Contracts 合同 Part 2 – Bad Contract

Here are some of the more important parts of a particuarly bad contract that I once signed with Star Education – It’s bad but not the most unfair contract I’ve seen in China. Most teaching contracts are set out in a similar fashion to this and do I hope this can be of help to anyone who wishes to sign a contract to teach in China.

In the contracts there’s all sorts of waffle that really isn’t so important to you, most of it is there as it’s government policy to put these things into work contracts.

Below is taken from the annex or the part of a contract that is written by the host institution (i.e a company/language centre), not the government SAFEA booklet as that’s standard accross China and only used by mainly public universities and colleges.

3.1

This is a real trick that could get you into a lot of difficulty with a dishonest employer. Usually you should ALWAYS have the amount of hours you work PER WEEK – and state that what exactly a week is i.e. – Monday to Friday.

Having hours per month means that you will probably have different class times each week, no real fixed schedule. It will mean lots of travelling between schools and will kill your free time.

The employer will say that 20 hours a week = 80 Hours a month, If so then why not put 20 hours per week into the contract not 80 hours per month?

The worst thing is that if you only get paid if you work all of the hours in the contract (i.e handing in timesheets) , and if the company you work for can’t give you all the hours – for whatever reason – you will not get paid fully.   Also if the company says you must work 60 hours this week to make up all of the hours you are meant to work in a month, you have to do it – essentially it puts lots of strain on your time

 

It is in the employers interest to have contract that specify monthly hours, not yours. It is a practice used by farming companies and some private schools.

3.2

This is too general, try to get it narrowed down to exactly what you will be teaching. I.e oral English, English writing or whatever it may be.
3.3

Again far to broad. Changchun – although not a big city in China – still has about 7 million people living there.  Also the way the Chinese designate their cities through the various sprawling districts, you could end up working 40km away from the city centreitself as it’s still classed as Changchun.  I once worked an hours coach trip from the centre of Changchun in a place called shuangyang (双阳)which is still considered part of Changchun by the government.

This means that you may have one class in the east of the city in the morning and anoter in the west in the afternoon.  You’ll have no time for lunch because it will take you all the time to get there.  You may have to take a taxi because the buses take too much time and and the end of a days work you may have made very little and be totally exhausted.

Try to get the locations fixed, the names of campuses, buildings if possible.  If you have to work elsewhere – get transport (i.e taxi) paid for – good schools will have no problem doing this.   

3.4   

Again get it as specific as possible unless you don’t mid teaching all ages.

 4.  

This is a trick clause and should be removed from all contracts before signing.   Bsaically what it is telling you is that the company/school probably can’t get you enough classes  and so don’t want to pay you all of your salary.   It puts you in a very diffcult position if the employer has no work for you, as you are still employed by them but are not being paid!   A good employer will never have anything like this in it’s contract, if you see it in an initail contract it’s a big red flag.  Avoid.

4.2

So leading on from the previous point, when you dont work 80 hours a month you will only be paid pro-rata at 62 an hour.  This is very bad indeed.  Furthermore as most classes last 40 or 45 minutes you will only be paid 42 or 47 yuan per class.   If a class is cancelled (as they often are) you will  have to make up the hours in your free time. 

 To put this in perspective, I know Chinese English teachers who make more than this per hour and they work far fewer classes a week.

Good organisations do not do this.  A class, whether it be 30 mins, 40, 45, 50 or 1 hour is classed as a teaching hour.   Again, if you see this in a contract – run.

4.3, 4.4

 Repeats the above condition. Just remember, why would an employer put a clause like this into a contract?  What are his/her motives?   It certainly isn’t in the interest of his employees… 

You get paid  for the months classes, so if you start mid-month, will only get 2 weeks pay.  Basic meaning is that you will be paid in arrears.   Universities don’t pay in arrears, they pay on a fixed date (usually the 15th) and the pay is for the full month.

 Agreeing to this could cause you to lose half a months pay – as you may never see the pay for the arrears worked.   

Your overtime will be paid at 80 yuan an hour – but only if it exceeds 80 hours a month.  So if you have only worked 70 hours in the month, there is nothing stopping your employer making you work 10 hours in one day and you will not see any overtime.

This clause protects the employer from ever paying overtime to his employees, he/she will give the work to those people that have not made up 80 hours a month rather than pay over time.   Incidently, overtime is always paid at a miniumum of 100 Yuan an hour and personally I wouldn’t put this into the contract.  I would deal with any overtime as it comes, on case-by-case basis, and negotiate at the actual time.  I have been paid 200 yuan an hour for some jobs, It depends on the actual situation. 

4.6

 No holiday or vacation pay.  Very bad indeed, everyone should get paid for at least the October and May holidays.  And make up the classes missed.   No winter vacation pay, so will have at least 2 months where there is very little work available and no guaranteed income.  Unless you moonlight. 

4.7

Probably the most straight forward part of the contract, you get 800 Yuan for rent each month.  This is extra to your salary and you get it each month regardless of how many hours you work.  800 really isn’t enough to get a decent apartment in central Changchun, for that you need more like 1500 yuan a month.   

Actually I was told that this 800 would not be paid to me as the company had no classes for me – and so I wouldn’t be teaching for 2 months – As you can see that is basides the point, I get this regardless of how much I work.  This eventually led me to perform a runner from the company as it was my only prudent choice of action at the time. 

5. 

Note the wording ‘fulfill the contract’ this can be misconstrued and twisted by any employer.  Get dates i.e. 31st July 2007 will get paid …. for  Flight ticket – this leaves no ambiguities.  Also only from Beijing, you still have to get to Changchun.  Wihout discount that’s another 2000 Yuan to your ticket price.  To be honest to get to the UK from Changchun return, if you include all transport costs is 7000+.      

The final passage is next to meaningless as it says should not, which in legal documents means nothing whatsoever.

7.4

Again badly worded, can be misconstrued.  Get exact pay dates into the contract.

7.5

This is potentially disasterous for the teacher.  If a school re-schedules, you MUST obey any class shifting – even if you are only given 30 mins notice.  This should never be agreed to, it must be reasonable.

8.3

Standard government stuff, but is far to sweeping and needs to be tidied-up.  Not to enagage in any mass activities is far too excessive – you could argue that by signing this you cannot teach as that in itself is a mass activity!   😉  

8.7

Ignore, not important – almost all contracts have something like this in it.  Just don’t tell party A,  but make sure other work does not clash with one this work. 

8.10

Ignore.  Just dont tell them, it’s  none of their business what you choose to do in your free time.  They are trying to cover themselves if you get hurt or injured whilst not working as technically as an employer they are vicariously liable for you.

