Employment prospects in Hong Kong

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Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby parisjetaime » 31 Oct 2012, 23:40

Hi all,

Apologies for posting a question which I feel has probably been answered already... but I'd like to set my family's minds (and mine to some extent!) at rest!

I'm currently planning to study the CELTA over 12 weeks, but before I shell out the money for it, I'd like to be sure that I am likely to get a job as an English teacher in Hong Kong (my preferred destination).

Some background: I hold an undergraduate and two graduate (both master's level) degrees from top universities (Ivy League / Oxbridge), all with very good grades. Since leaving university I have worked in financial services. I am a native English speaker and of caucasian ethnicity.

I'm planning to apply for the NET scheme (while studying for CELTA as the deadline is during the course). As my degree is not in English (or linguistics etc) and I don't have 12 months' teaching experience, I'm only eligible to apply for the primary NET scheme category 4, and I gather that they only recruit from this category if there aren't enough applicants from other categories. So I'll still apply, but figure my chances are pretty low. (Can anyone confirm this?)

I'm also planning to apply to tuition centres, and my current assumption is that I am pretty likely to find employment there. Can anyone confirm this, and that such centres will sponsor a working visa?

In addition, I'd be really grateful if anyone could provide guidance as to whether there are other potential employers I'm missing (private schools?), and on the private tuition scene in Hong Kong, i.e. is it relatively easy to find additional work tutoring one on one?

All advice gratefully received! Thank you.
parisjetaime
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Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 16 Nov 2012, 05:48

Hi there,

I'm currently teaching English in a very small tuition centre in Yuen Long. I've been here for nearly three years now. I'm asian but a british citizen with authorisation to work and live in HK indefinitely. Currently working 6 days a week, but teaching about 23-24 hours per week (NOT including time used for preparation of materials)

Having the CELTA can get you a teaching job in Hong Kong. You're also a native speaker, have a degree and more importantly caucasian. So finding a job in a local tuition centre would be no problem at all. Have a look at HK jobs websites and you'll find lots of opportunities. (JobsDB)

NET scheme - I tried this year and only heard back to say they received my application.

Apply early. The current closing date is the end of January 2013 for 2013-2014 applicants.

Important note - HK schools will take on those with 2 years teaching experience in a public school environment. i.e. They take on those with a Postgraduate Diploma in Education.

If there are not enough of these candidates, then NET teachers with a caucasian look AND some teaching experience would be considered.

If there are still places left, then you'd probably be considered. After that, the HK schools will consider asian looking NETs but by that time they're probably full.

But you are correct, apply nonetheless. The NET scheme is very attractive and is probably one of the better teaching schemes in HK. Schools would probably arrange all VISA requirements and fund towards your living expenses. As you may have already assumed, the NET scheme is HIGHLY competitive.

Tuition centres

There are many, so if you don't get onto a NET scheme, you should find it quite easy to get a job in a tuition centre.

Pros
They can pay from $175-250 per hour (maybe more) and you would be expected to teach classes ranging from 2-8 students. Tuition centres love caucasians and sell this fact to parents when getting students. I believe some centres arrange visa's for you but you would have to check with them. Taxes are low in HK so as long as you work enough hours (20-30 hours per week), you should be able to sustain a good standard of living.

Monday - Thursday usually results in less teaching hours.
Caucasians seem to get better benefits than asians here. So if you wanted to call in sick, it wouldn't be too big a problem. Remember, being caucasian is a massive selling point to the tuition centres, so they'll try to keep you happy at all costs.

cons
Check your contract. Some centres keep you on a 1 or 2 year contract. Breach this you'll lose most of your salary.
You are expected to teach students from Kindergarten to Secondary school (the more flexible you are, the easier it will be for you to get a job). Your classes in one day could range from a phonics class, a play group and then a grammar class to secondary students.
Be expected to work when the students don't attend school. So your working hours are usually in the mornings or late afternoons to the evening ON WEEKEDAYS. (e.g. for me, I work from 9-11 am, then 3-7pm). Don't expect to have breaks inbetween lessons (but if there are no lessons for you to teach than this can count as a break for you)
Your busiest days are from Friday evening to Sunday. These periods are the times where the tuition centres make most their money and they will hope to get you to work during these periods.

