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Mike Barnes - 2017-01-15

This is my personal review of Guangdong Country Garden School, BGY , Foshan, Guangdong, China

1. The school is dishonest. This goes from what they promise teachers before they arrive and what they experience here. There is no transparency in why or how decisions are made.

On the website it identifies 81 administrators. Two are international teachers: It is not uncommon to have 4 or 5 administrators telling you what to do that are in direct conflict with each other.the remaining International principal ( the other two were fired) is probably the most unethical and incompetent administrator I have encountered. I have never seen him talk to a student other than his daughter. He has no apparent interest in kids. He bullies teachers, particularly younger women. He makes decisions based on rumour. He exploded at one faculty meeting about how he was being attacked on "Dave's ESL Board", and ranted for 40 minutes. It was the most unprofessional experience I have witnessed in many years of teaching.

There is no disciplinary support. Generally the students are well behaved but attending class is an option. I had one student who stopped attending class for the last three months of the year and skipped the Final Exam. Despite my complaing through the offcial channels nothing happened. Msteriously, the F I gave him was changed to an A. His father had a senior position at the BGY headquarters. Retaining staff is difficult for BGY. Aside from having turn over rates of 60%-70% of foreign teachers every year (generally only those with Chinese wives stay more than one or two years), GCGS routinely hires 20% or more foreign teachers than they need because they know they will lose staff during the course of the year. At one point during my second year, after J___ had been promoted to head of Middle and High schools, two or three teachers were doing "runners" every week because they could not stand it any more. 20 Chinese teachers the day before Chinese New Year's holiday not to return after the holiday and to vacate their school provided apartments.

6. When I arrived at GCGS there were exactly zero textbooks for the courses I was assigned to teach. Fortunately I had brought one of my own textbooks. R[edited] offered to copy as many copies as I wanted. Not used to wholesale copyright infringement, I refused. A couple of weeks later the text mysteriously disappeared from my desk. My Chinese department head said it had been borrowed by a students. A couple of days later it reappeared on my desk and all my students showed up at class with a nicely bound photocopy of the textbook. The situation in MYP improved as we got closer to the official IB reaccreditation visit. Use of technology in class is forbidden or not, depending on which administrator you talk to.Connectivity is hit or miss. Bring your own VPN.

7. Te large majority of the BGY housing development (where all foreign teachers live)consists of very old people and very young grand-children or great grand-chlldren. Most of the adults were educated (or not) during the Cultural Revolution and are very suspicious of Western people. They are very prejudiced against people of colour. The slightly older children are sent to boarding schools. GCGS has a boarding program for Kindergarten to grade 12 (unbelievable!) I would arrive at school every Monday morning with dozens of babies plastered against the gates wailing in fear of abandonment.

8. My salary was quite good and is the main reason why people work at GCGS. However, it is quite easy to get to the top of the scale if you are an experienced teacher. Without a increase in salary, given the Chinese inflation rate and the devaluation of the yuan I was in effect earning 10% less.You were generally paid on time and what you were due. They did (in direct violation of the contract) fiddle with the amount of flight allowance. I have heard from colleagues that they are fiddling with the salaries this year.

9. Everyone complains about housing and dishonest landlords that realise that you have no option but to rent in BGY housing development. They have raised the housing allowance (but decreased the salary proportionately).

10. BGY is 1-2 hours from Guangzhou. They run once an hour and the last one runs at 10 PM and is too crowded to count on getting a seat. There are two or three Chinese restaurants nearby (in the housing development) and a Subway There is no nightlife.

11-12. The health insurance is the most basic offered by a Chinese ompany Ping 'An. You are only covered in China (not in Honk Kong, Macao or anywhere else you might be in China. The closest hospital, Clifford, is about 40 minutes away. It has its fair share of horror stories.

13. There are very few non-Chinese students in the school (maybe 10 from a population of 6,400).

14. Of the 100 or so new teaches who arrived with me there were only two young children. That family left after one year as they though there younger child (grade 1 I think) was regressing. the older (grade 3 or 4) was completely ostracised.

15. The school does get you a Z-visa but beyond that they are remarkably unhelpful. No assistance with finding a apartment or other tasks facing a new teacher. There is absolutely no help when you arrive (you are lucky if you are picked up at the airport. Getting from the airport to BGY takes two or more forms of transport including being dropped of at Volvo car dealership in the middle of nowhere.

16. Your week-day evenings and often weekend are taken up by absolutely pointless meetings. The Chinese principal reads from a Chinese version of the IB Handbook with a Chinese powerpoint. Even the Chinese teachers don't pay attention; they are all on their phones. I averaged two night meetings a week (from 7-9:30).

17. At the beginning of the past school year a teacher was killed on a scooter. Many teachers have scooters because it is a very convenient way to get back and forth from school (especially for night time meetings when bus service is limited) but they are extremely dangerous as Chinese drivers of cars regard scooter drive as a nuisance. You see accidents involving scooters regularly. If you take the scooter out of the housing development police stop you and impound the vehicle..

Think very, very, carefully before you accept a position at country garden.You would do much better at Clifford School up the road.

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