It's a secret!!It's a secret!!10.4

Designed to scare you more than anything else.   I highly doubt whether this is based on actual fact, but to be honest it’s not important.  You have to ask the rhetorical question – Why would somebody ‘ sudden disappearance/departure of party B from his or her post’ ?

Clearly they have had problems previously and are trying to scare people into not running from a contract that has been dishonoured by the employer.   In my experience people don’t just run for no reason.  Some are home sick and leave very soon after arriving in China, but most do it because their employer is screwing them/going to screw them.

Contracts 合同 Part 1

Been writing this for ages, will add to it over the next few days.  It’s about employment contracts and my experiences with them in China.   

The concept of written contracts is a relatively new concept to China and as such the options for legal redress and peoples interpretation of them is not as a westerner would expect.

If (legally) working in China you will sign a contract at some stage. If working for a public body you will sign a government standard contract written by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) in Chinese and English.

 This is in the form of a small book, inside the first page contains the salary information and how much RMB can legally be changed to foreign currency. This has to be signed and dated and red stamped by the host institution to be valid. This will be registered with the SAFEA and means that if you have serious problems you can use them to arbitrate – not that they will help you! 😥

Legally speaking It’s a particuarly badly translated contract and is badly worded, but as translation standards go in China, It’s better than most.

You will also have an annex or another contract that is written by the Institution you will work for, this contains the most important things to you as an employee. It will be several A4 pages long and also in Chinese and English.

Make sure that everything you want in this section is written in 100% unambiguous language. 

Words like can, should or might do not belong in a legal agreement!  

If need be, list in bullet points on everything you expect your employer to do for you. Make sure everything is precise, from EXACT paydays to when you are entitled holiday pay – and which day you will receive this. The emphasis is on making your employer react in a positive way, i.e have to do something.

Never leave things to be assumed through implication, there has to be a positive burden on the employer to act. 

Do not assume anything, even things that are implied through conduct of one or other of the parties – WILL NOT NECESSARILY MEAN that you should be owed something.  Many Chinese bosses only just understand the idea of offer and acceptance – trying to use western legal concepts will almost certainly fail.

An option is to try recording what your employer says to you, as this may give you quid-pro-quo if your employer denies he/she said something to you at a later date. 

Unfair Contract Terms: 

Make sure you don’t sign something that could cause you to lose pay for something that was out of your control.  The below clip is from a Star Education contract, It’s a classic example of an unfair contract term:  

If you agree to this then – for example – If on the way to work you were in an accident and you were last for class, you would still face a financial penalty. 

As a rule if a term is written for one party to do or not to do something, then there should be something similar relating to the other party.   

I’ve seen some pretty one-sided contracts In China, contracts that protect the employers rights for pretty much anything yet ignoring the same such rights for employees.  In my experience, with the public schools, Universities and colleges in Changchun the contracts have been fair and straight forwardly written.  Infact they are petty much  verbatim copies of the Government recommended contracts issued by the SAFEA.

Private schools and Companies are another matter.  I once saw a contract that was 6 pages long, full of clauses and terms imposing one-sided obligations on the employee, but not emposing such obligations on the employer.   For Chinese employees this is normal, they often have to sign completely one-sided contracts of employment – but for foreign teachers this is should not be the case.  Anyone telling you otherwise is not telling the truth.

 Sometimes in those terrrible contracts  (this is quite common for Chinese employees) the employer will try to keep a 3 month ‘bond’ on the employees salary – i.e Your employer keeps 3 months pay until the contract is completed, whereupon you get it back.  Or, more likely the employer can steal 3 months of your pay and not give it back to you because after you’ve finished your contract you have exhausted any quid pro quo you might have had before the contract finished. 

 Some say this is to protect the employer from teachers running from their employers, but I say If you have worked, you get paid AFTER you have worked.  You are not paid in advance, therefore the employer will lose very little.  Employes seldom pay for flight-ticket up-front.  The employer will at most lose a few hundred yuan for sponsoring the visa.    If i see these type of contract terms, I run a million miles!

Avoidance :

Of course you want to avoid getting into a bad situation in the first place,  probably the best way to do this is to seriously research your potential job. 

When negotiating your contract don’t be rushed into signing the agreement.  Get the contract altered if needbe, come back with your counter-proposals.  What you mustn’t do is  accept the first thing you are offered by the employer, always try to get more than what they initially offer and meet them half-way if you can.  

Get It written down in the contract, in plain EnglishVerbal agreements are worthless. 

Afterall, If they mean what they say then there is no-problem getting it in writing, right?   

I have had many situations where the employer has said something, or promised something but not actually wanted to write it into the contract.  The reason for this is that they probably cannot deliver on what they say but still want you to sign the contract and will say anything that makes you put pen to paper! 

In many situations you should be aware that employers like to ‘speak big words’ but fail to deliver when It comes to the crunch, getting it into the contract will help you if a situation like this occurs.

This is of course misrepresentation but In China you cannot rely on western legal concepts – forget the rule of law, forget an equitable solution.  You have to protect your own interests first.  Or you will only have yourself to blame further down the line. 

Get it signed by both parties and preferably have a 3rd person present to Co-oberate what was said. 

   

Get in touch with people that are working for them now, people that have previously worked  for them – get as much information as possible from as many sources as possible.  Yoy may search for them on the internet, check out forums, chatrooms, blogs to enable you to have the full picture, before making the decision to sign a contract.

This is difficult as some people will say bad things about a particular place because of reasons known to them not necessarily because of their employer.  Many foreigners come to China, don’t like what they see, fail to adapt to the situation and end up leaving after a semester with a bad taste in their mouth.  

There are also many people who genuinely have tebbible situations with their employer through no fault of their own, who are lied, cheated, threatened and all sorts of other horror stories.  

You can find many of these on the web – people tend to write more vividly about the bad stories they’ve had than the positive ones.   This may also be because there are – certainly in Changchun anyway -more bad places to work than good. 

The big problem with teaching contracts in China is not just that they can be broken It’s that the contracts are virtually unenforcible if one or other (or both) of the parties chooses to break it.

Chinese people and anybody that has been in China long enough knows this and so this is something that must always be considered when signing an agreement.

You must consider when signing the contract ‘what will my employer get from this?’ ‘What will I get from this?’ – If it’s too one-sided or looks too good to be true, then it most probably is!

  

Don’t work for Jilin University

JILIN UNIVERSITY DOES NOT PAY ITS FOREIGN TEACHERS !

Updated Sep 2019 to remove name of individual who kindly requested their name be removed, as this happened 12 years ago .

This is my final post about this problem, I hope others can learn from this and perhaps it will help them in the future.