Potentially, you could be working from 3-8pm on Friday, 9am to 7pm on Saturday and finally 9am to 5pm on Sunday (you'll get a lunch break inbetween).

These are the times where many caucasian teachers "call in sick" and substitute teachers are called in to cover lessons.

Sometimes, you'll be teaching a phonics class when your boss comes in and adds another student to your class. This student will not be here for phonics, but you'll be expected to teach him 'something' nevertheless. Be prepared because this happens a lot.

Private Tuition

Female Native English teachers are easier to recruit students than male teachers. This is because HK parents are worried that male teachers may take advantage of their kids.
However, male teachers with a good relationship with parents can also get private tuitions. It's just easier for females.

Don't worry about not knowing Cantonese/Mandarin. Unfortunately, most HK parents believe that if you speak English to their kids, their kids will pick up English perfectly ... which is not entirely true ...

Pros
You're caucasian!
Private tuition rates can be from $200-400 per hour. Being caucasian, I would definately start around $300. If you're brave enough you could even start higher and let the parent negotiate a rate later on.


Cons
Your rate depends on your experience.
Sometimes, the parents may stand next to you when you teach. Worse case scenario would be that they offer suggestions to you midway through your teaching (which is really annoying).
The parents may cancel a lesson at short notice. This is particularly annoying since you'll lose your tuition fee.
Former Native English Teacher in Hong Kong for 3 years.
British Born Chinese.
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Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby parisjetaime » 16 Nov 2012, 12:08

Thanks pokedmund! I was hoping you'd reply.

So it seems like I've got a good chance of finding a job, which is great news! I'll definitely do the CELTA then. I also feel really encouraged about the prospects for private tuition (although slightly uneasy about how much the fact that I'm caucasian seems to count!)

It sounds like most if not all teaching opportunities are for children and young adults. Any comments on the opportunities for teaching adults, and specifically business English? I have wondered if my business background might help me to move more into this area.
parisjetaime
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Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 16 Nov 2012, 16:11

I'm afraid I've never done Business English in Hong Kong before. I remember an American teacher teaching privately a 20-something year old friend of a neighbour English. The going rate was about $200-300 per hour there.

However, you could always post adverts at the local supermarkets (like they do in Tesco) all in English and say what experiences you've had in the UK and how you can help learners on a conversational level in a business environment.

Oh, APPLY BEFORE YOU COME TO HONG KONG. Companies are aware that people are abroad and will come to Hong Kong, so it will be good to apply to many companies in advance. Saves time as well.

English is a second/third language in Hong Kong, so although many people still can't speak English fluently, they wouldn't have a lot of trouble speaking or using it.

I forgot to mention that the British Council also accepts candidates. But they're also quite hard to get into, but still worth trying.

Yes, Infants, kindergarten, primary and secondary schools students are the main focus of English tutorial education in Hong Kong. They need it as part of their studies on top of Cantonese and Potungha, which is pretty stressful for those that can't cope.

When you asked about "Business English", a company known as "English Town" popped into my head. Note, I know very little about this company apart from the fact that they seem to have some extra revenue for short advertisement clips on the buses and MTR (Hong Kong's tube network).

I guess I'm trying to say that there are some tutorial companies out there that "may" teach adult English or English required on a conversational level in a work environment. Sorry I can't provide more information than this. Initially, I came to Hong Kong wanting to teach mature students. However, I found that I enjoyed teaching infants, kindergarten and Primary students a lot more.

Apart from that, I would like to wish you the best of luck with your future decisions. It's definitely worth the experience, and Hong Kong will be relatively easy for new TEFL teachers as most times, students already will have a good grasp of the English language.

Regarding the CELTA, I loved every minute of it. BUT.
I still needed additional research and experience before I got a firm grasp of what I had learnt (maybe I'm a slow learner...)
HOWEVER. The CELTA gave me great hands on teaching experience before heading to Hong Kong and being able to show my employers the CELTA with the words "Cambridge" was a good selling point for me. Also having grown up and graduate from the UK as well. I still try to stick to my CELTA principles when possible.

