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A new market for preschool English instruction is emerging in China and showing great growth potential, but many foreign teachers recruited by the training schools are unqualified.
Guo Xiaolin, a young girl less than three years old in Beijing, signed up for two English classes per week, with one of the classes lasting eight hours. The girl's mother said she wants to foster her interest in learning English at an early age.
About 70 percent of Chinese children start to learn English before age five, according to a report about English learning among Chinese youths.
More and more Chinese parents, like Guo's mother, are looking for ways to give their kids a head start in school.
However, a major problem for training schools is that many of their foreign teachers are not qualified. They are not certified in an internationally recognized English teaching and testing program, but still get jobs due to the sheer demand for native-English speakers.
An industry insider who preferred not to disclose his name said many foreign teachers at English training schools are not professional teachers. Many of them came to China to travel and then decided to stay as a part-time teacher.
The phenomenon results in high turnover rates for foreign teachers and influences the quality of the education. "It's not rare to see students attend a class and one or two months later discover their teacher is gone and another foreigner has taken over the job," an insider pointed out.
Bai Chen, a middle-level manager at a training school in Beijing, said over 20 foreign teachers he had worked with applied for the job merely to get a competitive salary. "Their resumes showed they were experienced, but it turned out they weren't when asked to give a class," Bai said.
"The fact is that some foreign teachers are not well-educated and a lot of them didn't receive higher education in their home countries. Under such circumstances, it's hard to imagine how well they could teach the students," Bai added.
Another person in charge of teaching at a training school in Beijing expressed similar concerns. He said some foreign teachers speak with strong accents and some lack teaching skills.
The person suggests that Chinese parents become less obsessed with foreign teachers and focus more on the learning abilities of their children. Some foreign teachers have high teaching skills, because they have passed rigorous hiring standards and attained teaching certificates, he also admitted.