Work for a Tuition Centre or a School?

Halloween at my friend’s tuition centre!

Should you get a job in a tuition centre or a school? They say to truely appreciate the job you are in, you must of experienced something way worse.

In Hong Kong, you meet two kinds of teachers. Those who teach in a school, and those who teach in a tuition centre. Getting a job as an English teacher doesn’t have many requirements, giving westerners the opportunity to work abroad in Asia.

Now this information is intended for those who are becoming for a teacher for the first time, and did not study education at university. This applies for teachers who aren’t registered and tend to have a degree with a TEFL/TESOL. When I first came to Hong Kong, I only had my degree and a TEFL certification.

Tuition Centres

Tuition centres in a nutshell is a tutor’s job. The classrooms are small in size and in student numbers as well. Most jobs don’t require you to do lesson planning as there is a set curriculum with a learning path already designed. Schools are self explanatory, you work in a school as a teacher. Now there are many different types of teachers who work in a school, for example subject, classroom or ‘in and out’ teacher, however that is for another article.

However there are many downsides to signing with a tuition centre.

  • Long hours (9 hours with 6 being teaching hours per day)
  • Few and short holidays (usually 10 per year excluding public holidays)
  • Can’t plan holidays (fixed calendar like schools but shorter)
  • Repetitive lessons
  • Limited progression

Although, there are some real benefits to working in a tuition centre.

  • Starting salary can exceed a school
  • Long breaks/free time during the day (depending on your schedule)
  • No lesson planning
  • Job security (before the coronavirus outbreak!)

One of the biggest concerns when you look at tuition centres is the staff turnover rate. It is quite simply insane, as you may see at least half the personnel change. Like I mentioned previously, most treat it as a gap year and then leave. There are others who leave earlier than what they signed on for simply because they could not adjust to the working culture of Asia or teaching was not for them. Those who tend to stick around like the decent wage and the lifestyle that can be funded from it.

My Experience with Tuition Centres

From my experience, you should always start in a tuition centre. Tuition centres are a great introduction to teaching as you have more time to find your teaching style. With the smaller classes, you can pay more attention to detail, getting on top with your administration work and teaching development. Most teachers at tuition centres are in the same boat as yourself, new to teaching and trying it out for a year to see if it is for them. I’d say the average age in the major tuition centres in Hong Kong is in the mid twenties, prime time to socialise!

I worked at one of the biggest tuition centres in Hong Kong, and the salary they were paying me at the time was higher than what most schools could offer. International can obviously pay considerably more, but they tend to go for registered teachers or those with more qualifications and experience. Local schools tend to offer considerably less than what you can make at a tuition centre. I was lucky enough to find a school that were willing to pay me more and to give me the opportunity to teach in for the first time in a school setting.

I have met some people in my time who started teaching in a school without any prior teaching experience. How did they get the job? Most likely their image and willingness to sign… However they all struggled in the beginning as managing 30 students in a class for the first time is challenging no matter the age range.

Tuition Centre or a School? Conclusion

However, like I said. For an entry level job, working at a tuition centre is not bad. With the decent salary and easy workload, it is an attractive post. When I was working in a tuition centre, I was content but I knew that schools could offer a better package as a whole. Schools were able to offer medical, school holidays (usually over 40 per year) and your own classroom.

Tuition centre or a school? To summarise, if you are new to teaching and don’t know if it is for you, go for a tuition centre job. There is more chance of you getting a social life in a new country at a tuition centre than a school. Yes you may have short holidays, but the job is a great introduction to teaching with ample free time during the day to focus your attentions elsewhere if it is not for you! I appreciated my time at tuition centres as it gave me insight of the education industry in Hong Kong. I fully appreciate to what I have at schools when I look back at my time with tuition centres.

If you want some advice on this matter, feel free to contact me!

Websites that I used for job hunting in Hong Kong:

Mr. Greg

An English teacher from Scotland who made a website to share resources for free with the whole world! Currently based in Hong Kong, teaching in an International Kindergarten and tutoring Primary students.

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