From the Outside Looking In Part 3: Future of ESL in China by Austen Beck

China has made me feel anything but “big,” it’s respectfully made me feel very small, which I’ve come to very much appreciate. China, a world leading power, is progressing faster than ever in its education system. It’s taking on new ideas with different approaches, shaping educators to be energetic and work together effectively. Change is a long and ongoing process, but it hasn’t stopped China from taking it on full force. I am only a second year ESL teacher and a first year ESL teacher in China. I’m not an education expert, nor a child development specialist, nor am I versed beyond my own brief experience with China’s education system. With some research, observation, and a better understanding of my surroundings, however, I have really found Chinese students and the education system here to be fascinating. Are younger generations of Chinese students growing in a more nontraditional and even undisciplined way? Are they adapting a more Western, independent way of thinking? I posed these questions to myself during my first year of teaching and have made three key observations about working inside the public school system here in Shenzhen. With that being said, I only work at one school in a small part of a gigantic city in an enormous country, so please take what I am reflecting on with these realities in mind in this 3 part series.

English Immersion in Chinese Classrooms: The Future of a Massive ESL Takeover?

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Futian District (CBD), Central Business District, of Shenzhen

Shenzhen is beguiling and quite unique, a city built over the course of only three decades and is changing faster than ever. China’s speedy construction and rapid growing cities are overwhelming and with that comes the rising standards in education. Shenzhen is a continuously developing city that strives to be modern, full of forward thinkers, and one could perhaps even say a bit Westernized. Just imagine China with all of its history, tradition, and character built up over multiple millennia now bringing in foreign teachers and Westernized societal traits to expose young learners to the world of English culture.

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English training for students begin at a very young age, some even begin at the age of 3

If the Chinese were to fully commit to learning English as their official second language, the possibilities would be endless for their youth. In my mind, this is a bold and different kind of approach. The diversity amongst ESL teachers has also expanded bringing more culture, different backgrounds with various experiences to work together. This pushes boundaries, shifts thinking processes, and recreates more possibilities for Chinese youth such as international business, travel, technology, and higher education. Chinese students are on their way to knowing the two most powerful languages in the world, with the most speakers in the world.

China’s ESL jobs have skyrocketed in the last few years, and continue to grow exponentially. To be an ESL teacher in China has become exceedingly more difficult in the past few years. The qualifications have risen, the competition has spread more diversely, and work visas have become stricter to attain. The Chinese ESL market is attracting more and more distinguished and hardworking teachers.

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The demand for ESL teachers has reflected heavily on how quickly China’s education system is changing as a whole. Richelle Gamlam discusses Chinese students in a Go Overseas article stating, “ESL students in China are getting younger by the year. Many companies like Disney English are designed specifically to cater to Chinese children. Public schools have switched from starting English education at age twelve to age nine, and some schools in China’s larger cities start teaching English as young as six.” I believe this is adding to China’s changing culture by introducing diverse ideas and generating different and more creative ways of thinking to younger generations. Is this the beginning of an ever-changing future for China’s youth and education? Is the demand for ESL changing the way they learn and think? Perhaps ESL will create more opportunities for young learners, as well as supply them with a brighter future. Looking into the future of China’s Education System, the way this country has prioritized and valued education, you only see overwhelming growth and possibilities. Being on the front line of China’s changing culture drives me to learn more, as well as continue my path in the ESL world.

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To wrap up my understanding and observational outlook on China’s Education System, I must say that I have found this country and its people to be ambitious for their pursuit for a better life and future. So… are younger generations of Chinese students growing in a more untraditional and even undisciplined way? Are they adapting a more Western, independent way of thinking? I can’t be totally sure because like I said, I am no expert. However, there is 100 percent collaboration of teachers in the Chinese school system, the quest for knowledge and cultivating creative thinking in the classroom is more present than ever before, and the potential for an ESL takeover in China, may be leading the most powerful communicators in the planet to the future. China definitely is a nation that seems to be altering toward a more open-minded way of thinking, creating more jobs and higher standards in education. China looks to the future for its youth and with its unique and dynamic sense of being, it seems unstoppable.

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