International Schools Review

Guangdong Country Garden School

2008 – 2016
 3.5


http://bgy.gd.cn/Home

  • Chunlei Li

  • Yang Guoqiang

 

Evaluation
11)  Li Chunlei  2011 – 2016
Academic integrity of school
1
Effectiveness of administration
1
Academic and disciplinary support provided
1
Director’s involvement in academics
1
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
1
School has adequate educational materials on hand
1
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
3
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
3
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$20K – $50K
Satisfaction with housing
2
Community offers a variety of activities
2
Availability and quality of local health care
2
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
1
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
2
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
1
Extra curricular load is reasonable
2
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
2
Average Score for Review
1.5
Comments:

comments: Review number 10 was clearly constructed by a “wumao.” Wumao means “fifty-center” because that’s how much money they get paid for each online posting they make that defends either a corporation or the communist party of China itself. The central government and corporations hire and pay people for posting propaganda online. This is a wonderful welcome to the world of China for the uninitiated! Just by reading post #10 you are started to understand how it goes. Now if you do sign on at Guangdong Country Garden School, you might also have the privilege of being asked and pressured to post similar pro-school propaganda that does not AT ALL reflect the reality of conditions at the school. I was asked to write propaganda like this on many occasions. So let me deal with each claim made in the propaganda.

1. “Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly” I have lived around the world having lived in four countries over my career. I rate this statement as about 2 out of 10 on accuracy. I spent my first day in China dying of thirst. Nobody showed me how to find a store to get water. Instead I was immediately made to tour the school and meet leaders while severely sleep deprived. I had to eventually ask because I was sweating out my last bits of water in the very humid and hot tropical climate that I had not yet adapted to. Chinese are practical and direct but this is not a place for good customer service. You will need to possess an abundance of patience to handle the questions and comments you will hear upon arrival. If you are any rounder than a toothpick, expect comments about your weight. They are intended in a caring way, but it’s very rude from our cultural perspective. Chinese teachers will frequently pull the “feel sorry for me” or “player hatera” card. They make way less money and it’s understandable that this occurs but it is not the fault of International Teachers! They will vent it AT YOU frequently. You will be reminded that it is your fault for being “rich.” This is a society that really hates wealth and ostentatious displays of wealth, even while they trust the same leadership that deprives them of their opportunities for a fair share of wealth. So get used to being a scapegoat. During the myriad political entanglements that China gets into with neighbors like Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines you will see very nasty forms of nationalism. I watched most Filipinos suffer extreme insults because of the disagreement over islands in the South China Sea. Myself and others were asked to sign pledges stating that the Diaoyu Islands (disputed by the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands) belonged to China. When we complained about the discomfort this made us feel in an international school, our complaints fell upon deaf ears – and we complained to the Foreign Affairs Liaison – a Canadian. Administration uses divide and conquer tactics routinely to keep foreigners and Chinese from becoming friendly and uniting. When pay was raised for many of the international teachers in the 2014-2015 school year, it was immediately and publicly announced to the Chinese in meetings so that they would be angry. It was presented in a way as to arouse anger too. Facts were distorted and staff were told that “all International Teachers would be receiving double their pay.” My pay remained virtually static – perhaps a 5% increase. They are simply emulating the tactics of the Central Government. It makes it very difficult to meet and genuinely keep a Chinese friend. I will admit that initially you will meet people who seem to be genuinely friendly. They really do try hard to be friendly and welcoming – but it’s not in the way you expect and it will often appear insulting and disingenuous. Also friendly gestures often accompany Machiavellian tactics. I have met Chinese who are altruistically friendly and have been wonderful people. They appear at about the same ratio as true and caring people do elsewhere; yet it is impossible for me to allow reviewer number 10 to distort the reality of relations that does exist at our school. This is not a China wide problem at every international school. It can be fixed and there are no efforts being made to encourage true respect of other cultures and multiculturalism. Administration must stop pitting people against each other and employees need to hold administration to account for their blunders when they encourage partisanship.

2. “I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way.” Accurate. Ten out of ten on the fact checker! I’ve met people who run brothels in Thailand, people with significant addictions and psychological disorders – most who’ve managed to succeed and even thrive! If you are not accepted into mainstream society this is a great place because you will meet fellow “interesting” people. I’ve even met high-level officials with fake credentials. This is the BEST PLACE EVER to meet interesting people. Unfortunately, like anywhere else, most are beige and ordinary and just want to feed their families, develop professionally, and live their lives in a normal fashion. If you are a student of human nature, this is a great place to see both the best, and the worst, of humanity displayed right out in the open.

3. “Students are wonderful and are a true pleasure to teach.” This statement I would rate a 3 out of 10 on the honesty meter. The top tier students you will teach are indeed prodigies, there is no denying that. However they are few and far between. I would say one student in perhaps ten or twenty. The average student does not ask questions in class without heavy prompting. It is very difficult to ascertain whether learning and understanding have actually taken place without significant patience. Now if you enjoy teaching to a very passive audience and hearing the sound of your own voice, it’s wonderful. I did enjoy that at times. Also I am generalizing because I have had some groups that are more inquisitive. However it is not true that the average Chinese student will behave better in terms of participation than the average student from a school in North America, Europe, or Australia.

New teachers to Asia often learn that many of the stereotypes we have for Asian students are inaccurate. School leaders propagate this myth to naive recruits because they know it’s a big draw of teaching in Asia. It is true that you won’t deal with breaking up fistfights in class and that is nice.

A major problem at the school deals with middle and lower achieving students. CGS does not acknowledge learning disabilities or special needs at all. Therefore your students who don’t fit in will resort to sleeping in class, chatting with others, and ignoring instructions. It’s very common in China. You will see upon arrival that people speak over each other routinely – it’s part of the culture. Nobody really listens and it’s very common for students to remain disengaged in class without the teacher putting forth significant time and effort into classroom management.