This post is a return to the previous jida problem I wrote about in July. I’d almost forgotten about this, until this morning received an email from a Mr Yan asking why the school had not yet received any marks from the final exam I gave to my students. Of course the reasons for this are axiomatic – those marks are the only quid pjilin university lie ro quo I have left.
Am I being un-professional by holding them back? Perhaps but this is my only option. My hand has been forced.

It has crossed my mind just giving in and handing over the marks but this would undermine my position as I have others still persuing them through ‘legal’ means. I feel a little sorry for the students who are caught in the middle of this, they are though, used to such problems happening, it’s just one of the many unfair aspects to the education system in Changchun.

I don’t want to seem to be complaining all the time about things and I wasn’t going to say any more about this on my blog, until I got the email. I now feel compelled to put this here to set the record straight, as no-doubt, the university will say all sorts of poisonous lies in an attempt to discredit me. As I am no longer in Changchun I have nothing to fear by writing the names of those invloved and exactly what they said to me.

I have been discreet up to now, not using names, being vague In the hope that things could be setteled without any loss of ‘face’ on their part. This isn’t going to happen now.

In my previous post I wrote about 2 people at Jida who threatened me with withdrawing money from my bank account ‘a back transfer’ to use their exact words as well as other things.
There’s nothing like a bit of naming and shaming so –

These two people are:

姓 名:张广翠 zhang guangcui
职 务:副处长 vice director
办公电话: 85166576

E-mail:gczhang@jlu.edu.cn 工作职责:
分管外国专家和港澳台事务工作 – manages foreign experts general affairs
or find her picture here
and

姓 名:赵勇 zhao yong – this ironically means brave. haha
职 务:项目官员 project officer
办公电话: 85166567

E-mail:zhaoyong@jlu.edu.cn 工作职责:
负责长期外国(境外)专家项目;相关专家的接待与安排。- don’t make me laugh!
or find her picture here

I now know this technically cannot be done but It was a clear threat made to make me go away and give up chasing the money. The university only owes me 2 months salary, not very much money in the scheme of things but they did this to all the foreign teachers and so you can understand we’re now talking about hundreds of thousands of yuan, which is a lot of money in any country, especially so here.

Reputation and face counts for so much to these people, I just hope that everybody that reads this understands that I am doing this because others need to know about what really goes on. Many international universities have partnership programmes and do business through the department of International Co-operation, I hope people can read this and see how they really treat their foreign employees. Do I have an axe to grind? I don’t think so, I’m back in the UK doing new things. I just want others to be informed of this, It is too bad to go unnoticed. From a dodgy company I would expect this, but from Jilin University you do not. After all, they are ‘one of the best universities in China.’
————————————————————————

A problem with a big university like Jida is nobody communicates between departments, nobody really knows what’s going on. So a Mr Redacted, whom I have no grudge with whatsoever, isn’t (or claims to be) unaware of what has been happening, wrote this email I just recieved:
Here’s the email with my responses indented:

Dear David,
It’s nice to get your reply. I am glad that I can contact you by email .
First of all, the students taught by you think they have learned a lot in your classes and they really regard you as a responsible and competent teacher.

Thank you. I also have learned a lot and the students were wonderful, so many great experiences in class. I shall miss the classroom and teaching aspect of things at Jida. The students were a pleasure to teach.

They are longing for the results of the final exams which they have prepared for carefully and diligently for a period of time.

The students know their results, just I haven’t given them to the school yet. You already know why.

Secondly,to be honest, I don’t know what has happened between you and Jilin University Department for International Co-operation regarding salary.

Sorry, I don’t believe you.

But no matter what the problem is, it is your students rather than Jilin University Department for International Co-operation the that care about the exam results

10/10 for honesty. You heard it from the horse’s mouth – ‘it is your students rather than Jilin University Department for International Co-operation that care about the exam results.’
So Jilin University doesn’t care about it’s students exam results. hmmm where have I heard that before! Money is everything for them. Such greedy, selfish people.

Your refusal of my request for the exam results can not help solving the problem regarding salary at all, and it can only lead to the cancellation of the subject you taught last semester and all the students will not get the results of the subject at last.

And that says it all. The students mean nothing to the university when they are prepared to ‘cancel’ a semester’s worth of classes for the sake of pocketing an extra buck. Or maybe they are more afraid of losing face by admitting they have in effect stolen money that should have been given into teachers salaries?

It is a waste of time for all the students, and as a teacher myself, I think it is unfair to all the innocent students indeed.

Your university started this! I worked hard, never had any complaints, the students liked me, never turned up late for work – and you say its unfair. This is a twisted response from a morally bankrupt university that brings shame upon honest hard working teachers. You say you are a ‘teacher’, how would you react if I took 2 months salary from your bank account?

So, for the benefit of these innocent students, would you please send me the marks for the students final exams?

Another twisted argument, trying to blackmail me. Remember, I worked, did nothing wrong. You did not pay. End of argument.

And all the students will appreciate your kindness.
Best wishes.
Sincerely Yours
Redacted

This chap is the position redacted Medical School Education Department, obviously somebody has leant on him to write this as I’ve never heard from him before. Never even saw him before. Don’t know who is is.
Like I have said before, teaching in China is massively rewarding and a really great thing with which to pick up new ideas on life. At times it’s simply brilliant. So much fun.

What annoys me is I did my research with this position at Jida, I checked everything- left no stone unturned.
The contract is unambigious, yet, I still got cheated. I tried to reason, but failed. They were not willing to listen.

I guess they point I’m trying to make is: Regardless of where you work, regardless of the reputation of the university, regardless of what the contract unambigiously says – You can be screwed, nothing can help you.

Just go into contracts with the impression that you will be cheated at some point, then perhaps this will not come as a surprise. It is sad, but the only logical answer I can think of!

The final problem continued

It’s  4.39am, can’t sleep .
So I’ve been back to the government offices  4  times now,  each with pretty much with very limited success.  I’ve given them two letters stating the facts, and stating my position regarding the contract as requested, but so far nothing else has happened.

It’s a very slow process, and you have to keep on going every day, keep on pushing them to do their job, keep on pushing them to try to help your situation.

It’s quite frustrating as they are obviously stalling and puting things off in the hope that I just give up and move on.  If you actually calculate the amount of time I have dedicated to persuing this then I probably could have made the money owed by now, I am asking myself is it really worth persuing this any further?
Yesterday I went to the offices, I had arranged to meet the man there at 1.30, but when I arrive he says that he has no time today and that he will be in a meeting for the rest of the day.  I say that we had a time arranged, and he says why didn’t I come at 8am to do this?

This is the thing, In my experience trying to catch people at the ‘right’ time is often the hardest thing to do.  Governement workers it seems have lunch from 10.30/11-1.30-2ish then go home at 4.    It’s so difficult as I don’t want to sound weak and capitulate to his ‘busy’ schedule but I also don’t want to annoy him so as he won’t help me with anything!

