Without a doubt, foreign teachers in China are the biggest group of fraud victims--maybe not so much in terms of dollar value, but certainly in terms of volume. The China Foreign Teachers Union (yes there is one!) reports that approximately half of all foreign teachers in China have been swindled. There are 10 tricks used by agents and private schools to scam teachers. Here are a few of them.
It starts with the agent who is focused on only one thing: his fee. They will enhance the credentials of a teacher and post it on the internet along with the teacher’s image without the knowledge and consent of the teacher. That teacher gets interviewed and hired on the merits of the bogus resume and within a month the truth comes out, the teacher gets fired and blacklisted. But the agent collected his fees and was long gone two weeks ago. Now the teacher has to bribe someone to get the phony resume and his photo removed from the internet since only the agent had the password required to put up the ad! (sometimes the agent will have the audacity to sell the password for 1,000 rmb!)
There are roughly 40,000 foreign teachers in China and almost twice as many agents. Most are not really working to find jobs for their clients because it's more lucrative to collect their personal information from resumes, passports, and visa copies and sell it to identity thieves for 1,000 CNY per teacher. You thought it was mere coincidence that 10 percent of all foreign teachers here have ID theft issues?
Up to40 percent of all the private “schools”, “learning centers”, and “training centers” in China are not properly licensed nor registered and claim to be “affiliated” with some famous university or huge American company like Berlitz for example. They present a nice shiny image with glossy brochures and a fancy web site and they lure foreign teachers with false promises of Z visas and 300 yuan per hour “after their probationary period”. The problem is the teachers are rotated out at the tail end of their probationary period for fresh gullible meat. If someone complains to the Ministry of Labor they suddenly find themselves blacklisted and unable to renew their visa. Even when these fake schools are outed, they just change their names. The money they save on taxes goes for legal fees I suppose. Good business model!
Teachers are brought into a school only to be milked for lesson plans and ppts all done during the probationary period and then they are terminated. Once gone, the school rebrands all the proprietary material of the talented teacher under their own name and lets their Chinese teachers use it for their classes since it is easily 100 yuan per hour more expensive to hire a foreigner.
Once working for a private Chinese school, teachers find their five day work week stretch to six days and 8 hour shifts transform into 10 hours with no extra pay. Eventually they can no longer contain their frustration and resign. They will more often than not never collect their last pay check and will have to almost beg for a reference letter. The CFTU regularly makes random calls to obtain “reference checks” on former teachers and they report former employers are vindictive towards teachers who quit for any reason and very seldom give positive referrals, no matter how highly praised the teachers was when actively employed.
1. Our advice to foreign teachers? First and foremost, avoid agents at all costs. There is nothing they can do for you that you cannot do for yourself better. Just visit the employment section of some 20 English language China portals (like City Weekend) and you will find hundreds of jobs offered by direct employers.
2. Before accepting an interview with any school, punch them into Google with the key search words of “complaint, problem, scam” and see what pop ups. If nothing does, get a copy of the current China School Blacklist at www.GlobalBlackList.org and ask the China Foreign Teachers Union if they have reviewed the school or if they have a good or bad reputation based on complaint history. You can contact the CFTU at help@ChinaForeignTeachersUnion.org.
3. Never start working at any school without a written and chopped contract--in English--that is acceptable to you. If there is some clause you do not understand or do not like, line it out before you sign and be sure to keep an original copy of that contract for yourself. We also highly recommend that you refuse any hourly wage below 250 yuan per hour, especially if you are a native English speaker.
4. If you do have problems getting paid or with getting your visa, consult with a veteran foreign teacher, the CFTU, or go blog your problem in the form of a question here and you will get plenty of advice from old timers. Most importantly remain cool and don’t let your temper transform into violence which will get you permanently banned from China.
5. Never agree to pay any deposits, “training fees”, or other up-front fees no matter what story they feed you. Last but not least, ask for a copy of the schools license and verify it is a properly registered school on line with the Ministry of Education, SAIC, or CFTU. The CFTU is run by foreigners and a good friend to make in China. The CFTU can help you with this as well.
There are plenty of other ways teachers (and basically any foreigner) can be exploited by employers in China. After your blood stops boiling, please remember to be a gracious and friendly guest in a country where 90 percent of the people are not trying to cheat you and do not deserve your scorn and contempt.
Each week, City Weekend will feature one scam alert from the China Scam Patrol. If you have a scam to report, let them know in the comments below.
About The Author...
Too many sly guys in China!
I think a bigger scam is being pulled on the Chinese students in many cases. When I taught English, my fellow teachers included semi-native-speakers with horrible grammar and strong regional accents, as well as a Russian girl who could barely speak a sentence in English but got hired because of what she looked like. To think Chinese families are spending so much money on these English classes to help their kids get ahead, when in reality their kids might be being taught by a white person with a similar level of English to the student!
^ This exactly. I'm a teacher now, and as nice as some of my coworkers are, they hardly speak English. When I try to talk to them, most of the time they look confused by what I'm saying.
My husband and I who are both teachers are very grateful for this article as we had to learn about some of these scams the hard way. My husband was cheated by a training company called Key Logic for more than 20,000 yuan and one of our colleagues was really screwed over by another company called Bilingo China and besides not paying him his last pay check, used his photo in all sorts of promotional brochures without even telling him. This is why we are now big fans of this weekly column and the China Foreign Teachers Union. Without both of these safeguards, teachers in China would be left at the mercy of their employers, and about half of them are users and abusers - exploiting foreign teachers every chance they get just to save a little money. Without a doubt, "saving money" in China is far more important to Chinese than being honest and ethical. Sorry to be so blunt but this has been my own personal experience.
There are several scammers out there some claiming that they have a legal school while they bash others and the agencies that you speak of. I've only found maybe one or two agencies to be any good and the rest not so much. There was a lady that use to post ads all over sites using different names she went by the name RichMother. She changed her name often and the guy at the end of the line that spoke to you was her puppeteer. For some reason he never changed his name he always went by the name of Danny. I called him 'Danny Boy' because he was like the child of Rich mother always listening to her and doing what she commanded him to do like a good little boy that he was!
Thanks for shining a spotlight on a HUGE problem that affects about 20,000 foreigners in Beijing alone. Every teacher needs to hook up with the China Foreign Teachers Union or at the very least read these links and the CFTU Blacklist to avoid the employment minefield in the education industry. With zero enforcement, the situation will just get worse. The CFTU just caught a Chinese fake agent and he boasted that he earned 500,000 rmb a year ripping off foreign teachers! Just read his interview at www.ChinaForeignTeachersUnion.org
Yep - super big problem for foreign teachers here especially when even the school principlas and agents are working together to scam us. I found this article on the internetthat blew me away http://www.zimbio.com/Beijing+China/articles/RfZYIh2CBIu/Recruiters+Conspire+Chinese+School+Principals My suggestion to all foreign teachers in China is to find another profession or at least use the CFTU blacklist before taking any new teaching assignments with a new employer.