What Will New Normal Be For American Teachers To Chinese Schools?

How will 2020 compare to 2018?

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote this:

The fast growth of Chinese “English Medium” private schools…has only worsened the shortage in American and British teachers over there, for which there is high demand.

One headmaster told me he’d attended a particular international recruiting conference in 2017, where 2 Chinese schools were in the mix. There he made 8 offers and hired 3 teachers.

In 2018, at the same conference, 20 Chinese schools were there. There he made 0 offers. Increased demand, lower quality of supply.

In 2019, there was a Trade War. That affected the supply of American teachers interested in China in 2 ways. First, visa problems rose. Second, the mood of Americans broadly towards the Chinese government (and vice versa, Chinese view of American government) got worse.

I say “government” specifically because, per below, people separate their views of “people” and “government” – not 100% but to a large degree.

Now in 2020, Corona Virus will presumably make recruiting American teachers for September 2020 at least 2x more challenging. Maybe more.

A friend mentioned that at her school in China, 50% of the American teachers who had already committed to joining for September 2020 had withdrawn that commitment in the past 4 weeks.

It’s not just young American teachers themselves who are affected. Most people run their ideas by Mom and Dad. So if a 22-year-old says “I’d like to go teach in China,” it matters how their parents view China as a whole.

And according to Gallup, American views towards China have eroded in the past 2 years.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new Gallup poll finds Americans’ favorable rating of China has declined further in the past year, sinking to a record-tying low. For the first time in more than a decade, Americans regard the U.S. rather than China as the world’s leading economic power. And with fewer Americans than in 2019 naming Russia as the United States’ greatest enemy, Russia and China now tie for first on that list.

Thirty-three percent of Americans currently have a favorable opinion of China, a 20-percentage-point decline since 2018 and an eight-point drop in the past year. China’s current favorable rating ties prior readings from 1997 and 2000 as the lowest in Gallup’s trend, dating back to 1979. It is similar to the 34% reading in 1989, taken after the Chinese government’s crackdown on student protestors in Tiananmen Square.

The latest poll, conducted Feb. 3-16, follows recent news about ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China and disputes over China’s territorial claims in international waters. The coronavirus outbreak, recent allegations of spying by Chinese students and scholars at U.S. colleges, and the ongoing battle with Chinese tech company Huawei over the alleged theft of U.S. technology may also be contributing to the decline in China’s favorable rating.

I think it’s worth separating by political parties. My guess is American teachers who move teach in Chinese private schools skew towards the Democratic Party.

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Importantly, Americans separate their view of the Chinese people (the actual students and their parents) quite differently from China (the country, the government, etc).

Americans think highly overall of the Chinese people. I would be curious if that has eroded since 2012 but my guess is “not much.”

At least seven-in-ten Americans describe the Chinese people as hardworking (93%), competitive (89%) and inventive (73%); smaller majorities also say the Chinese are nationalistic (63%) and modern (57%), while a 49%-plurality see them as sophisticated.

Fewer attribute negative traits like aggressiveness (43%), greed (40%), arrogance (36%), selfishness (31%), rudeness (28%) and violence (24%) to the Chinese people. Similarly, not many associate positive traits such as honesty (44%), tolerance (38%) and generosity (28%) with the Chinese.


My guess is the best way to attract American teachers to China is to focus on precisely how they can build relationships with Chinese students and their parents, that the kids work quite hard but also need someone to model social/emotional learning (like caring about others).

That’s different from the typical pitch. This is more typical:

EF classrooms are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. We have over 300 centers in 60+ locations around China. They are modern and bright spaces, filled with the latest technology.

I don’t think that the bright classrooms such a draw with the best American teachers. I realize the school leaders invested a ton of cash in those buildings, and parents seem to care a lot about that.

Teachers’ rooms are occupied by international colleagues who you can always exchange stories with and learn from.

I’d think the American teachers you’d want to recruit care more about connecting with Chinese colleagues, not those from, say, New Zealand. That’s the whole point of the cultural experience (unless you’re an American teacher struggling to get a job in the USA, which is true of some of those I met there).

But I agree that that what typically happens is not that — Chinese and expat teachers typically sit separately at lunch, etc. Unfortunate. That’s not the way I would run a school but it is an accurate description of most schools.

Best of all, EF’s hallways are bustling with amazing students who are eager to learn the English language.

Again, this phrasing feels like a missed opportunity to attract American teachers (the best ones). The kids in China are like other kids: eager for teachers who get to know them as individuals, which is not so much what they get.