This time, I’ve brought some Chinese friends with me so they can help with language problems and co-oberate anything said by him.  When dealing with problems like this I try not to get anybody else directly involved because it usually complicates things further and annoys the people whom I bring to help me.  If I am just there myself they are more direct and simple, we get to the point (if only because my language skills are not up to complex nuances).  If you take others, they ask all sorts of  irrelevant questions like ‘why are you helping this person’ ‘what’s your relationship with this person’ ‘why did you come here’ etc etc etc…
So he then walks out of his office, closes the door and past us, so we follow him – my chinese friends asking him can’t we do this now, it’s important, we dont have so much time you know!

He gets agitated at this and replies saying that he has a very good relationship with Jilin University and he doesn’t want to damage this!

I didn’t believe he’d actually tell us this, I didn’t expect a truthful response – at least he’s trying to being honest . So he wont do his job because it will harm his relationship with the uni, and he doesn’t want to lose guanxi.  Then I guess the only way is to go to his boss, and his boss and so on, until I can find somebody that can help!

He also said some irrelevant stuff about the fact that Jilin University gave me a letter of release and that I should not be complaining, what cheek!  I thought he was supposed to be impartial!!!haha

I think that If I keep on going back, day after day, pressuring them, maybe this would eventually get somewhere.  I believe It’s a question of putting the right amount of pressure and getting to the message to the right people, but unfortunately, time is not something I have much of in Changchun and I don’t want to spend my last days here fighting.
Maybe those people that initially give up fighting for the money are right, basically it boils down to the clear point that it really isn’t worth your time and effort  persuing this.  I feel consolled for at least trying to do things legally, there are other methods but as I said before I simply don’t have the time to pesue this further.

So I have given my information to a Chinese lawyer that I found online, he will persue this on my behalf, and maybe just maybe will get something out of it.  Im not so concerned about the  money involved (11k to be exact) it’s the principle and the attitude of jida that annoys me most.

For anybody who wants to do this, the offices you need to go to are on the second floor of the building on the south eastern side of the junction on renmin dajie and shanghai lu.  It’s an old building dating from the Japanese time, the room number for the office is 240, but the room I’ve been going to is 227.

人民大街和上海路交汇  renmin dajie he shanghai lu jiaohui or just go to the 省政府 sheng zhengfu

The Final Problem

I’ve been very busy, planning things and fighting (yet again 🙁 ) to get what I’m due.  I am done teaching… forever! 😀  Feels very satisfying to be done, though also tinged with an element of sadness as at times the job was immensly rewarding. 

—————————————————————————————

I’ve learnt that laws here are really not so important, consumer protection is almost non existant (this is afteall a very recent development in the west), so with the absence of this whom you deal with becomes ever so important.

I now know that in Changchun you shouldn’t trust anybody you don’t know well, many Chinese will have no problem stabbing you in the back at the earliest opportunity – this isn’t just because you’re a foreigner, they have no problem screwing anybody – but being foreign makes you a better target in their eyes.

Of course It is generally easier, where-ever you are in the world to trick, exploite, swindle or lie to to someone from the outside for obvious reasons –  they are unfamilar with the local surroundings and not so tuned in as to how things operate.

This is especially apparent to those coming from the west, where we are mollycoddled with consumer protection, so that once you get to somewhere as cut-throat as China you realise you’re totally unequiped with how to deal with things (notwithstading the huge culture shock), at least that’s how I felt initially.
It’s rough and ready, you can no longer fall back on law and authority to protect your interests – I have found that in many situations you have to be very aware and pushy bordering rude, to get what you want. This is not so easy for me to do, I’m not really that sort of person but I think I’ve adapted to an extent – probably as a survival mechanism more than anything.   

Just last week I was at the 市局 city police station extending my visa for a few more weeks, waiting in line, I get to the front and the chap behind me (yes he was chinese) tries to push in front of me, pushing his documents in front of mine trying to get in first.   I know that a year ago I would have let this go, I would have just put this down to ‘this is China’ and given up, I don’t want an altercation, life is too short etc..  But this time I pushed his documents to the side and said to him in my fiercest chinese ‘what are you doing?’ ‘queue up!’ ‘idiot!’‘你干嘛’? 别插队!白痴! He looked at me totally shocked (I think he thought I was going to hit him! 😉 ) and started laughing, then turned around and went to the back of the line. 

I think, If you want to do many things successfully in Changchun you also need to have people that you can trust, meaning people you know well. i.e. Friends.  Friends that have skills and knowledge in different areas, that are able to help you when you need it.

If you have a problem, you have somewhere to turn and you can guarantee not being swindled. For example, with my computer, It needed upgrading so I go to a local store and get a friend I know who works there to help me out. 

Likewise with my phone, I know someone who runs a phone shop. The tailor, if I need something making – I know the quality will be good and the price realistic – I know people whom I can go to and buy such things and they will get me things for trade prices. Of course such relationships cover all areas – I’ve got so many jobs thorough friends, opportunities that would never have otherwise come up.  If you get into a sticky situation,  not knowing the right people means you can do nothing.

In return I help can help them if they need anything-  I think building relationships is so much more important here than it is in the UK. Perhaps being a laowai here helps in some circumstances (especially being to speak some Chinese) and It’s not so hard to make friends with people and build mutually benifical relationships.

This moves me onto my latest, and hopefully last, dilemma I’ll have in Changchun.  I’ve had quite a few nasty situations with money, visas etc but the good expereinces have far outweighed the bad ones – its just that a combination of tending to remember bad things and the fact that at the actual time, some of these bad things took up a large proportion of my life.

I’m writing this so hopefully others will be able to learn from my mistakes and to inform how some bosses treat their employees.

Yes, It’s common for Chinese bosses (and some foreign companies too) to screw their subordinates but this surely would never happen at a place like Jida….   They’re not some cowboy outfit that will just run away to the next province and carry out the same scam again, they are a government university they can’t just disappear and they have a reputation to keep….  However, like so many things here it’s difficult to tell until you are upon the actual situation.   I thought wrong again.

I touched on the problems I’ve been facing in previous posts but didn’t elaborate as I was trying to sort things out through negotiation.  Unfortunately that has failed, and so I’m now in the process of taking Jida through government arbitration.  You may think I’m totally mad for doing this, but the reasons behind this for me are that It gives me some useful new experience, allows me a chance to personally test the system, I still have a few weeks here to persue this, I want the money owed, and hopefully other foreigners can use this information as advice in the future.  

I tried to find somebody at Jida to talk to for the final time, but couldn’t find anybody available or willing to even meet with me.  I have been faced with this obstructionism for months now, they think that If they refuse to see me, the problem will vanish, and they are right as all the other foreign teachers gave up as and went home. So, I maybe the people at the government could help me…?

