Guangzhou Stuff

Is a TEFL now REQUIRED BY LAW to teach English on a Z visa?

I plan on moving to Guangzhou next term. I've been teaching TEFL for 25 years and I've worked in Guangzhou and am currently working at a uni in Henan with no TEFL. 

If I HAVE TO get one, what's the least painful way?


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You can easily get an online TEFL certificate.  Because the industry is still not regulated well like in Vietnam or Japan, in China it is common for people who aren't qualified to be teaching.  If you are serious about being a teacher then you should get a teaching certification from your home country and/or a degree in Education, that will allow you to work at the higher level schools.  Generally speaking in order to teach English on a foreign experts certificate you are supposed to be from one of the main recognized native English speaking countries, have a university degree of a BA or higher, no criminal background, and a TEFL certificate.  Those are the requirements, however, some people can get around those requirements depending on the relationships they have with people in high places and they can be hired as a consultant rather than a teacher..... which is just a loophole.  The best TEFL certificate is the CELTA which is accredited by University of Cambridge, and that's the certificate the better schools look for.  A quick search on the web will easily direct you to an online TEFL course.

Thanks for the reply! Actually, I've been a EFL instructor for over 25 years, most of it in Japan (where the industry is definitely NOT well regulated at all except at the college or university level) and it is only in the last five years that this 'TEFL certificate' hassle has been cropping up like weeds all over the world. I'm pretty sure it was a brainchild of Cambridge who started it in Thailand. Everyone saw that it was a good chance to make some cash and here's where we are: unregulated TEFL certificates.

My question is, is it 'really' the law? I have never seen 'TEFL' certificate required in the translations covering Z-visas for teachers. The term 'certificate' is used, but the main requirement is for a BA and two years teaching experience in ESL or in a related field. Suddenly however, FAO's and bureaucrats all over China are saying it's the law and they give no credit for experience, no matter how long. I also have five credits in TESOL from my university, but that course is also completely ignored. I can understand the need for training for someone with no experience, but for people like me it's ridiculous.

To illustrate how ludicrous this all is, let's start with privatization of education. Cambridge may be a public institution, and the CELTA may indeed be a good program (depends on the coach you get stuck with from what I hear), but the fact remains that from the CELTA on down profit is the driving force behind the spread of these certificates. I'm now taking the ITTT 120 online course with no tutor. For me, it's a skip through the woods but I need the damn thing, because they're always heaping more on us, making us experienced instructors resentful of young 'working visa' teachers who are not really teachers but adventure seekers and the companies exploiting the market. And by doing so making it possible for more and more inexperienced people get jobs. In Japan for instance, your biggest asset is your youth and looks, and wages have plummeted for average jobs, from $30 per hour to $15, regardless of experience. If your over 45 let's say, good luck in finding work in Japan. As far as surveys of TEFL go, the course I'm taking is quite good, but it's a long, long shot from actually preparing someone with no experience for the ESL classroom. The gap between a CELTA and the course I'm taking is huge in terms of preparing someone to teach. What I believe is that you should have at least a BA to teach, period. But the individual schools should also be able to set their own requirements.

In the U.S. where I come from things are a lot stricter. Public school instructors are being required to get MA's and even PhD's to advance, and the workload is far more demanding. Foreign teachers like me have it far easier in China. Our Chinese counterparts have far greater demands on them than we do. However, we don't have much security. I'm not really complaining about taking this course- it's a good brush up- but I am complaining about the lack of clarity. And I'm really p'd off at the privatization. Why can't my university credits be converted into a certificate equivalent? Why aren't universities offering certificates to their alma maters? Education is for everyone, not for private cottage 'schools' no one has ever heard of; that may just exist on a server somewhere. I doubt I'll ever be putting 'ITTT TEFL certificate' on my resume after being employed by the Ministry of Education in Japan to write curriculum- that will definitely be on my resume. If anyone can show me the Chinese that states that a TEFL certificate is now required EVEN IF you have a BA and over two years experience, you will have my gratitude. Because I believe that this is just BS. But since they're acting as if it's the law, I'll comply. 

This is not a rant by the way. I just write a lot about things I feel strongly about.

A lot of points you made which I will try to answer in no particular order.

