English-language schools in China – the new sweatshops

English-language schools in China – the new sweatshops
BEIJING — Ms Tanya Davis fled Jizhou No 1 Middle School one winter morning in March, before the sun rose over the surrounding cotton fields.
.
In the nine months Ms Davis and her boyfriend had taught English at the school in rural north China, they endured extra work hours, unpaid salaries and frigid temperatures without heating and, on many days, electricity.
.
As they rode away in a taxi "the sense of relief was immense", said Ms Davis, 23, who is from Wales. "I felt like we had crossed our last hurdle and everything was going to be okay."
.
It's a new twist on globalisation: For decades, Chinese people made their way to the West to end up doing dangerous, low-paying jobs in sweatshop conditions.
.
Now, drawn by China's growth and hunger for English lessons, foreigners are landing in schoolhouse versions of the sweatshop.
.
In one case, an American ended up dead. Mr Darren Russell, 35, from Calabasas, California, died under mysterious circumstances days after a dispute caused him to quit his teaching job in Guangzhou.
.
"I'm scared. I need to get out of here," he said in a message left on his father's mobile phone, hours before his death in what Chinese authorities said was a traffic accident.
.
As China opens up to the world, public and private English-language schools are proliferating.
.
While wages can run to $1,600 plus board, lodging and even airfare home, and most treat foreign teachers decently, complaints about bad experiences in fly-by-night operations are on the rise.
.
The British Embassy in Beijing now carries a warning on its website about contract breaches, unpaid wages and broken promises. According to the United States Embassy, complaints have risen eight-fold since 2004, to two a week on average, and the number of allegations is high because "the rule of law is still not firmly in place".
.
"A number of sub-standard English language teaching mills have sprung up, seeking to maximise profits while minimising services," the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee said in a report on Mr Russell's case.
.
These institutes have become "virtual 'sweatshops' where young, often naive foreigners are held as virtual indentured servants".
.
China is in the midst of a frenzy to learn English, spurred by its emergence as an economic powerhouse and the approach of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
.
"The market is huge," said Mr Frank Dong, 38, manager of the American Tesol Institute in Beijing which contracts about 100 teachers a year from outside China.
.
"There is now a tremendous internal need that is driving Chinese people to improve their English."
.
Jobs offers teem on the Internet, with 340 posted in three months on Dave's ESL Cafe, a popular site. Also on the same site was a warning posted by an anonymous teacher in China's south.
.
"They will use you, abuse you, cheat you," the posting said. "You will hear it all when they want you to sign the contract. Then after that it's 'Oh sorry that isn't in your contract' and a bunch of excuses that go on and on."
.
Things can turn ugly. When Mr John Shaff, a graduate from Florida State University, had a shouting match with his school official in Harbin, a group of men showed up and threatened to beat him up. He quit.
.
Mr Russell had wanted to quit, too. He had been promised just 20 hours of classes a week at a language school in Guangzhou, but was made to teach up to 14 hours a day, said his mother Maxine Russell.
.
In April 2005, sick from bronchitis and exhausted from the long hours, Mr Russell resigned after threatening to tell the police that the school was operating illegally, a former employee said.
.
The school then moved him into a low-budget hotel. A week later, he was dead. His mother was told that he had been killed in a hit-and-run accident. His body was shipped to California.
.
According to the Congressional report, which was the outcome of a family request to look into the Russell case, a California mortician who handled Mr Russell's body said he had suffered a blow to his head and his body did not have bruises and fractures consistent with a car accident.
.
Ms Davis was luckier. She and her boyfriend never collected their salaries for their last month of work — but at least they made it back in one piece. — AP

BEIJING — Ms Tanya Davis fled Jizhou No 1 Middle School one winter morning in March, before the sun rose over the surrounding cotton fields.
.
In the nine months Ms Davis and her boyfriend had taught English at the school in rural north China, they endured extra work hours, unpaid salaries and frigid temperatures without heating and, on many days, electricity.
.
As they rode away in a taxi "the sense of relief was immense", said Ms Davis, 23, who is from Wales. "I felt like we had crossed our last hurdle and everything was going to be okay."
.
It's a new twist on globalisation: For decades, Chinese people made their way to the West to end up doing dangerous, low-paying jobs in sweatshop conditions.
.
Now, drawn by China's growth and hunger for English lessons, foreigners are landing in schoolhouse versions of the sweatshop.
.
In one case, an American ended up dead. Mr Darren Russell, 35, from Calabasas, California, died under mysterious circumstances days after a dispute caused him to quit his teaching job in Guangzhou.
.
"I'm scared. I need to get out of here," he said in a message left on his father's mobile phone, hours before his death in what Chinese authorities said was a traffic accident.
.
As China opens up to the world, public and private English-language schools are proliferating.
