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Principal for new Beijing school - pitfalls?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by carosd, Feb 24, 2019.

  1. carosd

    carosd New commenter

    I've been involved (friend of a friend - seems to be how this school works) in recruiting a principal for a new k-12 start up school in Beijing. Who'd be happy to chat to me about the pitfalls or challenges of recruiting someone (not me, I'm happy in the UK) for a significant salary ($500,000) but into what is not an established school with back up & reputation? For info, my background is as a UK head, not on the international circuit. Many thanks.
  2. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    carosd, I have sent you one of those awkward TES Conversations.

    Pitfalls or pratfalls? One of the major difficulties your principal-to-be will have is recruiting new teaching staff. Yes, salaries in Beijing are two or three times higher than what you might get paid elsewhere in China, but how much will you have to pay for a new pair of lungs? Both laowai and Chinese friends have warned me against teaching in Beijing. Teachers with young children would not be making a mistake by accepting a post in Beijing. No, they would be showing a disregard for their children's health that is almost criminal. Does your friend of a friend have any kind of respiratory problem?

    A lot has been written on this TES forum about "rent-a-name" schools in China. I think that I will not comment about that, as other people seem to have more knowledge and experience. When I was teaching in Shenzhen, I was at a "bilingual" school, as most of the students there were Mandarin-speakers, but the curriculum was British. I thought that we got the balance between Chinese and English just about right, but this might be something that is a lot harder to achieve in Beijing.

    Last, but by no means least, the processes involved in child protection and background checks on teachers are not as well established in China as they are in the UK. Very often, teachers coming from another country (not the UK) will just have "police certificates" and these are issued *****-nilly by the police in whichever country the teacher has been working for the last year or two.
    carosd likes this.
  3. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    Risky. Market is saturated.
    carosd likes this.
  4. makhnovite

    makhnovite Established commenter

    The most crucial question is; who is the owner, and what is his/her agenda - sorry questions! The increase in demand for a 'western' style education for the aspiring middle class in China (as a way into a 'western' university) has led to a similar increase in supply. This increase in supply has come from a variety of sources; the so-called rent a name schools (franchises) from the UK, Australia and Canada, some from well established Chinese schools that have added an international section, but much of it from property developers whose only interest is a rapid return on their investment.

    This is a very brief response, in addition to the wise words of the two previous posters, but I am happy to respond in more detail if you wish.
    carosd likes this.
  5. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    i heard the other day from someone that went to the search fair, and the directors conference connected to it, the average Director / principle / head whatever you want to call them, lasts on 16months. this, or so they were told was because of China, and the massive expansion of the schools there.
    carosd likes this.
  6. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Guanxi is a word in Mandarin that a new principal is going to learn very quickly.

    I have to agree with makhnovite that in a lot of cases the owner (or owners) of the school will adopt a "hands on" approach and therefore a new principal will have his or her hands tied in many situations.

    Generally speaking, independent schools in the UK are usually charitable trusts and they have been going for a long time. (For hundreds of years, in some cases.) Therefore the head has a board of governors, of course, but they more or less leave the running of the school to the head, unless something starts to go seriously wrong. I suspect that many school owners in China have a less laid back policy and there is no board of governors.

    When I was teaching in Shenzhen, I had the impression that my school had to toe the line with regard to the local Education Bureau. Just because it was fee-paying did not mean that the school was "independent". Therefore a new principal may find that he or she has even less room for manoeuvre.
    carosd likes this.
  7. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    It's fair to say that the private schools aren't really independent - all it takes is the parent with clout to make a complaint to the education bureau and they are all over the school.

    There is a bit of a myth about the level of severity of Beijing pollution. Yes, it's high in relation to Western cities, but in the year and a half I've been here the highest the AQI has reached is 250 - once. Most of the time it's perfectly OK, and sometimes it's even clearer than London. The days of 500+ seem to be past.

    Looking at the salary which is to be paid, I kind of think that the salary which teachers will then be paid is going to be less than competitor schools in Beijing, which is likely to be a problem. The head would need to establish clear boundaries and make quite clear that they are the education experts - which the owners may well not take to! It's good that they are looking for an experienced head - there are some schools here where you look at the head and think what (or, possibly, who) did you have to do to get there?!
    carosd and spanboy like this.
  8. spanboy

    spanboy Occasional commenter

    I agree about the pollution - some of my colleagues who've been in BJ for 10 years say that during the past couple of years, pollution has improved phenomenally in comparison with a few years back. In the last few months we've had some amazing blue skies here. You always get a few Chinese that regularly wear masks - usually young females, but rarely have I seen a LOT of Chinese wearing them.
    carosd likes this.
  9. makhnovite

    makhnovite Established commenter

    amysdad makes a very good point, the main qualification for most Heads/Principals etc. in many countries, not just China, is to do exactly what the owner tells them while keeping the parents quiet!

    Cynical moi?
    carosd likes this.
  10. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Hmm. Well, we are not going to agree about how much pollution is "too much", spanboy.

    When Mrs Hippopotamus and her overweight husband first arrived in Shenzhen, we never thought that the pollution would be a problem. I walked to school and back every day through the park. In our fifth year, Mrs H had some serious health issues. The Chinese doctor at the excellent Chio clinic told us, "It is because of the pollution in the air." It seems that levels of pollution can build up in your body, over a long period of time, and then you can get seriously sick. The smelly old pachyderm never had any problems, but these things can affect different people in different ways.
    carosd likes this.
  11. carosd

    carosd New commenter

    Thank you all this is very interesting and in line with what I’d read elsewhere. No idea how to access the conversation?pm? Hippo mentioned so will now have a read of the help files and find it!

    Much appreciated all!
  12. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Dear carosd, what you need to do is to go to your avatar at the top right-hand corner of the screen. In my case, there is a little photo of yours truly having a bath with my dear wife, but you seem to be featureless and blue. Well, let's not get too personal. Anyway, click on your avatar and then a menu should magically appear. Then click on "Conversations".
    carosd likes this.

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