There are no consequences for delinquent student behavior. Students can do anything and by Chinese Law you are not allowed to send a student out of the class. One teacher got fired for that earlier this year. Principals, coordinators, and housemasters do not do anything about misbehavior whatsoever. You will be expected to manage that.

Tardiness and student interruptions are the norm at CGS. There’s a computer program used to record attendance but teacher compliance is low and there are not strong consequences given to offenders. This is because the most important driving force at CGS is to never irritate a parent. This must be avoided at all costs and it means that parents are often very surprised and angered when/if they learn the truth about their child’s performance.

The most irritating thing for me is the lack of a culture of caring school-wide. Students are not watched or monitored at all in common areas such as hallways, classrooms, dining areas, or outdoors AT ALL. There are security cameras and that’s it. It is very common to see children bullying other children. You will hear profanities screamed in English all the time – especially the “F” word. These are aristocracy and nobody can tamper with them or teach appropriate behavior. Chinese culture puts harmony as the top of their pedestal and that means that it’s better to ignore problems than it is to create a stink.

You will not have a classroom of your own in at least 95% of cases. That means you cannot control the culture or behavioral norms within even that space. Students frequently will be in your room and you will not know who they are. Litter will be strewn everywhere. Multiple people have keys to your classroom. Maintenance people enter in the middle of class and so do unannounced visitors. You do not have a “space” of your own. I did not even have an office desk and spent much of my years at CGS floating from classroom to classroom ignoring student vulgarities.

Westerners coming to China assume that Confucian culture means that all students will have a deeply ingrained respect for teachers. In reality you will find that the definition of “respect” doesn’t include things like leaving whiteboard markers unmolested. Frequently you have to carry all your materials on your person because six different groups of students will come in and out of a class each day. Students are there until nine or ten pm since it’s a boarding school. They will use those markers and then purposefully leave the caps off of them so that they dry out and are wasted. Obscene sexual pictures or bullying jokes will be on your board and you’ll have to erase them. These aren’t aimed at you. They come from plain old ordinary disdain for the system and the student’s own lack of control over their lives.

Our students have great potential but there is a systemic failure on the part of administration to allow real meaningful changes that are necessary for creating a culture of compassion. If you are coming to the school, just ask somebody currently here – in fact ask for three names you can contact – and just see if my vision is closer to reality or if the paid propaganda reviewer who posted review 10 is closer.

4. “The facilities here have allowed for a comfortable learning environment, too. There are air conditioners in every classroom, and all have WIFI internet access.”

This one largely depends on your definition of comfort as there is an ENORMOUS gap in the meaning of “comfortable learning environment” between, say, North Americans and Chinese. Let’s discuss this issue to see what degree this is true.

Most of the school is outdoors. It is oppressively hot and humid for at least half of the school year. It frequently rains. It is surprisingly cold in the winter. There are no heaters at the school anywhere. It is around 50 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter on most days and that gets really cold sitting at a desk. Some teachers purchase heaters but electrical outlets are a prized commodity and may not be near where you sit at times. It’s impossible to walk from class to class without going outside. There are zero climate-controlled hallways. Large auditoriums are not sufficiently air-conditioned on hot days. As in much of Asia, there’s a belief about good air and bad air. Air conditioning is not considered healthy. If you think that you will be able to control the temperature in your own classroom, it’s not an accurate assumption. Students and teachers leave doors and windows open all the time. Even with continuous reminding about wasting energy, it does not change these deeply held beliefs and habits. Additionally the administration are always pushing initiatives to save money and they will turn off air conditioners in the fall when it’s still very hot outside. We consider room temperature to be around 68-73 degrees Fahrenheit in the USA and Chinese don’t. Room temperature is more like 75-83 for locals. You will be teaching soaked in sweat and not allowed to wear clothing that could allow you to survive more easily due to the rigidly enforced dress codes. On Mondays and Fridays all staff must wear complete suits and those days can be really difficult. It should be mentioned that getting to your classroom generally involves being outside for a long walk. From your house or apartment you will be outdoors as you hop onto your scooter or as you get onto the bus. There are mosquitoes everywhere for many months of each year too. Then when you get to school you will have to walk as far as half a mile to get to your class. The campus is much bigger than most people expect. It is the size of some university campuses. There is one elevator in one building. It’s out of order about half of the time. That means trudging up stairs for a good part of your day. The good news is you can get into better shape. However if you suffer from any medical problems or are in bad shape, it will be a struggle all the time. The school contracts most of it’s desks and chairs from another company that is owned by the Country Garden group. These are all made of wood and are hard, clunky, and made for Chinese sized bodies. In the Kindergarten many teachers sit on tiny plastic chairs intended for children – and I don’t mean Western children but Chinese children. Comfortable, ergonomic chairs are not the norm. They are rare and coveted. That means that you will be fighting to keep one if you find it – just like with any other materials of value. I secured one from time-to-time only to find it had disappeared mysteriously as I came into a class to teach. So most of the time you are stuck in very hard wooden chairs that will hurt your back and your butt. You are required to be at school 8 hours per day and this is logged by the system. Time before 7:00 am doesn’t count. Time from 11:50-12:30 can’t be counted. 5:30-6:30 pm also isn’t counted. It’s a very long day when you count these long walks to your class.

I define comfort as also feeling clean and safe. It’s normal to see hair, crumbs, and food on the floors of these classes. It isn’t clear where one can find cleaning materials. When you do find a broom and dustpan, usually it’s partially broken. If you clean the room, it will be dirty again tomorrow because administration has not taken steps to cultivate cleanly habits or a sense of civic pride. Mold, chipped paint, damaged whiteboards, growths coming out of the AC, curtains installed twenty years ago that are dusty and uncleaned for 10 years – that is the norm.

