In theory, most young people in Liuzhou should speak
some English. The language is compulsory in all schools. In reality, few
get beyond "Hello. How are you?"
That said there are a few people with excellent English.
Among the middle classes, there is great parental pressure on
schoolchildren to succeed in exams and a mini-industry has arisen here, as
in other cities, to offer additional English lessons. These private
language schools also offer adult tuition. Many people see English exam
passes as a key to a higher position or salary.
Unfortunately, most of these schools are more concerned with making money
than with the education. Teachers are poorly qualified (and poorly paid)
and few students get any real benefit. As a result, recently, there has
something of a backlash against the schools, which are now engaged in
fierce competition to mop up the remaining students.
One way they attempt to win favour with the paying public, is to employ
foreign teachers. Few of them have the authority to do so and are
therefore employing those teachers illegally, and despite their promises
are unable to supply working visas. It is illegal to work in China on a
tourist visa. For more information on teaching in China, see our
So desperate are some of these schools, that they will employ almost any
foreigner who looks western, irrespective of their English or teaching
skills. I have met "English teachers" who could barely talk to me. All
that is required is that they look like they might speak English and can
be shown off to prospective clients.
In the state sector, things are better, but not perfect. Standards of
teacher training have been improving over recent years and a more
communicative approach is being used. Large class sizes (60 -80 students)
and a lack of motivation among students hinder real progress. The exam
system is in desperate need of reform, but remains paramount. Many
teachers complain that they are not able to 'teach English', but merely
teach 'how to pass the exam.'
Please note that some organisations in the UK and USA are offering places
in middle schools for foreign teachers. Again, the vast majority of middle
schools are not licensed to employ foreigners and
cannot supply the legal paperwork despite all the promises they give (see
above). You are strongly advised to check locally before coming to China.
Contact us if you need advice.