Being Asian was a slight negative on my interviews though. So again, being Caucasian is a significant PLUS on your resume.

Feel free to ask any other questions about Hong Kong as I may have left somethings out.
Former Native English Teacher in Hong Kong for 3 years.
British Born Chinese.
pokedmund
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Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby parisjetaime » 19 Nov 2012, 14:51

Thanks again pokedmund, I really appreciate all the advice. I think that covers all my questions for now, but might post again once I've started the CELTA and am starting to make applications. Really excited about the future! Thank you again for helping to take away some worries.
parisjetaime
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Posts: 11
Joined: 31 Oct 2012, 23:17
Status: Prospective Teacher

Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby parisjetaime » 27 Nov 2012, 12:53

Hi pokedmund (and anyone else who might be reading this!) - have you seen the recent BBC article about tutor "kings" and "queens" in Hong Kong? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20085558

I noticed the billboards for these rockstar tutors when I was in Hong Kong over the summer, but didn't realise what they were. (Tutors aren't advertised like this where I live!)

It's raised a question: if I teach English in a tuition centre, will the focus be on passing the exam (i.e. understanding the exam structure, practising questions, prepping topics that are likely to appear) or on raising the standard of the class' spoken and written English? In all my preparation I've assumed it will be the latter - and now I'm a bit concerned that I will in fact be expected to "teach to the test". Does anyone have any comments on this based on their experience?
parisjetaime
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Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 04 Dec 2012, 03:20

Basically, yes to your question. But don't worry.

It's not just improvements in speaking and listening to English, throughout a HK kids journey in educationit's about getting the results to get in with a CHANCE to go to a university in HK. Mentioned from that BBC article, 1 in 4 / 1 in 5 students get into University in HK (we're talking about HK students and students from abroad, primarily mainland China).

Your role, as a foreigner, is to persuade students to speak English. HK people want their kids to speak English correctly and they believe only a foreigner can do this. The test based tutorial can be assigned to other (normally HK based) teachers.

1) Students from Primary to Secondary do most of the tests (Year 3-11)

If we're talking about Primary schools students, you'll go to the tuition centres, teach the grammar they're learning that day and then ask them to answer the questions. The tuition centres won't ask you to sit with students practising test papers. There are other centres that could do that at a much cheaper price.

Secondary students may probably need more exam based questions. If so, they probably won't attend your courses and will head off to find the "Tutor kings/queens".

Understanding exam structure & prepping topics- Other tutorial centres or HK tutors will teach this.

Practising questions - as above but with some exceptions.
Interviews for schools occur from Nursery to Primary.


Nursery - You maybe asked to hold interview sessions with children. This could range from asking the kid to answer questions (how many pencils do I have, count from 10 backwards).

Kindergarten - Again, interview sessions primarily. This time more difficult questions and even getting the student to use English to describe themselves and something they like, a hobby, describing their family, holding a conversation with a teacher in general.

Primary - Similar to Kindergarten but with more difficult and probing questions.

I personally think the most test-based teaching you may be asked to do would be the interview sessions.
Former Native English Teacher in Hong Kong for 3 years.
British Born Chinese.
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Re: Employment prospects in Hong Kong

Unread postby pokedmund » 04 Dec 2012, 04:37

What are these tutor king/queen centres like?

I've never been inside, and I think recording of lectures is prohibited. Searches on the internet haven't found much either, but from asking student experiences:

1) They cost about $50 per lesson (apprx £6-7). VERY cheap and affordable
2) Sometimes theres a teacher in one class. Other times its a video or a recording of a lesson taught before.
3) There can be 60 students (maybe more or less) in one class. (apprx 60x£6 = £360 per lesson).
4) Not all the students go to learn. Some are forced. Since there's not really a requirement to listen in class, most bring their PSP to class and just play games.
5) The most important part is the "preparing for potential exam topic questions" and how to answer them. These tutor king/queens seem to be pretty good at predicting these questions.

6) So good in fact, some have suggested that they may have been tipped off, which these tutor kings/queen have thoroughly denied.
Former Native English Teacher in Hong Kong for 3 years.
British Born Chinese.
pokedmund
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Posts: 76
Joined: 02 Jan 2010, 19:12
Status: Other


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