Now, my contract is a legal contract with the government and Jida so I have the right to take any problems to a government department called the ‘State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs’ 吉林省外国专家局’.  

Finding this place isn’t easy, I initially went to the wrong government offices, a huge red square fortress of a building – the city government in the very south of the city – and the man there was very good and told me (in very good ENGLISH!) where I should go.  The place I had to go is the provincial government offices, based on Renmin Dajie not far from Chongqing Lu.      

My complaint was registered (for what its worth) – you have to have everything written down, in Chinese (they have no English skills, beyond please and  sit down).  Then he made a few phone calls, trying to get through to somebody at Jida.  It took him a while but eventually he did, and he told them what I was trying to say and quite forcibly told them to wait in their office for me and that you should sort out this problem as its your job.  He then said if I have any more problems to come back again, and to give me a report of the outcome. 

Whether he’s actually going to help me I dont know, He could just be going through the motions, only time will tell.   Maybe this will get me nowhere but at the very least it will cause  ‘mafan’ trouble for the people at jida, bad news spreads fast through the grapevine. 

Anyway, I took a bus to the South Campus and got there 30 mins or so later, went to the office and they were still waiting for me. 

I went into the office, sat on one of those sofa things that all Chinese bosses seem to have in their office and waited a few moments before she (there were 2 people quizzing me, names withheld for the time being)  burst out saying:

‘Who told you to go to the government?’

 I didn’t know what to say, she was clearly very unhappy with something, so I told her the truth

‘noone’ I replied.

She didn’t follow and asked again so I said ‘if you read the contract it tells you this. It is my right’ 

She then had the cheek to ask ‘why didn’t you come here first!’  and so I told her despite many, many efforts over months you have been uninterested in communicating.

 I then explained the situation (they of course already know this, since many teachers have complained).

Basically it comes down to the university saying our contracts are for 2 semesters and not 1 year, therefore you’re not entitled to vacation pay. 

As far as i’m concerned the contract is unambigious, It’s plain and simple.  I then explained a few concepts to them that show this, just to show that I’m serious.  There’s so many things in the contract that back up my case it’s not worth my time listing them all, it’s totally one sided, yet they still refused to agree making up their own interpretations based on fantasy – nothing to do with the contract.  On top of what the contract says, their actions show everything.

I had my apartment throughout the year, throughout the vacation free of charge – as only available to one year contract employees.  They said that  they did this ‘as an act of co-operation and friendship’ They then went on to give me all sorts of rubbish about us being friends and relishing the spirit of international cooperation bla bla bla.  At this point I was a little annoyed so I said bluntly, this is nothing to do with friendship, its a contract – if you were my friend would I be here now????  They got angry at this and made another threat.

Because these are two, one semester contracts you owe us for the time you stayed in the apartment free of charge and that comes out to 16,000yuan @200yuan a day!   They then added that we can take the money out of your account through a back transfer (its the account used for salary – obviously this concerned me – can they actually do this?

Anyone know??, because I haven’t been able to get a yes/no answer on this from anybody yet. I don’t think it’s possible, but as I have learnt anythingis possible in China with the right connections/cash. 

I managed to withhold from bursting into laughter, and said that their reasoning makes no sense, where does it say this in the contract??   I then made a jibe that their logical reasoning skills were very much below par for people in your positons of seniority. 

Maybe the biggest element against them is that they paid me and extra half months salary last month, as a bonus for the completion of 1 year contract.  I waited until this time as often in China unexpcted things happen with the last months pay – I wanted to see how they’d react. 

Infact the contract says: ‘at the final payday Party B (me) is entitled to an extra half months salary.  This is limited to employees on a 1 year contract only’

Clearly their actions imply this, I thought they’d consider backing down, but no.  They said this was done as an ‘Act of friendship, to the foreign teachers at Jilin University’, sorry but there’s only one word fit to describe this – BULLSHIT.  I’ve heard these kind of ‘friendship’ lines before, it’s a classic trick used by people trying to gain your trust – sorry, but I’ve been there before!

 At this point after 1.5 hours of trying, it’s almost 8 on friday evening, they are not going to listen, I tell them we agree to disagree, thanked them for their time (they didn’t thank me) and walked out of the meeting. 

I said I shall continue to persue this through whatever means I think appropriate, they asked ‘where will you go to persue this?’   I refused to answer them – just giving them a general ‘lots of places’ answer.     I know if I told them, they will get in touch with those people first and get the bribe in so as to block me from doing anything – I remember when I had visa problems, telling the police what I was going to do, and my avenues suddenly got cut off.

Overall what really surprised most about this was their aggressiveness, unprofessional behaviour and general tone when talking to me.  It was as if I was the naughty schoolboy, taking a lecture from the Headmaster – looking back, I think they are really nasty people, whom I gave far too much respect to.    

 Actually, many of the people I have met here who hold senior positions really are not very nice people, not people whom you’d look up to or want to emulate.  Not really dedicated, thoughtful, or intelligent people, I just get the impression most are simply chancers and opportunists born into the right family, desperate to protect their social status.

Clearly they are worried about this, It’s really not so much money to them (or me) but this only goes to show just how greedy and selfish they must be.  I’ve given them the offer to settle now, they refused, so now its out of their hands.   I’m not worried at all, infact I relish a challenge like this, I think I have everything to gain by persuing them.   

I think this situation has reinforced the position that I shall never work directly for a Chinese paymaster again. There is just too much risk, too much uncertainty.  I try to be professional and hardworking, but working here under this system doing such is not recognised or valued – I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time.  I am very lucky that I have other options, I shall take those up but still would like to come back here again – you just have to be working for (or getting paid) by someone outside of the chaos.  

 

Will write more as events develop  

 

 

Dealing with the boss.

Waiban 外办 Foreign Affairs Officer (FAO)
The waibans (Foreign Affairs Officer) I’ve experiened range from bloodyminded crooks to incompetent halfwits – Out of the 5 I’ve dealt with 2 were incompetent, 2 serial liars and only 1 I would consider a straight person.

My current waiban would squarly go into the second category. Waibans are quite powerful people and have a lot of authority, therefore they delegate their real work to others, usually a over-eager student looking for a foot on the university career ladder. However, this person is given no authority to do anything of any consequence, therefore cannot act without first asking the waiban for permission. You would think this defeats the purpose of having subordinates to do your paperwork but there is a very good reason for it.

Ultimately everything that is done by the waibans dept (at jida this is ironically titled the dept of international co-operation… haha) comes back to the boss. If there is a problem he or she will take the flack for it. This is what they told me anyway, but I’m not convinced.