Complicating things is the sense of communal living that pervades everything. Yes the students have lockers – but they do not use them. Cabinets, desks, and even teacher’s desks are full of garbage and papers and books and it’s impossible to know who they belong to. You cannot get rid of them either because it’s not your classroom. There is nowhere secure where you can lock up your own stuff during the day despite students even being allotted secure spaces. I have had my textbooks disappear and then I have had to pay for new ones because the school will not give you another for free.

You would assume that at least desks will be normal. They will just be plain old desks. Actually most desks are crammed with books and materials inside of the desks. That’s because students “claim” desks in their homeroom class. So whenever you are teaching a class, books, pencil cases, and water bottles are constantly falling off of desks. Students do not have adequate space on their desk to write.

Stranger still, Chinese use strange configurations for desks. They flip them around 180 degrees so that instead of having space for your feet and legs, students must place their feet onto the metal, cylindrical tubes that connect the legs to each other. It’s noisy and they look uncomfortable – yet nobody questions the sanity of this idea.

If things go missing in a classroom, you will be questioned too by some random homeroom teacher or tutor who “controls” that class. It’s an uncomfortable feeling being indirectly accused for things gone missing.

So while you might not get the benefits of controlling a class, at least you get the responsibilities if something goes wrong or breaks.

I would say that at any given time 10% of air conditioners do not function. I have put in requests and revisited them again and again. I had to teach a class last semester that did not EVER have a functioning air conditioner. It was miserable and they wouldn’t let me pick another location. It’s also a very convoluted problem trying to figure out who the maintenance person/people are. They just never fixed it! I bet it’s still broken right now.

Most classrooms do have TV’s in them. Projectors or extremely rare – perhaps one in fifteen classes and you won’t be assigned to it because the best facilities get claimed because Chinese work together and know everything that’s going on as it happens and International Teachers are kept out of the loop most of the time.

TV’s are always Chinese brands. 1 in 4 is broken or won’t work correctly with your VGA or HDMI cable. I have spent around $100 buying cables and cords to get my computer working with each TV I might find since some are these huge Digital Lamp old-school TV’s and others are new flat screen monitors – which still can’t recognize my mac book pro. Tech support? Go ahead and try I have and it’s highly sporadic and not ever an English speaker who assists you. Those guys did successfully break one of my converter cables once though.

Projectors are shared and are Chinese brands – the school particularly likes a brand named “Ricoh.” These projectors, just like all TV’s, do not have an English interface. You will need help from students or staff to figure them out and they also abound with compatibility issues.

WI-FI is in every classroom it’s true. Usually 5-10 different networks appear. A list of passwords is given at the beginning of the year – if you have Internet access with which to check your email 🙂

Now the list does not have passwords for about 75% of the names you will see. For example you might see this list: STUDENT, N201, N307, N501L, Chichi, Dongfeng, ChinaNet-YQWX, Coffee, and BGYSCHOOL. You will probably only have a password for “STUDENT”, “BGYSCHOOL”, and “N201.”

But “STUDENT” has a password known by all the students and is slow ALL THE TIME. It does not work well unless nobody is as the school – which you will get to experience from time to time because even though foreign teachers and Chinese both have to do 80 hours every two weeks, Chinese disappear more often and are not questioned about it like foreigners are.

I would say that connectivity to any given network works about 60% of the time. 40% of the time you cannot download or upload a webpage. This is because the school’s servers have a “VPN” built into them. That means they are supposed to allow you access to YouTube and Facebook. In reality these sites still don’t work with their VPN and my VPN is blocked from connecting.

What does that mean in laymen’s terms? It means that you will have better Internet access at home to the global free Internet with your VPN! The Chinese Great Firewall censors many websites around the world – many are harmless too. I would say about fifty percent of the websites you need are blocked without a VPN. Most of Google’s services are blocked. Therefore my productivity, class planning, and searching for resources is severely lessened compared to what it is when I prepare from home. Yet I’m not allowed to prepare from home with the recent policies that force teachers to be at work all the time.

The Internet at school is so unreliable that I have chosen to frequently create my own WI-FI hotspot through my phone. I pay about $50 per month for 3G service through China Unicom. This at least lets me be able to get the Internet and use a VPN on it at school. The only problem is that it’s a lot of tech troubleshooting to do this because my devices don’t always communicate to one another without difficulties.

The good news is that during times where students are outside playing basketball, the network approaches “normal” speeds with the fastest downloads I can get in China. But they are limited to websites not blocked. Upload is slow everywhere and always in China including the school. Transfer rates rarely surpass 0.5 Mbps and they frequently timeout and fail. That means that sending files as attachments through email, or uploading other data, is very slow and frustrating and consumes way more time than it needs to.

It’s important to mention WeChat at this point. Co-workers and supervisors will quickly make sure you have this app on your mobile phone. It’s an electronic leash that follows you always and everywhere. You will be put into groups and expected to check this thing all the time. I recommend you do what many others have done and just tell coworkers that you don’t have a phone or just don’t add any coworkers to this social networking app. Once you do, you can’t undo it and you will be beholden to answer questions and demands late into evenings and on your weekends because the Chinese consider every minute of your life in China to be purposed for the school.

Evaluation
11.1)  li, Chunlei
Comments:

REVIEW 11 CONTINUED

5. “The school also provides the learning materials you need for effective instruction.”

My department has never received any materials ever. We were very proactive in writing proposals and requesting basic things like posters, paper, markers, and other very basic things. In all my years we received continuous promises that never once came to fruition. We have only ever successfully been able to get students a second book, but they all had to order it and pay for it themselves. I also know of NOT A SINGLE CASE where anybody has received materials they asked for. The only materials ever funded are the barest of essentials – whiteboard markers and communal copiers. Many of the copiers did not work for years. Currently the Ricoh in the library of the secondary school is actually pretty good so that is one positive. However if it breaks – well you see the patterns I think.