Yes, many "teachers" in China are not real teachers.  In the US, teaching certification depends on the rules and regulations of the particular state you are in.  Generally speaking, a BA degree is require and then some type of certification program in education has to be completed.  There are some exceptions, such as someone with a degree in biology can be a biology teacher because they have enough college credits in it.  So even though their degree is not an Bach of Education in Science Education, they can still be certified based on college credits in that area.  In some states, teachers can also "test" out, so someone with a BA in whatever, can test out is say Spanish and become a Spanish teacher.  They would just have to take workshops and other training to convert the temporary teaching certification into a permanent one.  All criminal backgrounds are run including fingerprints, degrees are verified from accredited institutions, and the person has one year to complete the necessary teaching exams in order to be rehired for the following year.

The TESL/TEFL certificate is debatable.  What the online institutes do in general is get someone with no experience to have a general idea of what TESOL is all about so they can walk into a classroom and have some kind of idea of what needs to be done.  Does it make someone a good teacher, no, but its better than nothing.  CELTA is looked at better because it is issued from a well know accredited institution.  Its like a BA degree, obviously one from an accredited institution is better than one from an unaccredited institution, does that mean someone will automatically be a better teacher because of the degree from an accredited institution, not necessarily, but it at least guarantees the student had to take a real course and complete real assignment to earn the degree.  Universities DO offer certificates in TEFL, but most are face to face, not online.

 Britain first pushed for global English education, so that's why the CELTA and TRINITY TESOL are more widely known, also they do the training worldwide and not just in one location.

Foreign teachers have it easier in China but unfortunately because of supply and demand, there are too many situations where there are fake teachers who wouldn't even be qualified to teach in the US or UK, but yet are teaching in China.  Unfortunately that is the current state of affairs.  However, unlike US teachers, ESL abroad teachers do not get any type of pension in most cases, they just get a salary.  Job security is debatable, it depends how your principal is in the US and if you are a union member or not.  Also, we are talking public school vs private schools, some which aren't even schools, but training centers, not really equal footing, especially since one is for profit.

TEFL is REQUIRED if you want to be a full legal English teacher on a foreign experts certificate.  You dont need one for just a Z visa, but to have the foreign experts cert which is what you are supposed to have in addition to a z visa, you need a TEFL cert.  As stated earlier, there are loopholes, you can be hired as a consultant with Z visa on an alien employment license..... but that's just a loophole.

"5. Those who are engaged in particular professional jobs, like doctors, dentists, lawyers and accountants, should submit practicing license or other supporting documents;"

"b.Foreign experts in Category II shall submit a photocopy of 'Certificate of Authorized Qualification for Employment of Foreign Cultural and Educational Experts' of the employer or the serial number of said Certificate, and the standard employment contract uniformly printed by State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and concluded with the employer;"

Teachers are considered professional licensed ( employment like accountants or nurses so that's why they expect a TEFL certificate or some kind of teaching certificate.  Obviously if you are teaching music theory or organizational management, you wouldn't need a TEFL, most likely a state or national education board issued teaching certificate or a PhD would suffice.  The real question would be whether a PhD in English would be enough to fulfill the requirement or would they require a TEFL also.  In many US states 2 years of college/university teaching would automatically make you qualified for a grade school teaching certification.

Well, it seems you've found the vaguely worded 'requirement' that English teachers must have a (TEFL certificate), a certificate which obviously is not a license at all. Still, I don't see the Chinese government source for these requirements and so do not trust them. Currently, the 2011 provisions are the law:

I've read there are changes coming soon (A, B and C grade), but it is here-say what they will be until it spelled out.

I can't find the sources for this either or even proper dates! And so do not trust it either. I've heard from Chodrow that the changes are going to be based most likely on the 2011 Guangdong model posted above (lawandborder). So, sorry- no one has yet to prove to me that a TEFL certificate is required for a B.A. in liberal arts with two years of teaching experience. The old rule legally still stands.

I have hashed this issue out on another forum before and got different justifications to support a blanket prerequisite of TEFL certification. Their answers were basically that experience doesn't count and does not mean you are a good teacher. I find that mindset highly offensive. I have worked extremely hard for many, many teaching years, attended hundreds of workshops and seminars, and I would test my abilities against an MA TESOL instructor any day. 

I don't believe we should accept whatever governments require of us without comment. Yes, I'm complying with the demand (the course is quite easy for me obviously), but I resent feeding an industry I am adamantly against due to their greed and lack of standards. If a CELTA or a DELTA is deemed to be required, then let's also offer experienced teachers a way to test out of them. 

