Teaching in Hong Kong - An Interview with Hana Marley

Hana has been teaching in Hong Kong for many years, and has a great deal of teaching, and travelling, experience. Hana has taught in Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Prague, Ethiopia, London, Abu Dhabi, Moscow, Bangkok, as well as in Hong Kong.

Therefore I was very happy to be able to interview her on one of her favorite teaching locations - Hong Kong.

Most of her experience has been in international secondary schools, but she has also taught in universities and private language schools, as well as having worked as a private tutor. As well as teaching in Hong Kong, Hana also writes about budget backpacking on her website.

This is a very long interview, and I've divided it into two parts. The first part covers Hana's experiences of teaching in Hong Kong, and the current job market for teachers hoping to teach English in Hong Kong. Part two looks at the level of TEFL certification needed, the importance of learning Chinese, the type of lifestyle you can expect in Hong Kong, and how to get a work permit to teach in Hong Kong. This is part one of the interview.

Crossing the Harbour on the Star Ferry

Teaching in Hong Kong

Could you describe some of the teaching jobs have you had in Hong Kong?

Well, I started off as the ESL programme coordinator at a Canadian international school, but I moved on from there to teach in the (much more lucrative) British international schools system. I taught at both primary and secondary levels.

I've also worked in a couple of language schools, a government-subsidised private boys' school (very weird set-up) and as an English language lecturer at one of Hong Kong's universities.

The university job was definitely the best deal. At the weekends they used to send me over to Macau to teach in some sort of technological college (never really quite figured that one out). They paid me time-and-a-half plus all my expenses (ferry, hotel, food). As far as I was concerned, it was a free trip to Macau every Saturday! ;-)

Eventually, though, I realised I needed more time to myself and freedom to pursue other interests. So, I quit my job and am just doing a bit of private tutoring now.

What is the job market like for English teachers who hope to teach English in Hong Kong?

The job market for English teachers has always been excellent in Hong Kong.

Most Hong Kongers realise how important it is for them to learn English, and it's also compulsory at school. Parents are generally very keen on English tuition and really push their kids to learn.

I would say that the majority of students in the types of institutions I've taught at have some sort of after-school English tutoring at least once a week.

That's a lot of jobs for a lot of English teachers!

What is the best way to find work teaching in Hong Kong?

That really depends on what kind of job you want or are qualified to do.

Probably the easiest work to get is private tutoring. You can arrange that yourself, simply by advertising your services online or looking for 'teacher wanted' ads. You don't necessarily have to have any qualifications or experience, but of course the more qualifications and experience you do have, the faster you will find students and the more you'll be able to charge them.

By far the best site to find private students is gumtree

If you've got some sort of TEFL qualification and possibly also a bit of experience, you might prefer to try for a job at one of the millions (okay, maybe only hundreds) of language schools in Hong Kong, or with the government's Native English Teacher (NET) scheme.

Again, Gumtree HK is a good place to look for language school jobs, but many schools also advertise in the classifieds/education section of the local English language newspaper, the South China Morning Post (www.classifiedpost.com).

Of course, ESL-specific websites sometimes offer decent jobs in Hong Kong as well, but personally I would stick to local Hong Kong sites as they tend to be more reliable.

The Hong Kong government's NET scheme requires a bit more advance preparation as they have a long lead-in to interviews and shortlisting candidates can take forever. However, they have tons of jobs available every year and the pay ranges from good to very good (you could even say excellent, depending on where you compare it to).

Similar to the NET scheme are direct subsidy (DSS) schools. These are local private schools partly subsidised by the government. They're a notch or two (or more) above the NET schools, you could say. You'll also find adverts for these schools in the SCMP classifieds, but some of them recruit via the UK's Times Educational Supplement (TES) (www.tes.co.uk/jobs) as well.

Moving up on the salary scale (and also, unfortunately, on the qualification and experience requirements) you have the independent international schools. The best of the international schools are pretty strict about their teachers having recognised university degrees, proper teaching certification (just TEFL won't cut it) and at least two years' experience.

teaching in hong kong

Inside the Star Ferry 

If you're in that category, the best place to look for international schools jobs is in the TES or at one of the many international teacher recruiting fairs that take place around the world every year. The Council of International Schools (COIS) is one I would highly recommend. I've been to a few of their fairs myself and have always found jobs there.

Oddly, university jobs in Hong Kong can sometimes be easier to get than international schools jobs. Maybe it's because they don't pay as much and they're often only part-time? In any case, the universities also advertise in the South China Morning Post classifieds.

Hana, thank you very much for the detailed interview. I think this will be of interest to teachers hoping to teach English in Hong Kong.

Part two of Hana's interview is here: Teach English in Hong Kong Below is a link to my article on teaching English in Hong Kong

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