There have been many cases where reimbursement was promised for purchasing learning materials. I’ve only heard the angry stories and never even a single one where the teacher got reimbursed.

The kindergarten does not have basic books that are level appropriate for students. A huge percentage of materials are created from scratch. Most teachers I know have to purchase books for their students. Most materials are frequently then borrowed or disappear. My friend had a hole puncher with her name clearly on it and it disappeared. A year later another friend was teaching in another classroom and found it had been appropriated by that team of Chinese teachers and never returned – even with her name written on it in huge permanent marker. Ironically the school chooses to pay International Teachers what would be pro-rated at around $20-$30 per hour to create everything! Instead of paying $20 to get a mobile or some Christmas decorations, they are paying $150 for a teacher to create all the arts and crafts from scratch ALL THE TIME. It’s economically insane. The good side is that many Kindergarten teachers report feeling a marked improvement in their arts and cr
afts skills.

Over the years I have spent at least a thousand dollars on resources and materials for my students and never even a “thank you.” Recognition of failure is the norm and success is met with silence

6. “Additionally, your school ID card gives you access to the copy machines, so you can easily photocopy any handouts you may need for class.” I would give this one about a 7/10. Your ID card doesn’t give you access to all copiers. Many departments, like the Kindergarten, have had a broken copy machine for months and even YEARS on end. These machines cannot be operated without help. The new Ricoh copier in the Secondary School library is pretty good and relatively easy to use however. Still you will need help because logging in is not at all intuitive. I am a tech person and I struggled with that copier the first few times and still do occasionally.

It’s important to note that the reality is that there are perhaps a grand total of 3 or 4 copy machines CAMPUS WIDE. This is with around 800 total teachers and 4000 students. Ricoh is the best one and you need to plan ahead to use it. Frequently somebody else is at it. Also expect impatience from coworkers if you have a long job or are fumbling about trying to figure out the machine. Often there isn’t somebody in the library to help you out. Also you aren’t allowed to use these best copiers unless you teach in that department. That means that Kindergarten and Elementary teachers aren’t allowed to use this printer I’m talking about in the Secondary School Library.

Limits are imposed upon how much you can print and on color printing. Do not expect that you can just use it as you would at a school back home. Going over quota will result in your school account being charged money per copy.

Even though this new copier exists this year, historical precedents shouldn’t be ignored here. For the vast majority of my career at the school, I couldn’t print AT ALL without very careful planning. I had to email what I wanted to be printed to an assistant who would go and use the machine. I had to know weeks in advance what I wanted to have copied. Black and white copying was of very poor quality and frequently the printed papers were done so on the backside of a recycled piece of paper. There was no color copying. Although I applaud the “green” attitude of reusing paper, it made two-sided printing impossible and sometimes led to student confusion as to exactly what parts of a printed packet were their assignment and which belonged to the math department. Also I was limited in the number of pages per week. Frequently my emails went unanswered and nothing was ever printed. By the way, this is common at the school when somebody doesn’t want to do something
– they’ll just ignore your email. Yet if you do that as a foreigner, you will be called to account.

7. “The teaching load is not overbearing, which leaves you with time to enjoy the extracurricular enrichment activities the school offers.”

On paper your offer will appear quite good. It’s no more than “20 teaching periods per week.” However reality is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and I rate the accuracy of this claim at about 2/10.

There are evening meetings that many departments contend with. Usually one per week and they are at 7pm sometimes running as late as 9pm. There are also collaborative planning times within your department. There are “all staff” meetings. Meetings are very rarely interactive and teachers don’t even pay attention. Many Chinese are on their phones the whole time.

Signing a contract for a position is not a guarantee that you will teach the subject you were hired for. During my years at the school, I have never been able to teach content that matches my teaching license. I have known several teachers who were so angered with having to teach a different subject that they quit the school altogether. I was personally made to teach in two different departments concurrently for two years of my time at the school. When this happens to a teacher it is a nightmare because the teacher finds herself suddenly expected to make twice the number of bosses happy and must attend twice the number of department and subject-group meetings.

The school doesn’t plan ahead for the fallout that inevitably occurs when a teacher suddenly leaves to pull a “midnight runner.” Therefore other teachers with full teaching loads are frequently asked to cover sections in addition to their primary job description. This year there were many teachers who left the Primary School and two High School teachers were suddenly “asked” to cover classes. They can try to say “no” but then contracts are not renewed for “unknown” reasons.

In the high school there are night classes too. All teachers get pressured into teaching these. If you don’t get pressured into it your first year, you will definitely be asked during your second year. These include standardized test prep, helping students prepare for university entrance interviews, writing letters of recommendation, and various other duties.

It’s important to note that a chance for “enjoying extracurricular activities” is misleading. There are very few resources available to run a club. If you are successful in creating something out of nothing, don’t expect any credit. It will be given to the Chinese middle-manager you are reporting to. What’s more, even though there are facilities for exercising such as a gym and swimming pool, you will receive many disapproving looks from school leaders for using them during work hours even if you have no other responsibilities. Foreign principals have spoken to teachers about how this is very bad. Thus you are not encouraged to have a good work/life balance even if you have done a fantastic job with your classes and extracurricular activities.

8. “Also, due to its close proximity, I often go to Guangzhou on the weekends, which has a lot to offer culturally. Hong Kong and Macau are not far away either, which is really great.”

This is totally true 10/10. It does take up half of your day to get to either HK or Macau despite how close it appears on a map.

9. “The Country Garden community itself I have found to be very safe and family friendly.”

