ESL Teacher Scams ~ High-Paying “Mission Work”

2 Apr

I recently did a post on scams that ESL teachers pull on their employers abroad.  I thought that was an end to it, but after a discussion with some local teachers I’m furious anew.  As a Christian, I’m even more furious right now.

It’s a known fact that ESL is the choice profession of religious missionaries around the world.  A license to teach English will get you a VISA and traveling permission to many countries that might otherwise have rejected your application.  Not to mention the fact that these jobs are always available, you have a steady income, and lots of benefits come with.  Really, it’s a pretty brilliant idea. 

A less know fact is that missionaries are frequently less that truthful with the folks back home about how many perks they are really getting from these jobs.  Contrary to the jobs of most primary school teachers back home, ESL teachers who are willing to teach children are often some of the highest paid middle class workers in the area.  

The perks are amazing.  Teachers of children (especially 2-5 year olds) can make thousands of dollars a month.  Since I’ve been here substituting, I’ve already been offered several jobs that paid 19000-20000+RMB a month, plus a personal driver, a house, and anything else I wanted.  As far as I can tell, the standard is a minimum of 12,000-15,000. Considering the average local person is making about 3,000 RMB, that makes you pretty high up the food chain!  College teachers make significantly less money (as a PhD holder, I make approximately 6500+ RMB a month), but it is still twice as much as anyone else in town I know. Well, maybe not the school president or city mayor, but really.  

Insurance and hospital allowances are included (often by law). Most jobs come with transportation and housing allowances (if housing isn’t provided) that cover your expenses, so you don’t have those costs. A lot of them also include money to cover the bills, and you frequently get paid for vacation and holidays.  The school is usually responsible for VISA and passport fees, and if you pay for your own flight you might want to bargain harder.  


I listen to these teachers all but bragging about the fact that they still get money off the people back home (for support), and it makes me furious.

They go back home and quote people the dollar amount they are making and they leave out the perks. For example, I do pretty well for myself in China, but in US terms, I’m only making $900 a month. Many teachers are making closer to $700 at my school.  

With that money, I’ve gone on a trip to Korea, several trips through Henan, paid off a hospital bill (2 X-rays, 1 MRI, copies of all of them, and 3 kinds of massively expensive medications), fully decorated my room, eaten what I want, gone out with friends to ktv and fun parties or events, bought a couple fashion items, and basically lived better than I have in a long while. 

Now, I’m no economist, but even I know that American prices are high right now. I lived there until 2014, and I could barely make ends meet.  $900 would have barely paid my gas and food bill. Let alone anything else.  

We aren’t in America. That kind of money goes a long, long way in China.  

Yet these ‘missionary” teachers don’t admit that. They leave the sweet church ladies thinking that they are destitute, living from day to day on “only $700” a month. ONLY??? !!!


This past winter, the teachers were given a 2 month holiday, much longer than normal. And a whole group went down and toured all of South Asia. Bali, Heinan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, etc. They did a whole big several countries tour. 

It sounded really awesome and I was so proud of them. 

Until some of them were talking in the dining hall this past week about how they had to go back home for a week and “find support” from the area churches. They were discussing how they were forced to go back and “reconnect” with the people and put on a “stupid PPT” if they wanted them to keep sending money. One of them was upset because his churches had dropped back ad only sent $1500 that month.  

O_o $1500! That’s massive! That’s like a gold mine here.  You have no bills, no food costs, your home is already furnished, there are no transportation fees, and you just took a huge trip around Asia. And you are being a snot about how the people in America, who actually are struggling, only sent you a buttload of money and not two buttloads of money? 

That is despicable.




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