The alarming Coronavirus Pandemic has devastated the economy of the entire planet. Rather than being an exception, the outbreak has and will continue to have a colossal impact on the English teaching industry in China. This is how the virus is going to delay jobs for the foreseeable future, our best estimation of a return to work date for China teachers stuck in the West and the implications and changes to teaching that will last long after the initial damage is over.
Why Teaching English in China positions are so hard hit?
Teaching positions in China taught by foreigners will be particularly hard hit from the culmination of affects and countermeasures both in China and abroad. Firstly, there is the initial issue of schools in China still being closed. With the schools closed in China there are no job openings and in our own agencies instinct we get the feeling that many schools are reluctant to even consider the future or re-opening and hiring teachers in advance. Schools cannot reopen until the local authority permits them to open. Many of the schools that foreign English teachers work in are private, extra curricular schools in China, called training schools. These training schools are expected to open shortly after the public schools reopen. Our best estimation is that the bulk of training schools in the country that offer English teaching positions will reopen around mid May.
It is expected that schools will not advertise or consider teachers until they reopen. However, once the schools are opened, in our experience as a recruitment agency we predict schools to suddenly be desperate to hire new teachers once their future is certain and they can be confident of needing them. In order to mitigate this, we have already opened and welcome applicants to apply for positions in China and we will update you and begin interviews and recommendations to schools as soon as they are considering new hires. However, before being possible, a number of other measures are obstructing the situation and teaching is impossible in China until they change.
The Chinese border
China has banned virtually all foreign nationals from entering the country. This is in attempt to prevent or at least delay a second wave in Covid-19 cases from infected foreigners coming to China and spreading the virus. This means that regardless of how things are in the West. The bottom line is that until Chinese authorities reopen the border to foreign nationals, teaching positions will be impossible to start in China. The silver lining is that there are two categories of people that are exempt to this lockdown. The first is that online jobs are still in progress and teachers can continue to teach Chinese students through online teaching companies. The second category of people who are exempt from the closed border are foreign nationals already in China. An expected reopening date of the country to foreigners is not yet known and we speculate that this will depend on the virus situation globally
The Pandemic outside of China
China is not the only country to implement strict quarantine measures to stem virus transmission. According to the WHO, as of 31st March, the virus was present in 203 countries and territories. According to Chinese immigration law, foreigners teaching TEFL are required to speak English as their native language. Teachers must be a national of UK, US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand or South Africa. Many of these countries have been hit hard by the virus. A key example is the USA. Many English teachers in China are US nationals. According the the CDC, as of 31st March there were 163,539 recorded cases in the U.S with numbers growing rapidly. In response, the US has imposed numerous controls in effect shutting down many aspects of the country and making it practically impossible to travel to China. Even if the situation is fine in China and their borders reopen, key services such as consular services and notary lawyers will not be available in the US to process documents prerequisite to the China work visa until the country once again normalises and the lockdowns recede. It’s not only the US either. Currently all 7 classified native English speaking countries are in various states of lockdown and services from flights to notarization are unavailable. This makes getting to China impossible. Once again, many of these lockdowns and service closures have no end date in sight and depend upon the coronavirus pandemic coming under control.
When will English teaching Jobs in China reopen?
So the impossible question is when will all these restrictions end and teaching English in China once again become possible for all new teachers and teachers currently waiting out the storm outside of China? Although a certain date is absolutely impossible to suggest as it depends on the pandemic, in our personal estimation as recruitment agents we advise all teachers to make a conservative prediction. We predict teachers at the earliest to possibly fly out for the next academic term in September 2020. However, in our opinion, the bulk of positions for foreign teachers opening as late as January 2021 wouldn’t be surprising. This is because even with all these complicated issues resolved, it takes an estimated 3 months from accepting a job offer, obtaining the relevant TEFL qualifications and paperwork before booking your flight and arriving in China is possible.
Of course, for teachers currently employed in China they will not need to process this paperwork and as such we predict them being able to return to China as early as mid-summer. However, as late as September is a distinct possibility. This raises another issue of current China teachers waiting to return having their employment contract and visa expire. This further complicates matters and may mean that they will then need to reapply for a new China teaching position all over again.