The Country Garden is unambiguously dangerous and I rate the safety part of this at about 2/10. Four days ago my friend was hit on his motorcycle by one of the school’s bus drivers! Fortunately he was OK but he was threatened and harassed by the driver who threatened to call the police. As a foreigner in China you need to get around the large suburban gated community where we live. There are free buses, but I’ll get to that in a second. At least half of the staff opt-in to buying a cheap local gas or electric scooter. Driving and traffic are probably the most dangerous things you will face living in China. The garden is not insulated from real China and it gives many people the illusion – due to the nice landscaping and the imposing gates – that you have somehow left “real China” behind. You haven’t. The garden is as much a version of real

China as anyplace else. It is very dangerous driving here. There is zero traffic enforcement within the garden. You will never see a person pulled over by a police officer to get a traffic ticket. Scooters and cars routinely drive on the wrong side of the road. There are few stop signs and drivers ignore them anyway. While driving on a straightaway, it is the norm for a car or motorbike to pull out off of a side street WITHOUT LOOKING AT ALL. They won’t even pull out rapidly, instead slowly turtling out to provide a dangerous opportunity for a rear-end collision.

Many local scooters that teachers buy have very bad brakes and broken headlamps, turn signals, or tail lights. Many roads are not adequately illuminated at night. It rains frequently impairing driving conditions. Cars do not yield to smaller traffic at all. In fact driving is hierarchical. Busses have right of way beyond any other vehicle. Everyone else is expected to be vigilant and yield to bigger vehicles. Pedestrians are at the bottom of the pecking order. Crossing streets is dangerous. My friend, a former CGS teacher, was hit by a motor scooter while crossing the street two or three years ago. The accident removed many of her teeth and she had to get complete reconstructive surgery for her mouth in the United States – not to mention many medical bills and visits here in China.

Going back to the traffic danger, I must reiterate that I AM NOT MISREPRESENTING THE DANGER HERE. Anybody who has been here for a couple of months will meet a person who is involved in at least one accident. I would estimate at least 15 of my friends have been hit on their scooters or bicycles. One teacher from New Zealand even had a coconut fall off one of the trees while walking and she suddenly remembered waking up on the side of the road with a bad injury to her head and a coconut next to her.

As for the local busses – both paid and free – the driving would be considered quite dangerous in many parts of the world. Seat belts often do not exist on public transportation. Bus drivers do not give enough time for people to get on and off of busses. I have seen old people fall down because of the crazy driving and abrupt braking. One teacher had her shoulder yanked so badly that she still suffers from a persistent shoulder injury from even just the Hong Kong airport shuttle from the airplane to the terminal three years ago!

What about health in general? You’ve probably heard about the pollution in China. People will tell you it is so much cleaner in Guangdong, and that is true to some extent. However it is still awful compared to the standards of what you are used to in your home country. There are known “cancer villages” in the Chinese countryside. I thought this would not effect those of us living in such an affluent community. That assumption was probably inaccurate. I know about a total of five cases of cancer that have been diagnosed for just foreign teachers at our school. Two of these cases were diagnosed while the individuals afflicted were still living in China. The other three cases were diagnosed – both within months of the teachers leaving China. It would be unfair to say that these cases were directly attributable to environmental conditions in China because there is no evidence and the matter just isn’t being studied. Studying the issue makes the government lose face because they are seen as being unable to protect the people. It is well known that heavy metals percolate into local water supplies virtually country-wide. Many people drink water from faucets by simply heating it to kill any parasites, but I don’t know if that’s enough to do anything about certain chemical contaminants. The problem also affects local foods grown in local soils. You can clearly see all the pollution in the river that goes through the center of Country Garden – yet people are fishing it’s waters to provide food for local restaurants. Of course one option to get around the risks associated with contaminated food and water by buying foreign foods and drinking only purified water, but it becomes more expensive to live and eat in China than it actually is in say the United States. Foreign restaurants and groceries are marked up sometimes hundreds of percent. Another problem is just because you are buying food from a company you trust in North America doesn’t guarantee they are producing food to the same standards as they do for that market. Most major food producers have farms, livestock, and production facilities on Chinese soil.

The Garden is tropical. There are many mosquitoes and many yards are overgrown with foliage. Rats, spiders, and cockroaches abound in many areas. There are worries about dengue fever that come out from time to time. The only answer is spraying toxic chemicals everywhere. Even the best “international” health clinics like United Family Healthcare in Guangzhou are notoriously expensive. I’ve had friends told that their sick children had Dengue fever or Japanese Encephalitis when in fact they did not – and that came from this “top clinic.” School health insurance will not reimburse more than 5000 Yuan per year for outpatient clinics. That buys you about 4-6 visits to a very expensive place like UFHC. One teacher contracted Tuberculosis while teaching at the school last year in the Kindergarten. She spent tens of thousands of RMB on consultations and fees and still didn’t obtain a clear prognosis from the doctors – but still had to pay to return to Americ
a to undergo further treatment for months.

The worst case was nearly a year ago when we all lost a dear friend to a scooter accident. The causes of the accident are unknown still. The young man was driving with his girlfriend on their way to a birthday party. Despite thousands of CCTV monitoring stations – even within the Garden – there was no footage to help explain the situation. Some accused the driver of being drunk but the hospital concluded that his blood alcohol was under the legal limit. It’s important to also note that this teacher’s chances would likely have been better if emergency services could have responded faster and if the EMT’s had better equipment for lifesaving. My friends on the scene reported grisly details. The whole affair was very convoluted and nobody knew clearly what was happening in the hospital. The nearest “good hospital” was far away and we know that from the time of accident until his arrival at least an hour elapsed. Of course it’s possible that nothing could
have been done to save him so it’s unfair to say again that the fault lies with the first-responders or their methods.