I think a bigger reason is that by delegating to somebody else, they may do a better job than the boss and so could ultimatly threaten their position. By keeping everyone under them, the boss exterts a lot of control and keeps his/her own positon secure.

Often therefore, if the boss isn’t around nothing of any consequence can get done! A great example of this is when I needed to get my visa extended, a quite straight-forward process for them you would think. However the boss has been on ‘business‘ in Taiwan for the last month and so I had to wait until she got back!

The impression I get is that people in positions of power and influence are terrified of losing their status, and will go to lengths that are detriment of others to protect themselves. Based on recent history they have good reason to be so, it wasn’t long ago things were so different here.

So, trying to get what you want from the waiban is often very difficult if it involves them actually doing their job, doubly so if it invlves money owed to you. The waiban’s primary function, in my eyes, is to skim as much of the foreign teachers salary as possible into their own pockets, and to perhaps help out the foreign techers if they feel inclined to do so!

The FAO is no fool and knows the inner workings of the system much better than you and so uses this position to achieve a degree of inequality of bargaining power , in induces duress to get what he/she wants. The law will not help you, contractual issues are simply not so important.

The waibans favourite tactic is to agree with you and say ‘ok, we’ll sort it out’ so you leave happy thinking things are resolved. Wrong. 😡 Come the next week nothing has been done – it’s the oldest trick in the book the ‘tell you what you want to hear’ line.

I have learnt a few ways to deal with this, firstly:

Complain, complain, complain. Call them all the time, keep hasseling them in the end they will capitulate, as they simply want you to go away so they can get on with playing QQ games and downloading that lastest Korean soap.

If you dont have the time or patients to do this tape record and or ask him/her to write down what has been promised. If they have nothing to hide they will have no problem in doing this. Actually, this is my favourite technique, I like to throw it in during a meeting as an off-the-cuff comment ‘so you’d have no problem in signing this, right?’ 😀

Don’t threaten them with ‘but in my country bla bla bla‘ that’s meaningless here and just shows how little you understand about this place. I also would never directly threaten somebody directly face to face – do not get angry or shout – act forcefully but don’t lose your temper for that is a big faux pas. I prefer more sinister and subtle tactics, like anonymous letters and picking up on something that is of value to the waiban.

In my instance, the reputation of the school, they were at pains to tell me how great this university is, how great the students are , how we’ve spent billions yuan on this, that and the other… Actually, I don’t really care. Honestly speaking, there isn’t a great divide (reputations aside -the name of the school means everything) between the levels of schools. I’m more interested in the things that impact on me – like accommodation, where/when I work, salary and will you actually pay me!

And so i made a veiled reference that it would be a shame for people to hear bad stories about teachers at Jida, that you don’t pay your teachers….They’re still sorting things out, but they owe all the teachers their vacation pay – I’m talking more than 10K per teacher… I’ll write in depth about it if they dont pay up…..

They will speak big words, promise so much, and fool many -afterall they’ve been doing this for years – the crunch is in what they do, not what they say.
Someone said to me that you seem to keep stepping into holes, I answer this by saying it comes with the territory. It’s the way it is in this job, especially so in provincial Changchun. it’s not a question of falling into holes but a question of there being holes everywhere. You have to deal with it and in a way, it’s like a game.

Direct action should be used sparingly, and is a last resort – I have used this once in relation to my apartment. I simply said I won’t teach until you sort this out as it is very serious. This worked and within 24 hours I had a new place, but this should be used carefully, you must have other alternatives first.

I think I suffer more than most as people don’t take me seriously, because of a combination of my age my appearance. They think he looks friendly, young and inexperienced, so we can mess with him. He won’t understand, he probably won’t care, he’s fair game. I still get this despite people knowing I’ve been here a while and I know how things are, Maybe If I could grow a beard and shave my head then people would be afriad of me?

It’s annoying when people judge you like this, but we all judge people by the way they look to an extent, its a fact of life.

Digging

This afternoon I had nothing much to do, so I thought a bit of investigative research was in order and since I’m a bit of a nerd, this could actually be good-fun!
So I started to do some digging on the net, primarily focused around teaching in Changchun. Found some useful stuff, but mostly pretty poor disinformation. Lots of job ads, mainly for un-licenced illegal language schools, or those really bogus recruiters that have such a bad name in Changchun no-one here would ever agree to work for them – so they use the net to hire their unsuspecting victims!

At eslteachersboard.com there are a few reviews on schools in Changchun.

There I found this review Changchun Star Education Company – the first review I have found on them anywhere on the web! And I have looked Everywhere!!! Yes, I thought. Some Information from another former teacher! I knew I wasn’t the only one!

Source: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/forum/index.pl?noframes;read=5308&expand=0

Help

Posted By: Johan
Date: 23 January 2005

In Response To: Visa advice for China (Dos)

I am so sad that I did not read your information with regards to Vis.
I came to china with a “Z” visa. I was employed by a company Star Education in Changchun, Jilin province. This company treated me and other Foreign teachers like S-h-i-…
Well 1 of them left the country already, after threats from the company. I try to stick it out, now they refuse to hand me back my passport, and demand that I give them 2000USD to get my passport back, which I refused. I am now travelling between different departments, and cannot find a person responsible enough to get my passport back. Unfortunately I am far from Beijign and therefore far from my Embassy. If you can assist me I will appreciate it. I believe that I am a good teacher, and would like to stay longer in China, but this Star Education is leaving a very bad taste in my mouth.
You can also contact me on my mobile 13500975013
I am of to bed, as I will travel tomorrow yet again to Changchun, 400km away, to see another official who will talk again.
Johan

As I read this i thought it sounded a little odd, badly put together, simple mistakes, tense irregularities – like it had been written by a non-native speaker, like reading one of my student’s work. Some of the choice or wording seem a little weird and the information within it even I find difficult to believe. Also Johan is rather a strange name for a native speaker (Cruyff i hear you say) , though this doesn’t mean he couldn’t have worked for Star, as they hire plenty of non native white-faces.

I know that many of the Foreign Teachers at Star let them keep their passports in the company safe for security reasons, but this is the choice of the teacher. Personally, I would never let anyone else keep my passport, but many like it to be kept under lock and key, in a safe place. I also know that those teachers had to sign a form stating that they give their permission for the company to keep their passports.
Holding a passport is actually one of the few things that can get a company into trouble, of course though, if it has the right connections then this problem can quickly disappear.

