The cost of English language schools in China varies massively. There are big differences between cities and regions. There are also big differences in the quality of tuition provided by various establishments. Thus different costs and benefits. I shall answer based on my city which is a middle-sized city in Liaoning.
How much does it cost an hour?
This could be anything from 10 RMB per hour up to 2000 RMB per hour. For the lower end, you are going to be in a class with 50 other kids in a small dirty classroom with no air conditioning. For about 80 RMB you will have a pleasant school with modern furnishings, and experienced Chinese teacher and access to a foreign teacher. For 120 RMB, you’ll be in XDF or some other name brand school. If you go up to 200 RMB, you can have private tuition with a foreign teacher. The Chinese university entrance exams are known as the Gaokao. This is a very important exam and much of a child’s education focuses on passing this one exam. Some well renowned Chinese teachers have a track record of getting students to pass the Gaokao exams. These teachers might command 1000 to 2000 RMB per hour of class time in a one to one setting.
Does it depend on the age/grade of the student?
The cost of English classes doesn’t change much with the student’s age. There are, however, two groups do incur higher costs:
- kindergarten students wanting a foreign teacher because the foreigners don’t like this job so much
- high school students doing their Gaokao, because their parents get desperate/panicked and start throwing money at the problem
What is the cost difference between a Chinese teacher who teaches English vs a native/foreign teacher?
The Chinese teacher will be paid based on experience and track record. Some can command very high salaries, others cannot. Foreign teachers are generally paid a going rate irrespective of how long they have been teaching. They are more likely to be taken advantage of and underpaid by the school they work for. Yet, just because the school underpays the foreign teacher, that doesn’t mean they pass on that saving to the student or parent. The student might, in fact, pay more for the foreign teachers class and the school pockets the big profit.
How about private 1-on-1 lessons vs in a classroom setting?
If you can afford it, these are great. Either one to one or perhaps in a very small group of two or three students with a teacher. The teacher can customise your learning experience and make everything so much more enjoyable and effective for you. The lesson can also take place in the comfort of your own home, saving you commuting time. Smaller class sizes are definitely worth the cost.
Do you feel that the (extra) lessons are worth it?
English can be very poorly taught in some state-run schools. The quality of the education can vary substantially. I’ve worked in some state-owned schools where nobody could actually speak English. Not even the English teacher could speak English! They could only read and write. So in some cases, where the mainstream education is lacking, outside tuition is essential.
The Zhongkao, Gaokao and university exams still require English. The proportion of the grade that comes from English is less than that from Maths or Chinese. However, it is still higher than that from other subjects such as chemistry or history. The exams award a significant number of points for English skills. If you don’t expand your English skills, then you need to replace those points in some other subject.
Lessons with foreign teachers are only available, in my city, via private schools or the universities. A foreign teacher’s class is very important to learn spoken English, which you would need if you plan to study abroad or do an English major at university. If you don’t take these extra lessons, you won’t learn spoken English.