In China it’s very rare to hear sirens or see police, ambulances, or fire services rushing to an emergency. Things are kept quiet for the sake of “preserving harmony.” Vehicles do not yield to emergency services. You need to think about this first before you bring your children to China. It’s an exciting adventure for the young, but do not underestimate the dangers that exist and are clouded by luxury cars and malls.

How “family friendly” is Country Garden? I’ll give it a 5/10 because in some ways this claim is very true. Chinese love family and it is very important to everybody. I think many prospective parents reading this might have a different image of family friendly in their minds though. The school doesn’t make many efforts at all to provide services to foreign children in English. I have had other teachers complain to me about how their meetings about this with the Foreign Affairs Office declaring that their kids need to learn Chinese and adopt to local culture. The experience has been the same that I have witnessed again and again with families – they find it very, very difficult. Their kids do not understand what’s going on in classes. They are discriminated against by peers. These kids do not fit in well. If your spouse/partner is Chinese and your child speaks Chinese, this seems to be a very different experience. Do not assume your child will learn Chine
se in a year like a sponge. It just doesn’t happen that fast. We know the research indicates that it takes around seven years for academic proficiency in a foreign language.

More importantly foreign children are not given proper structure and a safe learning environment. The school is full of physical dangers for kids such as hard surfaces that get wet and slippery. Every year I see many kids on crutches. One teacher banged his head so hard from a fall that he had a skull fracture! The school is not designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities. There is one elevator that I know of in one building and it is powered off or broken about half of the time. On school buses, kids just run around. Parents do not make kids sit down. Your child will learn some very unsafe habits during his time at Country Garden. It’s not that people do not care, they just don’t pay attention to safety in the same way. Parents think that holding their infant in their lap on a bus with their arms wrapped tightly around the baby will be protection if there’s an accident. The physical reality of what happens in an accident and the g-forces experi
enced makes this type of precaution nonsensical.

I do not know any foreign couples who have stayed more than one year with their children. The only foreign couples with kids still in China have been here already for a very long time and had their kids while living in China or Southeast Asia – and even they complain a lot.

10. “??I would highly recommend the school as a place to grow professionally and to establish long lasting friendships.”

“Growing professionally” has not been the experience for most teachers during my years spent here. I was only sent to one training outside of China and that was only due to IB re-authorisation requirements. I feel that my skills really degraded in many ways over these past years. From a professional sense I definitely regret staying at CGS for so long.

When we think of growth, it’s about learning new things, maybe increasing our prestige in the school, perhaps gaining better credentials, and being able to pad the resume. We also think about leaving a school having been able to gain stellar references from bosses and co-workers. I have to give this claim about 2/10.

You will learn many important life skills by living in China and teaching at CGS/BGY. They won’t ALL be the good kinds of lessons either. More like resilience, tolerance, open-mindedness, patience, and re-defining who you are as a person and a teacher. You will be asked over the years to make hard moral calls. I was asked to manipulate grades on occasion and stand up for students who had plagiarized their essays. I feel like I became corrupted by the system. I hoped naively that I could look the other way and change the school over time, but I didn’t change it at all. Instead I found myself making excuses for the school and becoming a part of the corruption. I was asked progressively over the years to allow more and more shifting of my moral gray area into the black zone. I don’t feel inspired at all about this. You’ll be asked to do this because “this is China” and “our situation is unique” and “the bosses expect it.” You’ll be lied to by lea
ders about what is right and what is wrong and you’ll be expected to fall in line. You will not be promoted. Some get offers but they don’t include pay increases that are worth the extra time and stress. I was offered promotion at one point, but I refused because I would be expected to get results without resources or extra pay. What’s more I still wouldn’t be a real leader because the school keeps the power with the Chinese. That’s how it is.

Meetings do not develop the teacher professionally. Most of the time it’s listening to Chinese leaders practice their English. They show Power Points of documents from the IB. These do not develop foreign staff such as myself who have spent years at universities learning proper practices and pedagogy already. The locals are on cell phones during these meetings because they don’t understand English or just don’t care. They are not motivated to achieve greatness. Everything is about the stick at CGS. There is no carrot – only empty promises of one that rarely come to fruition.

I achieved great results in my department over the years. I never received any thanks for it, only recognition and public shaming for any small failures that came. In the end I had to write my own letter of recommendation for an old Chinese boss to sign because she didn’t know how to write it. Most people have the same situation. The foreign Principals cannot be trusted. I used Search Associates and one of these Principals lied to me about giving me a good confidential reference. This was because I publicly stated opinions to solving problems that was contrary to his views.

Staff are terrified to speak their opinions on anything at the school. There was a time when we had an “academic freedom” clause in contracts. People still never speak their feelings or ideas at meetings, and that clause disappeared mysteriously anyway. It doesn’t matter whether the clause is there or not anyway. The high school was sent a questionnaire by our Principal during the first semester designed to find problems with the school. It was a ruse to find troublemakers! One teacher told me how he was brought in and interrogated multiple times by both Principals even though it was simply a private email sent directly to the principals and was requested by them!

The fundamental problem is the attitudes and assumptions that already exist in the minds of school leadership. We are perceived as workers that need to be controlled with a heavy hand. We are not treated as intellectuals or professionals in any way other than dress and outward appearances.

In one respect I did still manage to develop professionally. It was in the classroom. Despite my grievances, my kids were great. I gave them clear guidelines and refined my practices within the class. I became better at teaching in many ways. I really learned how to modify lessons for ESL students and made my classroom a model of inclusion. If you manage to never irritate anybody by never speaking at any meeting, there can definitely be good days. Prior to 2014-2015 the school was moving forward. Invariably the reader will think from this post that I am simply a person who cannot be satisfied. That’s not at all true. I was one of the biggest cheerleaders for this school. I witnessed the progress. I recommended people who gained employment at our school. Everybody agrees that the last two years have been gigantic leaps backward. We all thought 2014-2015 was an anomaly and that surely leadership would notice the problems and make positive changes by 2015-2016.
Instead things have become much worse and approximately 75 percent of teachers are leaving at the end of next week.

