- I’ll focus on the three I’ve worked for, English First (EF), one of the largest training centers in all of China;
- Chinese-operated training centers that compete with the international training centers, such as EF;
- And the single-owner operator training centers that often struggle to survive in the competitive market that training centers belong to in modern day China.
You’re only going to see training centers in China grow and grow in the coming years. Right now there are hundreds of schools being operated by the biggest players in the market, the internationally-backed training centers. Not to be outdone the Chinese have opened plenty of their own training centers, often having more Chinese teachers than foreign teachers. Rounding out the pack are the small upstart training centers operated and often jointly owned by a foreigner.
All of these training centers have their benefits and their drawbacks. You certainly won’t have as many students as you would at a public school, but you’ll probably have to work more hours. You’ll get paid more than most public schools when you work at a training center, but you’ll get less holiday time as well.
The support materials provided to you by the training centers are often a whole lot more than you would have gotten at a public school, and a whole lot more useful. And finally the headmaster or your main contact teacher probably won’t monitor you that much, or even expect that much from you. At training centers, however, it’s all about the few getting rich, no matter how much they profess to only care about teaching English. They’ll constantly monitor you, mainly to ensure you don’t cost them money. Training centers are in it for the money, bottom line.
Let’s take a quick look at a few of the leading international training centers:
This company began in Sweden in 1965 as a way to send students to England to learn English. The company now has over 400 schools in 54 countries around the world and more than 35,000 employees.
The company specializes in both adult and kids schools and is separated into regional areas. China, Indonesia, and Russia all use the same curriculums, for instance, which other countries may not. More than 15 million students have used the company’s products and their plans for expansion in China only continue.
You’ll make about 12,000 RMB when you start at EF, and about 1,000 each month extra every year you stay on. If you don’t make it to a management position within about 2 years you won’t be going anywhere. And even the managers are only making about 1,000 RMB more than you each month.
Wall Street English
This school began in 1972 in Italy by Li Wenhao. Today the company operates more than 400 schools in 27 different countries around the world. The company first came to China in 2000 and now has more than 50 training centers in all the major cities. More than 160,000 students have come through their doors, so they’ll only get larger.
I knew someone who worked at Wall Street English for a short time. He told me that everyone there seemed to not like being there, they wouldn’t say hello to one another in the morning, and just seemed to drag themselves through the day. He also said they had to work 6 days a week, but they get paid more at Wall Street English than at other schools, about 14,000 to 16,000 RMB starting out. But remember, that’s before the taxes you’ll have to pay, which are quite steep.
This training center is a relative newcomer on the block, but one which looks poised to dominate the market. They first came to China in 2008 shortly after the Olympics and set up shop in Shanghai, the headquarters for many of the leading training centers.
By the end of 2012 Disney was operating in 10 different cities and they had more than 44 Disney-themed schools. They want to get that number to rise to 148 schools by 2015 with more than 150,000 students getting hooked on their characters and themes, and maybe a little English while they’re at it. The company expects its Disney English Schools to earn them more than $100 million annually by that time. I’m not sure what the teachers make here, as the first schools are just beginning to open at the time of this writing. I’m thinking they do pretty good though.
Web International English
This company is known for their little stands and manned-kiosks in many of the major shopping malls. They’re always ready to pass out a flyer to someone passing by, and with good reason. The company came to China in 1998 and now has more than 100 training centers up and running. They’ve had more than 150,000 students in that time, and like the others, they’ll only grow larger.
This is an example of a training center that was started in China but which has managed to run with the big international players. I have a feeling the teachers at Web International English don’t make as much, but I’ve never met anyone who’s worked for them so can’t say for sure.