China is facing a crisis in the recruitment of teachers from overseas. An imbalance between supply and demand means the country will need thousands of foreign teachers this year, but many of the expats seeking work are unwilling to become teachers.
At least 4,000 foreign teachers will be needed in all levels of schools in the 2015-16 academic year, according to Niu Chen, co-founder of CCZChina Education Co, an agency in Zhengzhou, Henan province that recruits foreign teachers.
"This statistics are incomplete, so the actual demand may be even greater," Niu told China Daily at a Conference on the International Exchange of Professionals in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, this month.
Despite the high level of demand, suitable candidates are hard to find.
Chen Lin, who is responsible for recruiting foreign teachers at the Fujian branch of the State-owned China Services International, said many of the foreigners seeking jobs in China are looking for positions related to their qualifications or previous working backgrounds, rather than teaching work. Most expat teachers in China teach languages, irrespective of past experience.
Virgilio J. Lizardo Jr., a 32-year-old from the United States, worked in the US logistics industry, and has been looking for similar work in China, but failed to find a suitable position at a job fair for international talent held in Shenzhen in tandem with the conference.
"If you look at the companies, most of them are education companies. It's difficult to get out of the education industry if you're a foreigner in China," he said.
Recruitment is now a major problem, according to Chen Lin. "Under such circumstances, searching for foreigners who want to become teachers has become a headache for many schools," she said.
The situation has been exacerbated because some provinces and regions have raised the bar for the recruitment of teachers from overseas.
For example, the Beijing government released a series of regulations in September to strengthen the management of foreign teachers, stipulating that foreigners who want to teach in China should have at least five years experience, and that those wishing to teach languages should have relevant certificates from respected courses such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Although many regions and cities haven't issued explicit requirements in their official documents, the provinces of Hunan and Fujian require school recruitment notices to stipulate that candidates must have at least two years' teaching experience.
"These factors make it even more difficult to find suitable foreign teachers, especially high-quality ones," said Chen Lin, adding that many schools have taken action to solve the problem.
"A more effective approach would be for schools in China to establish ties with teachers associations in other countries, which would increase the probability of finding good, experienced foreign teachers," she said.