.
While wages can run to $1,600 plus board, lodging and even airfare home, and most treat foreign teachers decently, complaints about bad experiences in fly-by-night operations are on the rise.
.
The British Embassy in Beijing now carries a warning on its website about contract breaches, unpaid wages and broken promises. According to the United States Embassy, complaints have risen eight-fold since 2004, to two a week on average, and the number of allegations is high because "the rule of law is still not firmly in place".
.
"A number of sub-standard English language teaching mills have sprung up, seeking to maximise profits while minimising services," the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee said in a report on Mr Russell's case.
.
These institutes have become "virtual 'sweatshops' where young, often naive foreigners are held as virtual indentured servants".
.
China is in the midst of a frenzy to learn English, spurred by its emergence as an economic powerhouse and the approach of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
.
"The market is huge," said Mr Frank Dong, 38, manager of the American Tesol Institute in Beijing which contracts about 100 teachers a year from outside China.
.
"There is now a tremendous internal need that is driving Chinese people to improve their English."
.
Jobs offers teem on the Internet, with 340 posted in three months on Dave's ESL Cafe, a popular site. Also on the same site was a warning posted by an anonymous teacher in China's south.
.
"They will use you, abuse you, cheat you," the posting said. "You will hear it all when they want you to sign the contract. Then after that it's 'Oh sorry that isn't in your contract' and a bunch of excuses that go on and on."
.
Things can turn ugly. When Mr John Shaff, a graduate from Florida State University, had a shouting match with his school official in Harbin, a group of men showed up and threatened to beat him up. He quit.
.
Mr Russell had wanted to quit, too. He had been promised just 20 hours of classes a week at a language school in Guangzhou, but was made to teach up to 14 hours a day, said his mother Maxine Russell.
.
In April 2005, sick from bronchitis and exhausted from the long hours, Mr Russell resigned after threatening to tell the police that the school was operating illegally, a former employee said.
.
The school then moved him into a low-budget hotel. A week later, he was dead. His mother was told that he had been killed in a hit-and-run accident. His body was shipped to California.
.
According to the Congressional report, which was the outcome of a family request to look into the Russell case, a California mortician who handled Mr Russell's body said he had suffered a blow to his head and his body did not have bruises and fractures consistent with a car accident.
.
Ms Davis was luckier. She and her boyfriend never collected their salaries for their last month of work — but at least they made it back in one piece. — AP
BEIJING — Ms Tanya Davis fled Jizhou No 1 Middle School one winter morning in March, before the sun rose over the surrounding cotton fields.
.
In the nine months Ms Davis and her boyfriend had taught English at the school in rural north China, they endured extra work hours, unpaid salaries and frigid temperatures without heating and, on many days, electricity.
.
As they rode away in a taxi "the sense of relief was immense", said Ms Davis, 23, who is from Wales. "I felt like we had crossed our last hurdle and everything was going to be okay."
.
It's a new twist on globalisation: For decades, Chinese people made their way to the West to end up doing dangerous, low-paying jobs in sweatshop conditions.
.
Now, drawn by China's growth and hunger for English lessons, foreigners are landing in schoolhouse versions of the sweatshop.
.
In one case, an American ended up dead. Mr Darren Russell, 35, from Calabasas, California, died under mysterious circumstances days after a dispute caused him to quit his teaching job in Guangzhou.
.
"I'm scared. I need to get out of here," he said in a message left on his father's mobile phone, hours before his death in what Chinese authorities said was a traffic accident.
.
As China opens up to the world, public and private English-language schools are proliferating.
.
While wages can run to $1,600 plus board, lodging and even airfare home, and most treat foreign teachers decently, complaints about bad experiences in fly-by-night operations are on the rise.
.
The British Embassy in Beijing now carries a warning on its website about contract breaches, unpaid wages and broken promises. According to the United States Embassy, complaints have risen eight-fold since 2004, to two a week on average, and the number of allegations is high because "the rule of law is still not firmly in place".
.
"A number of sub-standard English language teaching mills have sprung up, seeking to maximise profits while minimising services," the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee said in a report on Mr Russell's case.
.
These institutes have become "virtual 'sweatshops' where young, often naive foreigners are held as virtual indentured servants".
.
China is in the midst of a frenzy to learn English, spurred by its emergence as an economic powerhouse and the approach of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
.
"The market is huge," said Mr Frank Dong, 38, manager of the American Tesol Institute in Beijing which contracts about 100 teachers a year from outside China.
.
"There is now a tremendous internal need that is driving Chinese people to improve their English."
.
Jobs offers teem on the Internet, with 340 posted in three months on Dave's ESL Cafe, a popular site. Also on the same site was a warning posted by an anonymous teacher in China's south.
.