New teachers need training. That is not in dispute. What is in dispute is that employers, agents, even FAO's at big colleges, and immigration bureaucrats are making up laws that just aren't there. Are we to be comfortable with arbitrary law or regulations that don't exist but are nonetheless mandatory? I don't think so. Again, no one has been able to show me the official Chinese regulations that require a TEFL certificate, or any certificate for candidates who match the BA and two years experience requirements. 

Even though I can't do anything about it, at least I'm not ignorant as to what's happening here. The TEFL certification industry has pushed its influence to such an extent that it has convinced government official and schools to force even people with decades of experience to pay for one. It's more privatization of education, of social services, more ugly capitalism in communist China. I'm dead against such rules that do not allow for waivers and exceptions, and governments that do not support public services such as health and education.

Although experience is very important, most organizations have minimum requirements. As you know in the states a grade school teacher is required to have at least a BA degree and credentials in that teaching area.  So the BA requirement and the TEFL, is just copying that kind of minimum requirement.  Though experience is definitely crucial, there is still a need for regulation and that's what m

inimum requirements do.  If I had 30 years experience in performing root canals, but I lacked a formal DDM and was not licensed in any state to perform dentistry, would you really want me performing a root canal on you no matter how experienced I am and no matter if I have the best rating from patients in all of North America.....?

The applied knowledge learned from experience, doesn't always make up for the theoretical knowledge learned in higher education.  It is easier to make an across the board requirement rather than make exceptions for certain people.

Here try to answer these:

I. ELLs who speak English at home, at school, and with friends and no longer observe the traditions, beliefs, and lifestyle of their heritage cultures are exhibiting

A. accommodation. B. assimilation. C. enculturation. D. pluralism.

II.  In a 3rd-grade class, there are two new students who have recently moved to the US from Botswana. On the playground, the two students are conversing in their L1, Xhosa, and making distinct clicking sounds. Several children came up to them and began mimicking the clicking sounds. The teacher used this moment to explain to the class about the sounds of Xhosa. Which of the following universal principles of language would the teacher use to inform the teacher’s explanation to the class?

A. Language is rule-governed. B. Language is variable. C. Language is creative. D. Language is dynamic.

I hope you don't take offense at my counter-arguments, but I adamanently against my fellow teachers defending the TEFL industry. TEFL certificates are for beginners, plain and simple.

"If I had 30 years experience in performing root canals, but I lacked a formal DDM and was not licensed in any state to perform dentistry, would you really want me performing a root canal on you no matter how experienced I am and no matter if I have the best rating from patients in all of North America.....?"

If you had all that, I would far prefer your root canal to a young dentist who just got his DDM. But you cannot practice dentistry without the DDM. It's illegal. 

The TEFL industry is a hodgepodge that has 'accreditations' from a collection of brand new 'institutions' that no one has ever heard of. The DDM is a DDM and is recognized universally. Besides that, governments and schools will not recognize the credits in state university I got in linguistics, Japanese, and TESOL. And yet they recognize ITTT? This is the free market at its worst. How about a standardized test for TEFL that is universally recognized and that has a minimal fee, like IELTS or TOEFL but for the teachers? You could opt for tutors- or not. Oh but wait, that would mean that TEFL shops would lose income. The point is we don't really care about quality. The TEFL industry is pushing its programs through typical consumer marketing strategies to make money. Are they worthless? No (That DELTA looks really hard), but they sure are a racket.

I'm not sure why you're quizzing me. If it's just for fun I'm game. But I guarantee you'll never see questions like these on the TEFL program I'm taking. Nor are they very useful in vocational teaching- which is what we do. Theor is for the geeks, which I consider myself one. Anyway I believe I. would be C. but there are problems with II.

 "would the teacher use to inform the teacher’s explanation to the class?" This is not clearly worded. You mean 'elucidate' instead of 'inform?' The main point 'should' be A. actually, but of course the reality is that B. C. or D. are also applicable, depending on the perspective you're explaining from. But I find that the study of linguistics (while I like it) doesn't make for good teaching. I don't think you can call this applied linguistics (though many would unfortunately) and all instructors used applied linguistics but most don't even realize it. That's OK, of course. The main things is that the students are improving.

