"This school doesn´t appear to be much different than schools in Mexico."
With one obvious difference: In Mexico, you are close to your country (I assume you are North American). In China, you are quite isolated. Just be cautious not to get into a massively unpleasant experience.
Thank you for this honest, yet enlightening post. I read all the negative ones too.
This school doesn´t appear to be much different than schools in Mexico. Where I am teaching.
I am thinking of coming to this school for the next academic school year.
Glad I found this post amidst the host of entirely negative posts. This type of post will help FTs needing to make a decision about whether or not to teach at this school. Thanks for a balanced post.
Hey, Lao Zhou.
Very fair assessment of Huijia.
I wish all you laowais the best - and I miss the village bar.
PS - USA road trip this summer, boys!
Overview of Hiujia
I’ve been teaching here for ten years, returning next year for my 11th. Let me give my perspective to some criticisms on these ESL boards. I will be completely honest. Keep in mind everyone is different and not everyone has the same experience in the same place. No doubt there are employees who love working at Google, Facebook, IBM, etc, while others hate it.
At Huijia, there is a primary school, middle school, and IB high school. Each school has its own “personality”. I teach English in the IB high school so most of my information is from my experience there. I’ll also mention that I just turned 60 and assume life has beaten me up more than most of those posting, so perhaps I can offer a more experienced perspective. Here we go …
Criticisms I don’t agree with:
Security/Prison: I honestly don’t know why anyone would waste one second complaining about security. I see security EVERYWHERE I go in China. The “security” staff in our school are peasants from the countryside who usually watch TV or doze in their booth and don’t even pay attention whether you sign in or out when leaving and entering campus. We have a primary school. There have been occasional reports of children getting abducted right off campuses in different parts of China, Beijing included. Given this information, if you were a parent, would you or would you not want security in the school that your child attended? In all my jobs in IT in America I had to wear an ID badge. It is/was not unheard of for non-employees to walk into a building within the normal everyday comings and goings, confusion, and walk out with computer equipment … in broad daylight. Seriously, why is hanging an ID badge around your neck an issue? Having walls to separate the school from the neighboring village makes perfect sense … keep people out who don’t belong. Using those walls as a metaphor for prison escapes me. I’ll add quickly that people are getting shot and killed on campuses in the US.
Food: I’ve been eating the food in the canteen for ten years and find it pretty decent; sometimes pretty good, sometimes not so good. Several teachers eat in the canteen, several don’t. In general it’s too oily and can be too salty sometimes. Recently they’ve offered fresh/non-oily, non-salty vegetables, nice little improvement. Students are not starving to death. They’re unfortunately, like westerners, getting more and more addicted to the likes of MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC, which are everywhere now in China. Yes, they break the rules, pay off the taxi drivers, who buy their lunches for them. They also buy them cigarettes which is one of my biggest complaints about this school (see below, Thank You for Smoking). The school offers pretty nice apartments for the foreign teachers, which include kitchen and stove. Many teachers cook their meals or go to restaurants in lieu of the canteen. There are a few places in the nearby village where you can get decent takeout (noodles, etc). I don’t see food as an issue. If you don’t like the canteen, there are alternatives.
Location: We’re pretty far removed from downtown Beijing, so it’s not convenient to get there during the week. One poster said a good 2 hours. Depends where in Beijing you’re going, what day, and what time because traffic will vary. Beijing’s huge. I’d say anywhere from 1 ¼ to 2 hours, or even more. Most teachers go in on the weekend. Some even get apartments there. Some stay in hostels, etc. The downtown area of Changping has mostly shops and restaurants, including a Walmart, and recently a pretty good, modern mall, with some good restaurants. But there’s no nightlife in Changping. So it makes sense to go into the central area of Beijing on the weekend for fun.
Campus: I find the campus quite pleasant, to be honest. There’s grass and trees and on the weekends when it empties out … teachers go into Beijing, students go home … it’s peaceful and quiet. I enjoy walking around the little “quad”. For one stretch, there’s a nice little canopy of trees to walk under, a little mountain in the background. Nothing exotic, but I like it. The air on campus is a little cleaner than downtown Beijing. (See “Pollution” below.)
Financial Trouble: I’ve heard before that the school has financial problems. I don’t pretend to know the school’s balance sheet. What I do know is that in the last year, on the high school part of campus, they converted the outdoor basketball courts to an indoor/domed facility, added badminton courts, and regulate the air inside. In the primary school area, they’ve converted old offices to a domed health center with lots of treadmills and lifecycles, some weight machines, and free weights. It just opened. Looks pretty good. A teacher told me that the Director told him that the total cost of these 2 facilities was in the neighborhood of $2M USD. That doesn’t indicate financial trouble to me.
“Drunk” Teachers and Teachers in General: A teacher and his (Chinese) wife opened a pretty cool bar in the village, walking distance from school. The bar has a loyal patronage … ha ha. I don’t go there, but I assume that some of those teachers overdo it and may not bring their A game to class the following day, but may be able to conduct a pretty decent class even if they don’t feel great. This is true in every industry … functioning alcoholics getting their jobs done. There have been teachers here with drinking problems who have either been fired, not invited back, or in a recent case, simply left. The school knows which teachers are doing a good job and which aren’t, for whatever reason. As more and more teachers are looking overseas to teach, the school has been able to up its requirements. Over my 10 years here, we’re getting more qualified teachers. But like anywhere else, no doubt some are strong, some average, some weak. I don’t observe them in the classroom, so it’s not fair to make a judgment, as some of the posters here do.