"They will use you, abuse you, cheat you," the posting said. "You will hear it all when they want you to sign the contract. Then after that it's 'Oh sorry that isn't in your contract' and a bunch of excuses that go on and on."
.
Things can turn ugly. When Mr John Shaff, a graduate from Florida State University, had a shouting match with his school official in Harbin, a group of men showed up and threatened to beat him up. He quit.
.
Mr Russell had wanted to quit, too. He had been promised just 20 hours of classes a week at a language school in Guangzhou, but was made to teach up to 14 hours a day, said his mother Maxine Russell.
.
In April 2005, sick from bronchitis and exhausted from the long hours, Mr Russell resigned after threatening to tell the police that the school was operating illegally, a former employee said.
.
The school then moved him into a low-budget hotel. A week later, he was dead. His mother was told that he had been killed in a hit-and-run accident. His body was shipped to California.
.
According to the Congressional report, which was the outcome of a family request to look into the Russell case, a California mortician who handled Mr Russell's body said he had suffered a blow to his head and his body did not have bruises and fractures consistent with a car accident.
.
Ms Davis was luckier. She and her boyfriend never collected their salaries for their last month of work — but at least they made it back in one piece. — AP
BEIJING — Ms Tanya Davis fled Jizhou No 1 Middle School one winter morning in March, before the sun rose over the surrounding cotton fields.
.
In the nine months Ms Davis and her boyfriend had taught English at the school in rural north China, they endured extra work hours, unpaid salaries and frigid temperatures without heating and, on many days, electricity.
.
As they rode away in a taxi "the sense of relief was immense", said Ms Davis, 23, who is from Wales. "I felt like we had crossed our last hurdle and everything was going to be okay."
.
It's a new twist on globalisation: For decades, Chinese people made their way to the West to end up doing dangerous, low-paying jobs in sweatshop conditions.
.
Now, drawn by China's growth and hunger for English lessons, foreigners are landing in schoolhouse versions of the sweatshop.
.
In one case, an American ended up dead. Mr Darren Russell, 35, from Calabasas, California, died under mysterious circumstances days after a dispute caused him to quit his teaching job in Guangzhou.
.
"I'm scared. I need to get out of here," he said in a message left on his father's mobile phone, hours before his death in what Chinese authorities said was a traffic accident.
.
As China opens up to the world, public and private English-language schools are proliferating.
.
While wages can run to $1,600 plus board, lodging and even airfare home, and most treat foreign teachers decently, complaints about bad experiences in fly-by-night operations are on the rise.
.
The British Embassy in Beijing now carries a warning on its website about contract breaches, unpaid wages and broken promises. According to the United States Embassy, complaints have risen eight-fold since 2004, to two a week on average, and the number of allegations is high because "the rule of law is still not firmly in place".
.
"A number of sub-standard English language teaching mills have sprung up, seeking to maximise profits while minimising services," the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee said in a report on Mr Russell's case.
.
These institutes have become "virtual 'sweatshops' where young, often naive foreigners are held as virtual indentured servants".
.
China is in the midst of a frenzy to learn English, spurred by its emergence as an economic powerhouse and the approach of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
.
"The market is huge," said Mr Frank Dong, 38, manager of the American Tesol Institute in Beijing which contracts about 100 teachers a year from outside China.
.
"There is now a tremendous internal need that is driving Chinese people to improve their English."
.
Jobs offers teem on the Internet, with 340 posted in three months on Dave's ESL Cafe, a popular site. Also on the same site was a warning posted by an anonymous teacher in China's south.
.
"They will use you, abuse you, cheat you," the posting said. "You will hear it all when they want you to sign the contract. Then after that it's 'Oh sorry that isn't in your contract' and a bunch of excuses that go on and on."
.
Things can turn ugly. When Mr John Shaff, a graduate from Florida State University, had a shouting match with his school official in Harbin, a group of men showed up and threatened to beat him up. He quit.
.
Mr Russell had wanted to quit, too. He had been promised just 20 hours of classes a week at a language school in Guangzhou, but was made to teach up to 14 hours a day, said his mother Maxine Russell.
.
In April 2005, sick from bronchitis and exhausted from the long hours, Mr Russell resigned after threatening to tell the police that the school was operating illegally, a former employee said.
.
The school then moved him into a low-budget hotel. A week later, he was dead. His mother was told that he had been killed in a hit-and-run accident. His body was shipped to California.
.
According to the Congressional report, which was the outcome of a family request to look into the Russell case, a California mortician who handled Mr Russell's body said he had suffered a blow to his head and his body did not have bruises and fractures consistent with a car accident.
.
Ms Davis was luckier. She and her boyfriend never collected their salaries for their last month of work — but at least they made it back in one piece. — AP

TODAY (Singapore), Monday, August 7, 2006