Recruitment – China – will this be the year we will remember for a very long time?

The latest changes we have seen in the media lately to the education sector in China, are indeed very serious. These changes are affecting Private Schools (
China Government seeking to halve number of children educated privately); and the  ban on any for-profit tutoring services focused on the country’s core public school curriculum (China Crackdown on Education)

This is all part of  a further tightening of control from Beijing, we think driven by fear of potential conflict at home, in addition to concern around interference from foreigners. These policies will make it difficult for many international private schools to operate of course –  more so for some than others. Those that are fully compliant with curriculum and other requirements we believe will be able to continue, but for others it’s going to be a rocky road. Note schools operating as ‘Schools for the Children of Foreign Nationals’ are not effected by the new Private School Regulations. This could mean Chinese families with Foreign Passports choosing these schools now over local Private Bilingual Schools.

All signs indicate that this year (21/22) will be a particularly challenging recruitment season for international schools in China looking for new teachers.  At IES we are hearing first-hand from Heads of School already, how anxious many are about the prospects of having a fully operational faculty in 22/23. Many thought it couldn’t be worse than last year, but things are proving to be even more challenging this year.

School Leaders in South East Asia are already saying that the number of teachers applying to their school from China has been overwhelming.  It is evident that many of these teachers are looking to stay in Asia but some are not wanting not to stay in China any longer. Last year, 20/21, was already one of the most difficult years on record for teachers, with many taking on a lot of additional work, coping with a rescheduling of exams, not being able to get in-country and conducting Online learning over a 15-hour time zone amongst many other difficulties.

One selling point for China as a teaching location was the ability for teachers to save money, as packages are generally that much higher. However,  a new tax policy comes into play in January 2022 where teachers will now have some of their benefits taxed (Housing and Gratuity) Many schools and groups are looking to absorb this extra cost on behalf of the teachers, but these are worrying trends for international teaching staff. Also China is known to be a great place to teach and is normally very family friendly, but now no visas will be issued to dependents. We are hearing, China work visas for anyone, but especially dependents, are hard to come by. The Chinese Consulates in the USA apparently have a backlog of thousands of applications.

 The recent news of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou’s return to China on 25th September, hours after two Canadians freed by China had gone back, does feel like a big step in the right direction for potential positive movement in North America / China relations that will hopefully help with visas now being issued. 

Many schools have anticipated the possibility of more visa and travel delays again and are concentrating on filling vacant positions from within China. We have seen jobs already posted in September when normally these jobs would only be seen in October or November.. 

The whole recruitment sector needs to be on the alert and questioning teachers about their contractual obligations as we have heard of a number that give misleading information and are not disclosing when they are breaking contract. We think whilst many did have their contracts cancelled due to the pandemic, others jumped on the bandwagon and decided to try their luck and switch schools’ mid-contract – those in China perhaps encouraged by the very high salaries teachers in-country have been asking for and being paid. One group told us about TEFL teachers being paid insanely high salaries and how international schools have been poaching TEFL staff to fill their vacancies. We are also hearing about teachers under contract, trying to break the contract by applying to another school after being offered a much higher paid salary and without that school checking references or contacting the school where the teacher is employed. 

We have also heard how teachers  in China, wanting to leave for their next contract, are frequently surprised by how much their salaries will drop because they’re moving outside of China. Some hadn’t appreciated that whilst salaries have been increasing in China (whether reflected officially in salary scales or unofficially as a result of negotiations) in a bidding war for China-based candidates, that wasn’t reflected in the rest of world, particularly the Middle East who have seen salaries drop and vacancies reduce. The fight for candidates has spilled over to recruitment agencies too and we have seen a few school groups comment on the increased frequency of multiple agencies sending the same candidates and, on numerous occasions, the candidate not even being aware that the agencies have sent their CV. In the rush to get a placeable candidate to a school first, some agencies seem to have been trying to skip the step of actually discussing the school and the vacancy with their candidate and schools have been forced to include clauses in Terms of  Business to try and prevent this from happening. 

IES is proud to be partnering with Edvectus by distributing a NEW Asia Pacific/Middle East, International Recruitment Survey that goes out this week. We are very grateful to a number of Heads of School who helped put the questions and answers together.

Given all the volatility in the world right now, we believe the findings and consensus will provide much needed intelligence for the upcoming season. Especially in China, in what feels like a year we will remember for a long time.

Author: Richard Gaskell