Turnover: Used to be common for a teacher to leave after a year, 2 max. A lot more teachers are staying longer now. I lead the pack. Others have been here 5, 6, 7 years. In the IB high school, of the 11 new teachers this past year, 8 are leaving. Of the 27 teachers who were already here, 25 are staying. I don’t have an explanation for that, but there you go. A few teachers over the years have left in search of greener pastures only to return. In some cases, others have wanted to return, but were turned down. Others have left and no doubt found a better fit. I believe the primary school has a high rate of turnover; not sure why.
Students not Getting an Education: Since I’m in the IB high school, I can only speak from that perspective. Here’s my take … On the positive side, we get students who come to the program for the right reason … work hard, get an education, prepare for an education overseas, succeed, and get into high-level universities, such as … Ivy League schools (occasionally), Berkeley, Michigan, other great schools. For the negative side, see “Our Students” below …
Contracts Reneged: In all my time here I have never, not once, had an issue re/salary, contract, broken promises, etc. I’ve always been paid on time, reimbursed for travel on time. I have an excellent relationship with the administration. They’ve treated me fairly and respectfully from the moment I stepped on campus 10 years ago. I have heard of contract disputes, money disputes, head butts, furious teachers. And obviously, a lot of that venting finds its way to boards like this one. I don’t know the stories, so can’t comment on anything specific, but here’s my sense … I’m sure some teachers have gotten screwed for whatever reason, and make no excuses for the school. Those individuals have every right to voice their complaints. On the other hand, I’ve seen so many teachers here who really don’t have a clue, who bitch and moan at the drop of a hat, who haven’t figured out that China, or this school, doesn’t operate the same way as their native western country. Well, duh.
Curriculums: I am under the impression that, at least in the IB high school, all the departments have curriculums. We certainly do in the English Dept. If there are departments in the primary or middle school that don’t have curriculums, I’m not aware of that. My sense is that overall this is not a problem, but leave it open as a possibility in some instances. If you’re considering teaching here, check beforehand.
Criticisms I Agree with and my own Criticisms of the School:
Our Students: For me, the discussion about this school begins and ends with this topic. A lot of the other stuff is just noise. Here goes … some/too many of our students are a challenge, virtually impossible to teach. This is a private/for profit school. The tuition is outrageous (around $40K USD per year). Consequently the parents are wealthy. Consequently the students are often spoiled … they do what they want. I mentioned the good, motivated students above. I’ll say they comprise around 25-30% of all students. Below them we have probably 50% of the overall student body who are average … show up, do some work, contribute to class discussion occasionally, don’t cause any trouble.
Then there’s the bottom, let’s say 25-30% who shouldn’t be in our school. They are there simply because the parents paid the tuition. This is as obvious as can be. (Remember I’m speaking about the IB high school.) They have been accepted into our program where all subjects are taught in English … Chemistry, Physics, Math, Philosophy, etc … and they can’t speak or understand English. They’re so hopelessly behind when they start, they either just give up, or they’ve already given up somewhere before coming here, so they sit in the classroom and either do nothing, play on their smartphones, sleep, or act up. Students are grouped by level, so some of the low-level classes are, in some cases, not possible to teach. When I’ve had those classes, I have them read beginner stories silently, go around the class and have each student struggle to read, help their pronunciation, and have them constantly look up words in the dictionary. Try to give them some building blocks. But for the most part, they won’t even do that. These classes are much more like babysitting than teaching. Teaching the average and high-level classes can be very rewarding.
Behavior is less of an issue than lack of motivation. You have to keep after some students to be quiet, but really out-of-control students, major behavioral problems, are pretty rare. One poster mentions that students coming out of our school with a degree will find out it’s meaningless. Yes, these poor students who have been pushed through the system having learned nothing will get into some low-level university in the west and fail out.
Having said all that, I like our students, as most of the teachers here do. They’re good kids (a few bad ones), even the ones who don’t do any work.
Thank You for Smoking: The school has a No Smoking policy which they do not enforce … to say the least. In the high school, and I believe the middle school as well, hordes of students smoke in the bathroom. The smell wafts out into the hallways. I hate that. I’ve brought it up, but nothing has been done, nor will it ever be done (in my humble opinion) because the students pay ungodly tuition and the school does not want to risk pissing them off to the point where they want to leave. This sucks.
Passing Student who Deserve to Fail: Another real issue is that the administration requires the teachers to pass 80% of their students. Given the description about some of the low-level classes, this is not even remotely possible. No teacher likes this and some teachers refuse to play the game. They give honest scores. The administration asks them to change the grades. If they refuse, it’s pretty much unanimously agreed they get changed anyway behind closed doors. Not good. However, I have heard from other teachers that something like this exists in other schools where they’ve taught, both in China and out.
Pollution: Non-school issue, but anyone considering moving to China needs to be well aware that pollution in all the big cities in China, is awful. I mentioned above that pollution is a little better on our campus because we’re removed from downtown, but it’s still bad.
Other: Full IB Program:
The primary school and middle school are in the review phase of converting to an IB program (PYP for primary school, MYP for middle school). If successful, the school, from grade 1 through 12 will be a full, official IB program shortly.
China is a crazy, chaotic, frustrating, fascinating, exciting place. It’s not for everyone, nor is Huijia. You need to be open-minded, patient, flexible, have a sense of humor, and aware there are drastic cultural differences if you come here. Uprooting, relocating to a new (developing) country, starting a new job, are daunting challenges indeed. My purpose here is to provide prospective teachers with a different perspective than all the trashing on the board. I think teaching and living at Huijia is a good situation, a good experience. I’ve given my honest opinion of the good and bad. To me, the good pretty far outweighs the bad.
Given the rants on this board, I thoroughly expect to get trashed for my post. That’s OK. I stand by what I wrote. Not sure if any of this helps. Good luck making your decision.