I then found this review on the same website:

Source: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/review/index.pl?read=4008

TIANSHUO, CHANGCHUN, JILIN PROVINCE,

Posted By: Johan
Date: 24 February 2005

TIANSHUO IN CHANGCHUN, JILIN PROVINCE, are a great company!!!
I sometimes read remarks about some schools, recruiters and then I wonder how much of is truth or how much is garbage….
Myself and more than 70 other foreign teachers work for Tianshuo, and we are happy.
I contacted, sorry tried to contact, one of this so-called complainers, and I got through to a Chinese company, makes you think, doesn’t it.
Tianshuo, cares for its teachers, and believe in an open door policy, they frequently asks for feedback, to make life easier for its teachers….remember This is China !!, and many teachers have a problem to adapt after the initial holiday feeling. When they realize that they have to work to earn money, and that Chinese students are keen to study.
SO for all the teachers who think to come to China and TEACH, I personally recommend Tianshuo in Changchun..they are the best.
Johan.
johanvr_8@hotmail.com (and this is my real name, for the people who want to write or complain, use your real name)

This made me laugh. What a load of rubbish.

Tianshuo or TS Education Language in their current guise (they like to change names a lot for obvious reasons) is a truely disgusting company. I went to their offices once (in the 21st century building, jiefang da lu) and they offered me a contract that I politely refused. I was introduced to them by the police, and I now know that they are ‘run’ by the police. They have .very serious guanxi in Changchun and have total impunity from any wrongdoing. Furthermore, they treat their staff like pieces of 屎 , and you will have problems, then you are shafted. They have stolen passports before, I know of at least one person who had this happen to them. The embassy got involved, and were powerless as TS said that the Teacher owed them money which of course he did not.
They have many Pilipinos working as ‘foreign experts’ who are farmed out to schools all over the province, they give their Pilipinos 1500-2000 a month, and a ‘private room’ to live in. Means that TS can rake in the profits at the expense of the teacher, paying half what they should pay to a Foreign teacher and giving them a hole to live in. Also like Star they are prone to deduct ‘fees’ from your wages, so you’ll seldom get a full pay-packet.

Anyway, Johan is a make-believe character created by someone at TS / Tianshuo/ Tianyuan (whatever the’re called now) Made me laugh anyway.

Either way, If there were a football division for employers in Changchun, Star and Tianshuo would be propping up the two lowest spots.

What Happened?

Now that the dust has settled and that I am now in a safe position oncemore, I feel able to explain what has happened to me over the last few weeks.

So I quit my job. Left. Hit the road. Moved on.

I considered it imprudent to remain in my former employ for numerious reasons, and I scented this might happen some time ago; so I had to have a plan B. I will not publish what my plan B is, just yet, but in a few weeks time.

Anyway, here’s my account of what happened.

So in early November I got into a really bad situation through no fault of my own and was faced with having to get a new (legal) job. Unfortunately there were very few options available to me at the time, either to go with this one company or to go home. Simple as that.

So I chose the former, and to be honest, I have been regretting that decision for the last three months.
The company whom I was working for is called

Jilin Star International Education Institution

(四达国际教育) or chang chun si da .

As I posted before, they are legally allowed to hire foreigners and have about 30 ‘foreign’ teachers on their books.

The company has foreign managers to add an air of legitimacy for those teachers who are new to China.
Star Education has many other interests besides Foreign Teachers, it works with getting people into foreign universites – especially in New Zealand and Australia.

Don’t be fooled by the friendly foreign faces, the company is Chinese and run by Chinese people and so still operates in a very cut-throat screw you way.

Of course, they are very friendly and nice to you in person and on an individual basis i’m sure they are nice people. But as with many of my experinces here, when money (i.e salary) comes into the equation they become like a different animal, hiding behind the ‘companies interests’ .

Despite the name, this is a recruiting and farming out agency and has no school of it’s own. The company operates by placing foreign teachers into various (and mostly) government run schools; primary and middle schools that don’t have the capacity to get foreign teachers themselves.

The company makes money by getting foreigners to work for say 20 hours per week and paying the employee per the MINUTES you have in the classroom. So the company gets 150 yuan per class, and pays the teacher 62 yuan per hour. 5000 yuan/ 80 hours a month (20p/w) = 62 RMB.
So 20hours a week is more like 30hours when you factor in that most periods are 40-45minutes per class. Not to mention the amount of UNPAID travelling between classes at different locations – it soon adds up.

For example, you may have class from 8-9.30 and from 10-11.30 in the morning. Two classes, the whole morning gone – you will only get paid for 3 hours work, then you may (like me) have another two hours of class from 2-4 in the afternoon.

So come the end of the day you woke up before 7, and get home after 5 and you only get paid for 5 hours work. This makes you feel as if you are being cheated (And I am not the only one, many of the other teachers at Star also feel this way)

Remeber though that you work for the company, not the school, so you will have to work in different locations often more than one location each day. And don’t expect a weekend like the university teachers, 6 days a week is normal.

This is how the companies operate, and the lack of a regular schdule is a total KILLER on the Foreign teachers free time. You will also get phone calls asking you to work at very short notice; tomorrow, or this afternoon – and if you refuse – you’ll get another call from the boss – all very intimidating.
Essentailly you -the Foreign teacher- will be treated like a commodity, you basic rights will be infringed and it will make you very unhappy. Of course the company will not understand your plight, it’s not in their interest to support YOUR interests at the detriment of what they see as raw PROFIT.

For me that’s the crux of the arguement, Profit and greed on the part of the company. Screw the Foreigner, hire some newbee who doesn’t know, screw him, hire another etc etc etc. High staff turnover, Fast Buck – makes me sick!

So be aware!!!

However I knew this would probably happen before I signed the contract, though I never assumed it could be quite so bad. And I thought I could tough-it-out. I thought wrong.

I could just about put up with the above, but what did it for me was when they started to mess around with my salary. Not being paid my rent money was the catalyst for my leaving the company. Maybe I was looking for an excuse to leave, however It is imperative that I protect my own interests FIRST. Especially in China, as a foreign teacher- I cannot allowed myslef to be messed around oncemore.

I later learned that the reason for Star education wanting to not pay my rent money is that the company has no reserve funds, and so by depriving 30 Teachers of 800 yuan they can save 24000 yuan – that can be used to pay bills/salaries/bosses salaries etc…

Hearing this further reinforces my opinion that I made the right move.

I’m back!

I’m writing this entry from a net cafe at lunch time. Many, many things have happened over the last two months, some good some not so good.

The Updates have been rather sparse recently, mainly due to my intransigence and bad mood. I haven’t had the will to write anything much less log on the net, type, add pictures etc…

Christmas, the new year and the Spring festival have all passed by. I worked on Christmas day, and the new year was also pretty low key. I spent most of Janyary working at a local primary school, wasn’t much fun and I really loathed having to get up at 6.30 to go and do it. Of course I wasn’t meant to do any childrens classes after the new year, but they said they had no other teachers, so I did them a favour, and grudgingly obliged.