“To establish long lasting relationships” – this claim is true. I made many friends. It’s hard making long lasting relationships with locals though. I think with this posting I will also make some long lasting relationships of a negative sort. Unfortunately I have no choice though. I cannot continue to allow such lies about this school to continue unchecked. If that means I make long lasting enemies in the hope of actually exposing truth so that the school can eventually move forward, then so be it.

Guangdong Country Garden School has repeated the same pattern again and again BECAUSE they do not trust the very “foreign experts” they hire! You will be told they want to hear your opinion. They don’t! Trust me. You are there so your face can be put on posters and to appease kids and that’s all. There is no desire for real change or building a school that is up to actual international standards. If you want this, look elsewhere.

 

Evaluation
10)  David Li  2015 – 2016
Academic integrity of school
10
Effectiveness of administration
10
Academic and disciplinary support provided
10
Director’s involvement in academics
10
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
10
School has adequate educational materials on hand
10
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
9
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
10
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$50K – $60K
Satisfaction with housing
9
Community offers a variety of activities
9
Availability and quality of local health care
9
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
9
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
10
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
10
Extra curricular load is reasonable
10
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
10
Average Score for Review
9.5
Comments:

I have overall been very happy with the school. Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way. The students as a whole have been wonderful and are a true pleasure to teach. The facilities here have allowed for a comfortable learning environment, too. There are air conditioners in every classroom, and all have WIFI internet access. The school also provides the learning materials you need for effective instruction. Additionally, your school ID card gives you access to the copy machines, so you can easily photocopy any handouts you may need for class.

The teaching load is not overbearing, which leaves you with time to enjoy the extracurricular enrichment activities the school offers. Also, due to its close proximity, I often go to Guangzhou on the weekends, which has a lot to offer culturally. Hong Kong and Macau are not far away either, which is really great. The Country Garden community itself I have found to be very safe and family friendly.

I would highly recommend the school as a place to grow professionally and to establish long lasting friendships. The key for me has been having an open mind and possessing the willingness to work together with others in a spirit of cooperation. In this vein, I have found my time here to be well spent, productive, and enjoyable in working with students, staff, and the administration.

 

Evaluation
9)  Chunlei Li  2008 – 2016
Academic integrity of school
1
Effectiveness of administration
1
Academic and disciplinary support provided
1
Director’s involvement in academics
1
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
1
School has adequate educational materials on hand
1
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
2
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
2
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$12K – $60K
Satisfaction with housing
3
Community offers a variety of activities
3
Availability and quality of local health care
2
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
1
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
2
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
2
Extra curricular load is reasonable
3
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
3
Average Score for Review
2
Comments:

I feel that this school is dangerous for your career. Around 15-20 teachers did not even complete the contract this year. Those were the ones who did a midnight runner, or resigned. The year started with 117 teachers. Mid-year the Middle School Principal Mr. Shaw had his powers increased and became Head of Secondary. Immediately a more serious purge began and the losses have accelerated with around another ten teachers either being fired or threatened into leaving. This purge coincided with an announcement that the school would have “no more and no less than 100 foreign teachers.” Some of the finest teachers were removed during this purge and are still being removed. I do not believe that it was just “cleaning out the junk.”

Everybody thought the “no more and no less than 100 teachers” would take effect school year 2016-2017, but it’s clear from the level of enforcement over little things like going to Chinese political propaganda flag-raising ceremonies and not wearing “trainers” that the school’s strategy is to get rid of people now. Additionally the school’s financial department is not paying promised benefits such as airfare in full. They are in serious financial trouble and teachers are bearing the brunt of these problems because our school is completely ran “top-down.” Many are beginning to wonder if teachers who are leaving will receive their full pay.

Teachers do not have any rights at this school whatsoever. No right to complain and no right to speak openly or freely at all and if a teacher does than she is singled out and called into meetings. The person you are supposed to complain to is the Foreign Affairs Liaison Mr. Carlyon, but I believe that he is there only to learn who is disgruntled so that the person can be contained. He will not help you in most cases if you have a real problem. In my opinion he is an insider that represents the interests of administration and not the teachers. Do not assume confidentiality on anything at this school.

Moreover this community is dangerous in the literal sense. One teacher died in a scooter accident in the “quiet safe” garden. Several others have sustained serious motorbike related injuries as well. I know of at least four other teachers who have been in a motorbike accident just this year. Medical problems abound too. There have been multiple instances of current teachers – and former ones – either returning home or going to the next school and learning that they have a tumor. One teacher was diagnosed with cancer last year. Evidence is lacking to be able to say that this is China’s environmental problems “causing” these cases, but there is something more to all this than pure coincidence. Everybody will tell you the pollution is “much better than Beijing” but it is still very bad for a large percentage of the year. A community of only around one hundred foreigners should not have rates of tumors that are this high. It isn’t just strange growths either, one teacher had to be treated for tuberculosis.

Many are not signing contracts for next year. This was a school that had a chance at one point a couple of years ago, but since then I have heard too many stories about grade manipulation, undue administrative pressure, and breaking IB rules. I believe it is only a matter of time before the entire place loses credibility and parents stop bringing children. Do not risk your career or your family’s future here. Do not convince yourself that the negative reviews you are reading are a “few bad apples.” Search the web for yourself and you will see that reviews for this school are not only here on ISR. Protect yourself and your family. No amount of money is worth what we have all endured.

