I haven't worked there but I received an offer from them which was one of the most ridiculous, underpaid and abusive I have been offered. It raised many red flags, namely:
- Low salary - I was offered 7000rmb for 40 working hours or 25 teaching hours which is really sh*t.
- Silly working hours. By contract you can work any time from 7:30 to 22:30! The DOS refused to change the contract to reflect the working hours I had been told in the interview. She said "this is a standard EF contract, that is why the hours are so vague" and expected me to sign!
- The only accommodation option is to share a flat. If you don't get on with your housemates or prefer to live by yourself then it's on your own money. It's standard practice to offer some sort of housing allowance in case you don't wish to share but they don't do this.
- According to the DOS EF has a wonderful medical insurance that would have my back in the event that I got run over by a truck or something. This was nowhere in the contract and she failed to produce any documents to certify this, expecting me to rely on her word.
- One other clause which really just shows bad faith is the crazy non compete: by contract, you cannot work for any other company in SJZ ever, not even after your contract with EF has expired, without their permission! I doubt this even has any sort of legal ground!
- Last but not least - SJZ is one of the most polluted cities in the world. You will not see a blue sky for most of the year! It is a new city lacking in character. According to the school's publicity, one of it's biggest appeals is that it's two hours away from Beijing - how bleak must somewhere be for you to say it's really cool because it's 2h away from somewhere cool and you can go there every now and then?!
When I confronted the school about these points I was told that I should just sign the contract because it's a standard issue contract. However I 'had their word' that my working hours would be respected, I would be given some sort of accommodation allowance, and if I ever had an accident or medical problem the school would of course 'have my back'. For me that was the biggest red flag of all and the clearest sign that these people are complete cowboys - what's the point of a contract if before I even sign it you are telling me the real conditions are going to be different? What value can a document have if it's void before I even sign it?
I couldn't believe anyone would sign a contract like that so I asked to talk with one of the teachers. When I asked him about cultural differences between China and the West his reply was 'Dude! Children peeing everywhere'. He then claimed that he was saving 1200USD per month, but when I asked him how much money it was in RMB it appears the real sum was closer to 600USD (his math was really off, or someone had tricked him about the exchange rate...). Finally, I inquired about his views on these rather abusive clauses and he basically admitted that he had signed without reading and this was the first news he had. So I guess that's the sort of people I would be working with...
Since then EF SJZ has produced a few videos with their staff claiming that they really like the school and it's a great place to live. It's good sales material for recruiters who try to get novice teachers to go there, hoping they won't read or think before they leave, claiming the city has a lot going for it and that EF is a solid, reputable company. However if you read a contract you will see that there's a clause that basiacally says that you have to be a part of the school's marketing efforts. So remember, the teachers are obliged by contract to say it's a great school! But if you look closely at the video I honestly find some of them a bit hard to believe... And anyway, when a school is a tight ship it really doesn't need videos with the staff saying it's really great: it simply shows on the interview, the contract, the teachers... Good places to work don't really have that much trouble finding teachers and don't need recruiters or videos!!
So yeah, as a general rule, please read carefully and talk to the teachers. I obviously didn't sign with them and am very happy since I found a great teaching job elsewhere!