I'd thought I'd give an update on my situation in Hong Kong.
But in reply to Gerry Chuan, Mainland China is definately an option for me in the future to teach, and yes, it is easier to get a job in China as it is a vastly larger area and more employable. However, at this moment in time, my heart is set on Hong Kong as that is where my parents are from. It's also been nice to have a better look at how my relatives live in this fast moving metropolis!
Having spent a few weeks in my job working in a Hong Kong Tuition centre, I found my employers (who are not teachers, they just find parents to get their students enrolled) changing my contract hours. They changed my day off at the last minute (affecting my plans to meet with relations), constantly booked students into my rota without telling me what I needed to teach them, sometimes, I've had to find materials from random textbooks or the internet to teach the children as the children didn't have the text book (these students were new students who hadn't bought the new books yet...it didn't help that the centre didn't have these new books in the centre to use when a student was without a book!)
Also, when students missed a lesson, the centre loved to give the student an extra lesson sometime in the week to make up for it (once a month)...so once, I had to teach an English Grammar lesson in one hour to 4-6 students. I had one class which ranged from 6,7,8,9,10 and 11 years old, all learning from 3 different books, at different sections and topics....
I can categorically say that this doesn't happen week in, week out, but I found it very hard to teach all the students if their grammar varied between the teaching content and the age groups. It was a very big shame that my employers weren't teachers as they just didn't understand the logic about placing students in classes at the same level, not to just put students in a class to save money and time. My solution to this predicament was to just do my best and get the students answering exercises. It was VERY boring, and I don't believe the students learnt a lot from the lesson...which was a shame...
After one too many changes, there was one particular change (extending my weekend hours) I wasn't happy with in which I immediately told my employer. Her response was that as I was a Chinese looking NET (and that if I didn't like it), then at the end of my probation period, they would terminate the contract and find a non-chinese looking NET to fill my post easily. They also said that I was paid a very high salary for a NET considering I was Chinese and that I wasn't teaching a lot of lessons in the week, so I should accept the extra working hours to make up for my salary.
So what was my response to this? I took it on the chin and went home. In my email account, I had 2 requests for NET interviews at other centres which I hadn't replied to (as I wasn't considering leaving). I decided to visit one centre, signed a contract with the centre (improved salary) and handed in my notice to my boss.
The next thing I knew, I found myself being offered dinner with my boss, who was offering to pay for my dinner et al before having a discussion about staying at the centre. I was now being told that they would increase my salary, give me a longer holiday and offer me less hours in the week as a lot of parents loved me and they wanted me to stay with them (and break the contract I had with the other centre). However, I informed them that I had signed a contract with the other organization and that I never go back on my word. 2 weeks later, they finally succumbed to my demands and hopefully I'll be starting my new job soon.
Don't want to go too detailed into my surroundings, but I guess if you are going to work as a NET in Hong Kong, expect the following:
1: Friday evenings and the weekends are like Gold Dust to the tuition centres. These are the periods where the students come in droves and this is where the centres make their money. I admit it was my fault in signing a contract to work weekends...so be aware! (or at least ask for more money on the weekends!...if you prefer money to spending time with friends on the weekends like I did).
2: There are greater opportunities to teach Children than adults in Hong Kong. Having met new friends in Hong Kong working for different companies, many people have a intermediate level of English. It's ok, but not great for businesses. The solution in Hong Kong? Employ foreigners/non native chinese people who speak English. Hong Kong is a funny place in which there is a lot of money that is going around and organisations, instead of improving the English of their employers, are happy to pay for someone who speaks English instead. I'm not sure if it is because it is cost effective or time saving, but it just seems to me that they just don't trust their own people. There's the money to be spent, so spend it on employing people from the outside.
HOWEVER! This is good for people who aren't from Hong Kong as it means that we (can exploit) get opportunities to work in these countries at high salaries and low living costs.
3: The children (7-11 years old) are trying to learn Cantonese, Mandarin and English before entering Secondary School. They need to learn this at a level where they can hold a good conversation (to make this more understandable, the students will be taught at some secondary school lessons all in English (apart from Chinese of course)) and are expected to be able to read at a very high level. Many of my students (11 years old) at the moment are struggling with The Cat in the Hat.
Many...and I mean MANY are struggling (not using English enough, poor English Teachers in primary school, students not wanting to learn English, learning difficulties) and many parents resort to tuition centres to help improve their child's English.
Again, the job opportunities are there for the time being as the Hong Kong education system is still up in the air and isn't going to improve any time soon.
4: Sorry to state the obvious, but once you've got the work experience, as a Chinese NET, you become a lot more employable in HK. Not really wanting to leave me current job role, I did update my CV and posted it onto the internet for potential employers to see.
When I first came to Hong Kong, I posted my CV onto websites and sent nearly 70 applications, ending up with 3 responses (and accepting one job offer).
When I got my first job, I updated my CV and posted it onto websites, not applying or any jobs. I received 4-5 responses from centres asking me for interviews!
5: My final point is a discrimatory one (doesn't really apply to non-chinese and I don't think it applies to Schools)... in which I don't want to cause offence to anyone specifically, but I thought I would share my experience as it did happen. It's probably a one off... but before leaving my tuition centre, I helped them with the recruitment of the new NET and interviewed candidates. A horrible thing I was told was to look for someone (who was oriental) who wasn't....scary....or who was good looking (wtf?!)
I interviewed many candidates and many were Orientals born in other countries (they all ticked the right boxes for me as I sympathised with them...the ones with the tefl certs anyway). However, my manager dismissed some, explaining that some of the students are picky and they don't like an oriental person who looks scary, or who doesn't look like they will be a lot of fun...(therefore = loss of students, loss of revenue). However, if you are not oriental, the parents will like you, regardless of looks and they will force the kids to sign up.
In a horrible way...I agreed with this. I'm not saying that you have to look like the Chinese Leonardo Di Caprio, but unfortunately, the tuition side of things looks at appearances, and if you are employed to teach very young children, then you will have to look friendly or be... good looking (whatever this means).
This has also got me worried myself, as I'm not getting any younger (duh) and if this is how Hong Kong works, then in a couple more years, I myself might be out of a job (teaching primary school kids)...not because of my credentials, but because of how my appearance turns out in the end.
So...part explanation...a lot of ranting (I'm sorry!), but I hope this will help someone out there.
...6: Although Hong Kong is part of China, to actually work in China is a lot different than Hong Kong. Also bear in mind that the opportunities (and if I'm made to believe the benefits?) of working in China are getting better and better...