Tag Archives: Scam

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.




6 Scams ESL Teachers Play on Employers

4 Feb

I’ve read a lot of articles recently warning ESL teachers about picking the right schools. In fact for 10-15 years there have been all sorts of posts on the American web telling potential teachers about scams and wannabe thieves that are trolling the ESL sites waiting for potential prey.  And it is definitely true that foreigners are at risk when they go to teach abroad.  Missing pay, illegal work ethics, refused vacation time, sucky housing, NO housing, horrible students, or -the worst- evil watching parents waiting for you to fail.  

Life can be tough as a foreign teacher, but I thought maybe it was time to mention the other side. After sitting in several schools and making many online ESL Teaching friends, listening to the teachers talk and gossip, I thought someone should post a warning for the schools instead.  To those ESL teachers that are going to get all huffy, cool it! You have your chance to air your grievances on other posts, and I’m certainly not saying that you don’t have grievances to share. Heck, I’ve got grievances to share! Late pay/NO pay, skimpy travel reimbursements, the list goes on. But schools deserve to get the warnings too, it’s not all sun and roses on their side in many cases either.

Without further adieu, here are 6 scams that ESL teachers often play on their employers.


1. Abusing Benefits

Many people talk about how schools/agencies in some foreign countries will tend to short-change you your well-earned, usually required benefits.  But they aren’t the only ones abusing this confusing system, ESL Teachers sometimes do so as well.  I’ve heard of at least two teachers who abused the “medical payout” benefit offered at nearby schools, and I know there are more.  Since the medical/reimbursement/receipt systems are a little more rustic in many foreign countries, it is very easy to either bribe or re-arrange everything to come out on top.

Some raise very unnecessary doctor’s costs and charge it to the school as an emergency medical fee.  They pay a doctor to write the prescription or explanation in English. When the school secretary girl doesn’t know what it says,  they tell her it’s for something serious  (one is simply getting a weekly massage and calling it “therapy”- he freely admits he doesn’t need it, but it’s convenient. Costs the school 80rmb a week).  

Others overcharge the school.  The way it works is that you bring your receipt to the school to ask for money. The teacher’ll either pay the doctor’s office/hospital person to charge a higher fee or erase/white it out and write a higher one anyway. They then pocket the difference.  

2. Double Charging the School

This one is really, really cheeky.  Some schools in foreign countries prefer to pay their teachers in cash.  Sometimes this is because it isn’t all on the up-and-up. They either hire a teacher from a different school for 1-2 hours of work a week or they just don’t want to pay the taxes. Other times, they are in a more rural place and that is just how things work.  Unfortunately, a lot of them don’t take the time to get a receipt. You just get handed an envelope of money.  

This has caused several schools a big problem when teacher’s pull the “Double-Trouble” scam.  The teacher will charge them and get the envelope of money.  They then go to the police and claim that they weren’t paid anything.  The school usually doesn’t have a witness beyond the person who handed over the cash, and there isn’t a receipt.  So the school is sometimes forced to pay the teacher twice.  This may also result in them losing their license to hire foreign teachers or put them under investigation. Such an investigation can destroy the school’s reputation and ruin them.  One nearby school was forced to shut down after they ran into this scam, and other’s are starting to demand a signed receipt in the transaction.  

3. Selling Tests/Grades/Quizzes

This is a kind of obvious scam, but it happens constantly.  Teachers complain all the time about how their students in foreign countries cheat on the exams. It is actually a really, really big problem, even here at my institution (I had to report 3 last semester alone from my class). But they don’t often want to admit that teachers themselves are often a HUGE part of the problem.   Continue reading

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