then take you on a trail around the sites and sounds of Beijing, the Great Wall of China and other pretty cool things for a couple of days or so, before you whizz off to your school, ready to start in September.

I have other interests and qualifications such as sport, art, music and drama....are these any use?

The short answer to that is ‘YES!!!’. Generally speaking, anything you can bring that enriches the lives of young people will have several effects… 1) it will make you more popular (nice!), 2) it will help the children 3) it will help with relationships, 4) it will help with the development of the local community, 5) it will help you to keep your hand in and make use of your wider skills, and 6) there’s a whole bunch of other reasons but you can probably think of those yourself.

The Chinese people will no doubt want to teach you stuff too. They love to show you around, teach you about their customs and their local quirks – the kind of things which may be different from other parts of China, and certainly different from anything you’ll have ever experienced before.

So, if you’re a football coach… use it; if you’re a violinist… take your violin and entertain at a dinner party; if you know how to play tiddlywinks… show them how to play, and feel how it all enriches yours and their experience.

The benefits of combining work and travel

Travelling is amazing. It brings so many opportunities for learning and enrichment. But what’s even better than travelling? Well, we believe it’s travelling and working – or – in priority order, working and travelling. As an employer, we love to hear about graduate experiences in the far flung regions of the world, but actually – lots of people do that… it’s a fairly well trodden path these days.

What’s really unique and something we employers look out for is work experience not travelling. Travel is just a bi-product. Yes, of course, employers are interested to see that you can mix it with the indigenous population and build a fantastic pig pen at the local orphanage; these are all worthy experiences, but to be honest – our main prority is that you have developed an outstanding work ethic, diplomacy and networking skills coming out of your ears, resilience as a pre-requisite and a stronger then usual sense of what it’s like to all day long (and sometimes night), day in, day out and contribute to a common cause.

Many employers like to see that you’ve been able to adapt and overcome tough situations in adverse contexts…and not just anecdotes about when you once missed a flight and have to blag your way onto the next one, or when the money ran out and you had to grab a part-time job to make up the money.

Don’t get us wrong…the travel side of things is valuable, and why shouldn’t people enjoy themselves, have fun and learn more about the world. But, we believe that the real-world experience of working with and for local communities, understanding the deeper elements of what makes the world tick and knowing that when you come out the other side you’ll have done something that few people have done and even fewer have done well.

We have tremendous faith in the next generation of leaders, business people and politicians – and we know that with the type of experience you could gain from working in China will set you up perfectly for a wider choice of careers and a step up the employment prospect ladder – not to mention having an incredible sense of achievement.

So, you’ll be going to work, travel, play and enjoy….what could be better than travelling and getting paid for it?….we hope we’ve answered that question.

 

 

Dear prospective Verbal English Teacher,

I thought I would write a personal message to you as you’ve managed to get this far. I’ve been working with Chinese schools for some twelve years, and I have to say that China is the most intoxicating, magical place I’ve ever traveled to. It’s still full of mystery and the country and its people never cease to amaze me. For a country with so many stereotypes attached to it, this is a wonderful opportunity to see what it’s truly like….close to the ground, close to the people.

This programme is truly unique…the focus on the spoken word means it’s more accessible to a wider range of graduates because the aim is to get Chinese kids understanding the basics of how we speak, as well as the idioms and quirks of the language, intonation and pronunciation – rather than getting too bogged down in heavy-duty grammar. We know this is important, but they already have teachers working on that. Let’s be honest, little happens these days without some kind of verbal interaction between people, and with English being the language of choice for so many countries now, China is playing catchup with their ability to converse.

We’re also pleased and proud that the Chinese are now looking more to the UK for English speakers. For a long time now countries such as Russia, Australia and USA have led the way with English language in China and it’s now time for ‘English English’ to have their chance.

Please don’t agonise over what to write, just apply, be ‘real’…and the rest will follow. Ideally, send us your CV too.

This may feel a little different from other job applications, but our belief is that this is a process not a formality, and the fewer barriers you have to getting to the detail the better. We also believe that we will find out far more about you from this type of approach than if, in the first instance you have to be super-formal.

If you have a CV or LinkedIn account, please do send it of course, but don’t let that stop you from making initial contact through the application form.

Best wishes

Rob Walden
Director
Real World Education Group Ltd.