Teaching in China

There are now more than 5,000 English medium international schools around the world and that number continues to grow. As a result, the job opportunities for skilled English-speaking teachers at Early Years, Primary and Secondary level are vast. In China alone there are over 300 international schools with many offering education for 3-11 year olds and almost a quarter of them following the English National Curriculum. As a result, there are plenty of jobs for British primary school teachers and Hannah Brunton is one of them.

Having taught at Barrow Hill Junior School in London for three years, Hannah started teaching at the Harrow Primary School in Beijing two years ago and it was a move that she found surprisingly easy: “I first became interested in teaching in an international school in the November before I moved out to China,” she explains. “I attended an informational seminar by Teachers International Consultancy to find out exactly what the possibilities were, never thinking that within a year I’d be facing such a thrilling change in my life. I had no clue of the huge number of quality teaching opportunities available to me; all allowing me the chance to develop my skills as a teacher and experience a different culture. It’s been the most incredible opportunity and I’d recommend it to any teacher”.

Exploring a different culture

Hannah says that living in Beijing gave her the freedom to travel during the holidays to places she would never have visited if she’d stayed in England. “It also gave me the chance to experience a different culture, meet people from all walks of life, and form lasting friendships,” she explains. “Professionally, working in a growing and successful school enabled me to develop as a teacher and I enjoyed the freedom I was given to try out new teaching skills. It has been such a positive experience for me.”

Teachers with families are encouraged

Most people assume that it’s just young, single people like Hannah who teach overseas, but in reality lots of teachers move abroad with their families. Sometimes it’s a teaching couple, other times it’s a family who is moving overseas for another job and the spouse wants to continue teaching. And often, the whole family moves out specifically for a teaching job. Some international schools actively encourage teachers with families because they often settle well into the school and social life as their children mix with other expatriate and local children. Nancy Appelbe is a British primary teacher who moved to Beijing with her whole family to work at the British School of Beijing where she is teaching the English National Curriculum to three year olds. “It is great working with children who are willing to learn, and to watch them progress throughout the year with their English is very rewarding for me as a teacher,” says Nancy. “One of the pros of teaching in China is how relaxed the teaching is. We still do all the requirements for the English National Curriculum with the inspections, planning, recording, tracking just like in the UK, but it just feels more relaxed and it allows me to teach better.”

Learning the language

“One thing which teachers should be aware of if considering a move to Beijing is the language barrier,” advises Nancy. “The language is very hard to learn and is not at all like any European language. But, the Chinese are very friendly and are as helpful as possible.” However, in the classroom and during all school life Nancy teaches and talks in English where it is - as in all international schools - the language for learning. So for Nancy and her family, speaking Chinese isn’t a necessity, but of course a benefit when shopping, mixing with the locals and making new friends.

Best of both worlds

And when it comes to shopping and culture, Nancy says she actually has the best of both worlds: “There are two sides to Beijing. One side is very westernised with popular high street shops including Zara, Nike, etc. The other side of town is a traditional Chinese town with markets and little restaurants”.

According to ISC Research, the only organisation to track the entire international schools market, the most popular locations for teachers to move to in China are Shanghai where there are 86 international schools, and Beijing where there are 81 international schools. There are also 16 international schools in Shenzhen, 12 in Nanjing and 12 in Chengden as well as international schools in most large Chinese cities. Both Hannah and Nancy are pleased they made the move to China and Nancy speaks for them both when she says, “take the plunge and just do it!”


Nancy and Hannah found their jobs through Teachers International Consultancy, a specialist recruitment organisation which helps English-speaking teachers find teaching jobs in international schools. For more information visit: www.findteachingjobsoverseas.co.uk.

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