The new frontier for Armenian English teachers seems to be China: the possibility of working at higher salaries attracts more and more workers
Unemployment is an issue in Armenia: in 2016, official data set it at 18.3%, but the rate reaches a worrying 38.6% among youngsters struggling to secure a job.
While the older generation sees the Russian market as the main target for seasonal work, young people have been looking to China – to teach English.
Alina Antonyan, 31, is one of them.
“Chinese agents have been intensively hunting for English language teachers in Armenia. I have friends who are already there, and they say that the demand for the profession is rather high. An excellent command of English, by the way, is not mandatory – a medium level will do”, says Antonyan, who graduated in English at the Foreign Languages Department of Gyumri's State Pedagogical University.
Alina has been looking for professional vacancies in her hometown, but her search has not been successful yet, as she was working in private companies.
“It is difficult to find a job in Gyumri. There are no factories, and few office jobs. It’s more or less about the service sector. The average daily pay is 1,000 AMD (around $2), and I managed to get even $4, or $100 per month. That sum is really mediocre, but there are no alternatives. For the last several months I have been unemployed. My last workplace closed and I haven't been looking for a new one, as I have been busy with preparing myself for the China program. I knew that, if I move to China, I will get an average salary of $1,000. They also provide free accommodation”, says Antonyan. “In parallel to my job-search, I have been also researching the job market from the financial point of view and concluded that teaching in China is one of the best options for a professional in English. You can save up to 30% of your salary even if you do not lead a modest life. I can work for several years, collect my savings, and think about opening something in Armenia when I return.
There are two main ways to look for a job in China: the Internet and local agencies.
Chinese agents work via Internet and can be contacted through their websites. They get back to the selected candidates and present the working conditions. The monthly salary is 800 to 2,000 USD. Teachers are given free and convenient accommodation, where they only have to take care of the utilities. The contracts are signed for a year.
The representatives of Armenian agencies do not like talking about the topic. According to Antonyan, it is because they do not really do anything, except from logging into an agency website and making the application on behalf of the candidate, which is a rather simple thing to do. They do not even mediate, or negotiate a higher salary for the applicant.
People working for China [agents] do not give interviews either. Although they are ready to help the people willing to go to China, or to consult on several matters, interviews are a big no. They justify that referring to illegalities in the process. To negotiate for higher pay, teachers from Armenia are presented as native speakers. The demand for latter is higher, as schools with native English speakers are regarded as more prestigious and have higher tuition fees.
Astghik Mnatsakanyan, 28, worked in China last year. She says that, as she heard about the opportunity of working as an English teacher with high salary, she sought for clarifications and set to work.
“There were difficulties. I had to prepare, and my parents had to prepare psychologically for my absence. Then there was the visa. Here I found an agency, and I passed the interview. Then they asked for certain clarifications, regarding the city I would prefer and the catering option (covered by the institution or by the applicant), etc.… However, when I tried to consult with some people, I learnt that I could get options with much higher pay. Then I investigated one of such options and we had a Skype call. Then I got the visa and the tickets. Still I couldn’t stay there for long, as I didn’t get used to the place and also there were issues with my visa”, says Mnatsakanyan, who taught at a kindergarten.
According to Mnatsakanyan, teaching is carried out both in professionalised schools and in kindergartens. The age of the students varies from four to eleven. The first contact with the kids is in English. They are taught letters and easy words.
Armenians who appear more European are offered an extra job – private tutor for kids at home. Parents are eager to hire a private tutor. Those people who have no visa issues immediately extend their visas and stay there for years, as they are sure that they will not find a similar job in Armenia.
The Chinese embassy in Armenia denied any connection to this programme. If a person wants to work in China, they must seek and find the desired job themselves, clarify the conditions, and then apply to the embassy. The Embassy is only involved in issuing visas.
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