This is a blog topic that is close to our heart and almost every online ESL teacher will have had some sort of interaction with the major Chinese online learning platforms or at least heard something (most probably negative!) about them. Firstly, we’d like to clarify what we mean by a major Chinese Online learning platform. Here is a list (by no means exhaustive) of these companies which we feel strongly motivated to name and shame:
- Magic Ears
Ok, so what exactly is so bad about these online companies? We also wish to emphasise that not all Chinese teaching companies are bad. We are not targeting them simply because they are Chinese, but unfortunately it seems that the vast majority of those working in the ESL online teaching sector do have very bad practices. Please read on to find out exactly what our experience has been and what teachers have shared with us.
- Poor to Zero Communication with Teachers
We ourselves as former teachers and now recruiters and from the many teachers we have spoken to in relation to this article have experienced the above time and time again! It seems that basic communication, with regards to questions from teachers about teaching hours, salary, students etc are either routinely ignored, replied to in a completely unsatisfactory manner and/or only replied to after a very long time. This not only shows a complete lack of respect for teachers but is very demotivating when you don’t know if you’re coming or going with this company.
2. Forcing Teachers to Accept a Lower Pay Rate
Now this is an occurrence that we have heard on so many occasions from many different teachers on several different Chinese platforms. The usual story is that they will advertise a decent hourly salary, say $25 per hour to start off with. Then once you get accepted this pay rate will not materialize either because you are now in a “probationary period” and thus at a lower rate or for another unexplained reason. The worst thing is, is that you are completely powerless to do anything about this. They won’t listen to reason or be willing to discuss it, it’s their way or the high way! You may feel like you don’t want to waste all that time you have invested in applying, completing interviews, training etc and persevere in the hope that the salary improves, but it rarely if ever does!!!!
Here’s a typical story from one teacher we contacted about Dada, the teacher will remain anonymous.
I started with them September 2018 and I was so happy to be making $18.08 USD per hour before bonuses. It was great!
I could see they charged over $40 USD per class to the students, but they provided the courseware, the platform and the students. I wouldn’t know how to do that successfully by myself, especially finding students and getting paid properly.
I absolutely love the Dada platform; it runs smoothly usually, the IT team used to be more helpful, the courseware is good, we have the freedom to go at the students’ own pace and to make it a fully immersive and enjoyable way to teach and learn.
But then they sold the company to TAL and forcefully cut my salary down to $15 USD per hour March 2020.
They ripped off the students, took away their bonus classes, put their prices up, cut class time down to 25min with unpaid 5 minutes between ever lesson. Most months they cut the bonus scheme down. I’ve lost so many students and so much of my salary it is just degrading and sad.
3. Racist, homophobic & ageist
Many of us at Synergy Recruitment have had the dubious pleasure of not only teaching for many of the above Chinese platforms but also recruiting for them, talk about a double whammy of pain and suffering!
We have now come to the realization that these Chinese companies all have a particular “profile” in terms of the teachers that they would like to have on their platforms and they will discriminate implicitly, sometimes even explicitly, according to the profile they are seeking. Their ideal candidate is usually female, between 25 to 40 years of age, most definitely Caucasian and looks “wholesome”. Of course there will be exceptions to this rule, but our overriding experience is discrimination based exactly on the above.
We have had experience of being told by Chinese recruiters of these companies that they don’t accept “blacks” (their words not ours!), “no old people” i.e those over 40, “no brown skin” and so on. In this day and age this kind of over discrimination is not only completely illegal in all western countries but also degrading, disgusting and totally unacceptable!
4. Reducing Teaching Hours, Cutting Salary & then Sacking Teachers!
For this point, we are simply going to share another “horror story” that was shared with us by another highly disgruntled teacher. Their salary was cut from a decent $30p.h when they started in 2016 to $15.60 in 2020.If you think that you will be rewarded for working loyally at these companies, then think again! They only care about their profit margins…..
LANDI used to be a great company to work for. They are no longer that company.
I started working for LANDI in July 2016. At the time I was finishing my Master’s Degree in Education. I loved working for LANDI. I felt like management was lovely and personable.
I was paid $30/hr and I worked full time 7 days a week.
When I finished my Master’s Degree and started working full time in public schools, I continued to work for LANDI on a part time basis. I seldom took time off unless it was for an emergency and I can count on one hand the times I’ve been late to their clock-in system.
The longer I worked for LANDI, I could see that there was a significant amount of changes for the worse. I no longer had a personable relationship with my employer. Shortly after, they started instating penalties for being late, or missing class and restricting the amount of time you could take off and what not. I understand that LANDI felt like they needed to instate these policies because at least one person (probably more) was consistently late, or consistently not showing up for their classes. However, despite the fact that these policies weren’t created because of anything that I was doing, it made me feel as though I was being punished, or criminalized. Alas, I really loved the kids… and I was still getting paid $30/usd an hour, so I stayed.
About a year ago, LANDI changed my contract. My operator at the time said that instead of making $30/usd an hour, I would make $26/usd an hour and make $4 in “professionalism bonuses.” Thus creating another situation where I felt like I was being criminalized for something that I didn’t do.
Last fall, they got rid of bonuses, effectively cutting my wage to $26/usd an hour. I stayed.
After Christmas, LANDI started cutting my hours. I could see from a business perspective it probably doesn’t make sense to keep me around making $26/hr when they’re hiring certified teachers with TEFL certificates at $18/hr. I get it. I went from 12 hrs a week, down to 8, down to 6. However, they did something a month ago that I will absolutely never forgive them for.
From a business perspective, LANDI decided that anyone who was teaching 1 student a lesson would make 60% of their wages. They informed their employees of this April 9th, and the change was effective April 1st. So, I worked a week for them making $15.60 an hour at 5 hours a week. They blamed corona virus for this, but they decided to inform their employees of this during a pandemic when maybe they didn’t have another source of income.
I was informed that LANDI would not be renewing my contract in two weeks. I find it ironic that they request 28 days notice of quitting, but they gave me only two weeks. In their reasoning they said that my teaching didn’t meet their “standard.”
I know that it’s not my teaching, it’s the fact they can’t rationalize paying me. But, the truth is… had they come to be and asked me to accept $20/hr, I would have seriously considered it because I love the kids.
The thing is, even if you’re happy working for LANDI now.. you should know, that they can change their policies any time and just because you’re loyal to them for 4 years, they’ll still do you dirty even in a pandemic. Their actions over the last two years have been absolute trash.
Contracts mean nothing to them, they change them on a whim, and their lesson plans are garbage.
In conclusion, this really is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the problems that online ESL teachers have experienced with the above named companies. We literally could release a weekly article with ongoing problems that teachers are having with them. Of course, this situation was massively exacerbated with the Covid 19 pandemic, when there was a massive influx of teachers looking for online work, but that does not justify any of the disgusting practices that these companies have adopted.
In an ideal world we would recommend all teachers, new and old, to steer well clear of these companies. However the reality is that some teachers absolutely depend on these companies for their main source of income. Thus, that is why at Synergy Recruitment UK we are endeavouring to offer alternative online teaching opportunities with reputable and decent companies!
If you are an online ESL teacher and have had any experiences of working with an online company (good or bad) then please feel free to share it in the comments section below.
If you are online teacher and would like to get a TEFL certificate, please click here: https://premiertefl.com?ptaff=435
If you’d like to know what recruiters think of your CV, click here: https://synergy-recruitment.co.uk/uncategorised/get-your-cv-resume-in-tip-top-shape/