I want the work I did at the University of Missouri at Columbia and at Sophia University in Tokyo recognized by education ministries throughout the world. I want school to have flexibility on what credentials they'll accept as long as they meet government standards. And I want this charade of the TEFL certificate debunked for what it is. It should be crafted by well-known universities only and only required for teachers with little or no experience. There should be a standard test that experienced teachers may take should a ministry require that and schools should follow the law and not make up the law as they go along. As I've pointed out many times, China still does not legally require a TEFL certificate if you have a B.A. and two years relevant teaching, no matter how much your FAO or boss says it's the law. No one can show me this law. It requires a 'certificate' (not sure what kind) for those who don't meet those qualifications. That may change, but not today.

In the decades I've taught EFL with a BA or MA in education or in applied linguistics, TEFL certificates have only appeared in the last ten years, in the form of CELTA. It was novel then and gave the new teacher an edge in certain countries- particularly Thailand and other S.E. Asian countries. In the last five years it's grown like wildfire. So these are not distinguished licenses that can give one confidence in the teacher's skills; instead they have opened the market for saturation of new, unskilled teachers many of whom are not even college graduates and have a placed an unnecessary burden, sometimes a heavy one, on teachers who find they suddenly need more credentials to continue their job. I'm all for teacher training, of course. And workshops. And requirements such as BA. I'm also for letting the school have the freedom to choose, let's say, M.Ed's only. But the reality that I am now taking a course that 18 year-olds who have barely even met any foreigners, much less taught them, is quite ludicrous. Any sensible person would agree, and if you don't, you're siding with the TEFL industry and siding with something that is harming education, not benefitting it (not in general).

I'm sorry, I'm not trying to give you a hard time.  I'm just trying to have an intellectual discussion with you.  I do see your point of view and I agree somewhat, but it's hard to make it one size fits all.

The point about dentistry, well you can practice dentistry illegally just as you can have people who aren't REALLY teachers teaching in China....

I agree with you about the business side of TEFL certs., the truth is they are worthless if they are issued by a business institute.  However, a certificate issued by an accredited higher learning institution such as Ohio State University or Cambridge University, or Trinity College London, those, I do believe have value.  Also the certificates from government institutions such as local school boards or the Department of Education, they have some value.  The Mickey Mouse online TEFLs for 100 bucks, you are right, not really worth much, they are just a piece of paper.  Do you not have enough college credit already built up to just apply for a certificate from U Misso?  Who knows, you probably might only need to take one more class with them and you might be eligible for their certification in TESOL.

I wasn't trying to necessarily quiz you, I just wanted you to see the test content for teacher certification in TESOL in the United States for K-12.

You and I both know the overseas TEFL industry is misguided.  In a perfect world it would be regulated to weed out the phony teachers from the real ones.  Yes, I think a Masters in TESOL should override the need for a TEFL cert., but that also brings up another debate about the native speaker thing.  So should a Filipino who speaks perfect English, has an EdD in English from Harvard or Oxford, and has taught English for 20 years be prevented from teaching in China just because their passport is not from one of the "native" English speaking countries?  That's another side of the debate.  In the US, to be a grade school ESOL teacher you do not have to be a native English speaker, but we are talking about a government school in the US vs. a for profit English school in China.... different markets, different student/customer expectations.  Unfortunately the supply and demand factor has created a situation where people who aren't even teachers are being hired to teach just because their passport is from one of the so-called "native" English speaking countries.  The Bahamas is not on the list, yet the Bahamas is a native English speaking country.  There are many issues with the industry, and hopefully in the future it will be better regulated.

Yes, I think this was a very fruitful discussion with lots of good points made on both sides. The points in your last paragraph are particularly salient on who might be disqualified to teach despite excellence in skills.

In the end, I want to see education supported and backed by public educational institutions, not corporations. I don't think that will happen in my lifetime, but I'll promote public education whenever I can.

Best of luck!

Dear all, I gave a TEFL certificate n looking for a teaching vacancy in Guangzhou. Thanks for your help.

It shouldn't be a problem if you were born (or can prove you parents were from a native English speaking country) and hold a passport in one of the native English speaking countries recognized by the Chinese government OR if you hold a PhD in English from a major university in a recognized native English speaking country.

Unfortunately, I am Egyptian from Egyptian parents. But I have been teaching EFL for 15 years with TEFL and TESOL certificates.


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