The School I was working at is quite a good school out in the east of the city, but that said, it’s still a primary school. Looking back I’m glad that I have the experience of doing this, it makes me really appreciate just how much better it was last year teaching at 长师。 I used to think there were problems there, but it pales into insignificance compared to some of the things I have had to face in the past few months.

So come the end of January the Spring Festival was upon us. Two weeks of fireworks – or more accuratly – insendury devices exploding morning noon and night. I remember this from last year, and it’s really quite spectacular. Especially on night of the new year, when come midnight, the night sky is constantly lit-up for at least 2 hours by multitudes of fireworks. Really quite special, and there is nothing quite like it back home – Bonfire night doesn’t even come close!

However, after 2 weeks of banging and being woken up at 4am by explosions large enough to destroy a small farm, it gets rather annoying.

I bought some great fireworks, spent about 100元 total. Two long bazooka looking devices, one red stick of TNT (I kid you not!!) , a bag of little green mock hand-grenades, some 3000 red bangers strapped together and something akin to a Roman candle. This was more like a Roman firebomb, I almost killed myself by not retiring the full 1000 metres as required – was incredibly loud, i couldn’t hear much the next morning, except a high pitched ringing sound. Now I fully understand why these things are illegal in the UK!

So the Spring festival was a welcome break from teaching and allowed me time to re-focus my energy elsewhere; namely, what to do next semester. My job wasn’t what i had been led-to-expect, and it was making me feel really unhappy about things.

So I decided that I was no longer going to work with kids, full stop.

I could just walk-away, afterall it’s a good time of year for jobs, and the perfect time to start studying for the new semester. But at the time I thought it prudent to keep in my employers good-books and not piss him off by resigning or vanishing into thin air.

However my decision was made for me when a couple of days into February I got a call from him. He said that there was no work available during Feb (except kids classes at god-awful qinguha) and that he suggested I take the ‘month-off’. I said that ‘you leave me with little choice’ so i took the month off. He then went on to say they would be unable to pay for my apartment, because, I was having the ‘month-off’.

This was the final straw, and is what ultimately led to my leaving the company.
(Lesson learned: NEVER work for a company dealing with foreigm teachers in Changchun. They are all money grabbing opportunists who prey upon naive first timers/those that can’t get work elsewhere/those that have no other choice at the time (me) Please take it from me, AVOID AVOID AVOID )

So he wanted me to have the ‘month-off’ at my own expense, and still continue to honour the contract for the next semester。I think not. You can’t cherrypick which parts of the contract to enforce and which parts to ignore. You most certainly can’t threaten your teachers with visa-cancellation if they refuse to continue to work, as they did when I said i can no longer work if you keep on moving the goal posts when it suits you.
Anyway, as of last wednesday I disappeared. I changed my phone number and moved on. I said nothing of my future plans to anyone and just upped-sticks; gone.

It’s all very sad that this is how things have to be done, but doing things ‘the right way’ or as you would back home (i.e go to the authorities) , cuts no mustard here. I learnt that before and i’m not about to make the same mistake twice.
Will post more exact details later!

BTW for those that want to know My QQ address is: 125873000

David

Legal Again

Long time no post, lots to say.

So I have a visa and I have a Foreign Expert’s book:D . Took a bit longer than i thought, and there are still many things I am not happy with; but at least now, I’m legal oncemore.
FEC book

I’m dealing with this company that are legal (I have seen originals of their licences ((could be fake I hear you say!)) though I highly doubt it) however they are a private company, and being China, their primary purpose is to make as much money as possible, at the detriment of everything else. Which is fair game, it’s how it works here. Now, I am fully aware of this, and I realise that I have to play by a different set of rules.

The company itself employs over 20 other foreign teachers in and around the city. Some working for schools five days a week. Others, like myself, work in many places. For the last month or so I have been working every weekend, doing 16 hours or so, teaching or rather entertaining children. I find the whole experience not much fun and I really hate to do it, and I’m not someones that hates things lightly.

There is no teaching involved whatsoever, the students english is so limited that it becomes impossible to have the class purely in english. It’s great chinese speaking practise for me, but ultimately I feel very drained and tired from the repitition of each class. The children, usually 5-10 years old have a foreign teacher’s class once a month. I feel sorry for the kids, their pushy parents make them go to extra classes at the weekend, usually both Saturday and Sunday, for anything up to 4 hours each day. These classes ae not cheap, 300-400yuan per month (half a months average wage in Changchun).

The classes are sometimes okay at 15 students per class, but 80% of them have between 30-40 kids per class. Crammed into a tight room, sitting neatly along the colourful benches, behind yellow coloured desks.
I’m not an educational expert, but at least providing the teacher with a chair – or even a stool – is a must in a classroom. Not that I sit down when I teach, but I can’t stand all day; for having 8 hours of classes, and having to perch on the end of a student’s desk isn’t good enough.

Of course I’m given no information whatsoever on the level of the classes beforehand, I am not told what they have/hav not been previously taught. I am not given copies of their books, each class seems to have a different textbook .

This isn’t a problem to me, I’m used to it.

I have lots of my own lessons I can do with them, but it just shows how much they value the foreign teacher’s classes. Rather than integrating them with the Chinese teachers’ classes, they are seen as a joke, a circus, a chance to ‘play games’, a chance to look at the tall man with the brown hair and the strange coloured eyes.
Which is fine if that’s what they want me to do, however it’s not what I’m here for.

The place I am talking about is Qinghua language school for children in Changchun. They have many different branches all accross the city, some are better than others – but as a general rule they seem to be preoccupied with profit not education.
I have taught at lots of other different language centres in Changchun, and they are not all like this. However it’s a job and job = visa, and that’s what is most important at the moment.

If they employed me as an entertainer or clown then this would be the ideal job; but I’m no childrens entertainer or pantomime performer. Sometimes I feel like I sould bring some of those stretchy balloons with me to class, and make-up a poodle or a giraffe or even a rabbit!

I feel that the foreign teacher’s class at this school is simply a status thing. So the pushy parents can tell other pushy parents that their little emporer has a foreign teacher at the weekends.

As much as I distrust the private sector in China, I came to the conclusion that for the timebeing at least, this is my only real option. Mainly because of it being mid-term and there being nothing else available, I don’t want to go home yet, and I don’t want to leave China with a sour taste in my mouth. So Things are a little better than they were a month ago. And-for what it’s worth- I have it from my new employer that I will not be teaching children beyond the new year. They paid me on-time last week, although they made me pay for my visa (400yuan – despite what the contract says!) which is disingenuous of them -but that’s another story, and at this moment I have neither the time or the energy to argue .

Anyway, now i have another class. Must go

David