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Article: "China ESL. An Industry Run Amuck?"

by Dr. Niu Qiang and Dr. Martin Wolff


FE teachers often perceive Chinese students, who are predominantly from single child families, as spoiled, undisciplined, selfish and disrespectful, a perception that may or may not be true but must be dealt with as a real and not imagined reality. The fact that so many of them cheat and plagiarize wantonly does nothing to dispel this perception. The fact that school administrators refuse to punish cheating and plagiarism helps to perpetuate this perception.


These kids are out of control and parents will not tolerate anyone to discipline their child. The pay is higher but there should be a hazardous duty bonus. Teachers who work in these pressure cookers have many complaints.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some FEs who think teaching kindergarten is the cat's meow. Of course they may be influenced by the higher than average pay they receive.

Primary Schools

Public primary schools do not normally invite FEs.

Private primary school FEs are so busy complaining about their employers that they make very few comments about their students.

Middle Schools

Middle and senior middle school (high school) students are the most industrious, hard working and disciplined students in China. They are up at 6:00 a.m. and go to school and/or study until at least midnight and sometimes later.

Their entire economic future and social stature depends upon their passing the university entrance exam and being admitted to a top university. These kids are under tremendous pressure and have no time to fool around, not even on weekends.

These schools produce the least FEs complaints.

Top Tier Universities

These students passed the university entrance examination and were admitted to the University of their choice. They are eager learners and a real challenge to teach because they keep the teachers on their toes.

2nd Tier Universities

These students worked hard to get into top school but wound up in this second rate place and are bitter, discouraged, unmotivated, lazy, feel betrayed, even hostile. Discouragement is sometimes contagious and teaching these students is a lesson in self-motivation. The major complaint from those employed in this teaching situation appears to be the constant need to try and motivate these students and the lack of appreciable results. There are always a handful of students in each class that excel and make the teaching experience worthwhile.

3rd Tier Colleges

These students realize that they are very fortunate to be in any program of higher education and are very enthusiastic, cooperative, attentive, humble, respectful, and very disciplined. It is a pleasure teaching these students and this teaching situation generates very few FE complaints.

Business Institutes and Private Colleges

These students are in school because they want to be and they pay a hefty price for the opportunity. They are eager to learn and very pleasant to teach. Many of these students are preparing to go abroad for further higher education or employment.

Unfortunately, these institutions are more interested in profit than education which leads to FE dissatisfaction and a revolving employment door that sees FEs constantly coming and going. Some classes will be taught by three or four successive teachers due to FEs leaving before their contracts expire.

Training Centers

These students are generally business employees who are in class to improve their chances of promotion at work. They are highly motivated to learn and are a pleasure to teach. The very nature of the student mandates that classes be held in the evening and on weekends which leads to teacher dissatisfaction and a high turnover rate.

Caveat: All of the research leading to the above evaluations was based upon the authors' personal experiences; personal interviews with more than 40 FEs, comments made by FEs in Internet chat rooms and from published comments at The authors had no prior relationship with any of the persons or sources providing information for this study.




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