 

Evaluation
8)  2014 – 2015
Academic integrity of school
4
Effectiveness of administration
2
Academic and disciplinary support provided
2
Director’s involvement in academics
2
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
1
School has adequate educational materials on hand
4
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
5
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
7
Satisfaction with housing
5
Community offers a variety of activities
3
Availability and quality of local health care
2
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
2
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
4
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
5
Extra curricular load is reasonable
5
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
9
Average Score for Review
4
Comments:

Most of the last few reviews are true, although it would be a stretch to say the school is run-down or not a real school. The school just celebrated its 20th anniversary so we know how old is. Typical Chinese construction does have its problems at this age, but most of the buildings are ok for the most part.

The advantage of this school is clear: the gross salary before taxes is higher than you will get at most other schools (which is simply because the tuition is the highest in the region). But to really compare the salary to offers from other schools, it is important to consider a few things: depending on where you are from, the flight allowance will only cover about 60-70% of the actual cost of getting home and getting back each year; the health insurance is extremely limited and some teachers pay out of pocket for medical care or for better insurance; the housing allowance is only 2000 RMB but most teachers pay 3000-4000 RMB per month for rent + required property management fee (this is not including utilities and internet); if you have kids at the school, you get a big discount, but still have to pay a substantial amount for what will most likely be education that is not suitable for expat kids anyway (most classes are taught in Chinese, and this includes the “international” section, so you better hope your kids can understand Chinese immediately). These (and several other) reasons are why the net salary is much lower than you first realize, especially when you compare it to the salary and benefits of other international schools in China. The school could easily fix this in so many ways. For example, simply increasing the housing allowance while decreasing the gross salary by perhaps 2000 RMB per month, and sending part of our salary to our foreign bank accounts untaxed (like some schools do) would save us about 5000 RMB or more in taxes per month as well as a half day of errands and high bank fees to transfer money home. Some schools (typical in Shanghai) will reduce your taxes if you submit receipts for various things, but not here (not sure if the school doesn’t want to or just doesn’t know how, or what). By the time you consider all of this, the financial situation may still be a little better than many schools.

Here are some of the disadvantages:
1. The location is very isolated and transportation is difficult to the city. From the school gate to the center of the city involves at least 2 buses and maybe a metro ride for a total of almost 2 hours including the waiting. Late at night the buses stop and then you have to rely on “black taxis” who will charge 3 or 4 times the normal taxi rate. Many metered taxis refuse to come here since it is out of their area, or else they want a much higher price instead of using the meter. I would not suggest this school for young singles expecting to have a dating life as it hard to meet anybody outside the school who would be a suitable match unless one of you travels 2 hours each way so you can see each other.

2. The administration structure is very inefficient and you will have too many bosses that each have different expectations. Depending on which section you are in, you will have a high school Chinese principal (who cannot even speak English even though he has direct authority over us and makes us come to his meetings), a high school international principal (who is more like a vice-principal since his authority is limited and often trumped by the Chinese principal), an MYP principal (not sure why he isn’t just the middle school principal since his authority seems to overlap part of the high school principal’s the way it is set up now), a subject group leader (department head, who may manage you very directly or may rarely talk to you depending on which department), a program group leader (we have many programs including IGCSE, A-level, AP, MYP, DP, IFY, and more, and you will likely be assigned to more than one program and thus have two different leaders each wanting different things), a section leader, and others who will exert authority over you and want you to attend various meetings at some point. It can be very difficult to do your job and keep all of these people happy simultaneously since they care about different things. If you get along well with five or six of these leaders but have a disagreement with just one of them, then your life will become miserable very quickly. This resulted in a few teachers quitting early or being fired, and all of them lost a serious amount of money because of not getting their last month (or two) of salary, losing their apartment security deposit, loss of many items purchased for their apartment but were too big to take home, cost of flight home, and probably a couple months without salary until starting a new job). I thought of describing a few of these stories here to give good examples, but then this would be too long and maybe violate someone’s privacy).

3. The school will expect you to follow every detail of the contract, but the administration will not follow their side and will add in contract terms and claim they were there all along. For example, in the first week, we were told we would have to attend 2 hours meetings in the late evening every week, even though this was not in the contract and was never mentioned before coming here. Also, many teachers were told they would teach specific classes, and then found out upon arrival that they would be teaching completely different classes. Some teachers were so upset that they wanted to quit and leave right then, but we all had to turn our passports into FAO and had to wait about a few more weeks to get them back, so leaving was impossible. Then later there were teachers who threatened to be fired and/or have their salary docked for not being on campus for at 40 hours per week, even though our contracts do not require that. The contract states we have office hours 9:30-11:30 am and 2:30 -4:30 pm, but does not say we have to work 40 hours per week. I was personally very angry about this since I had other job offers before I accepted this job, and would have never accepted a teaching job which requires 40 hours per week on campus (this does not even consider the amount of time you work from home), and actually checks it by making you scan your ID to enter or exit the campus. If you don’t scan it on the way in or out (which is easy to do), then someone can claim you were never there (even though you may have 100 witnesses). In all fairness, the new contract for next year does clearly state these requirements, and so I made a choice not to renew my contract because of this.

I could go on and list other disadvantages as well like some other posters mentioned, but these are things that pertain to working in China in general (such as having to pay a few thousand dollars up front for an apartment, and having your failing students passed to the next grade), and not specific to this school.

If you are willing to be humble, and spend most of your time on campus, then you should consider working here if you don’t have a better offer somewhere else. About half of our foreign teachers renewed for another year so it obviously isn’t that bad. Maybe the administration may even surprise us and fix some of these problems (I REALLY hope they at least get the taxes lowered), or maybe there will be other new problems to deal with, but I am glad I am moving on.

Evaluation
7)  2015
Comments:

Dear ISR,

I write out of concern for the quality of review of International Schools by teachers which I am sure we agree should be honest and truthful and not a war of words between administrators and certain teachers. I therefore request that you start banning people who post under multiple User Names. It is quite obvious, for example, in reviews 5 and 6 about Guangdong Country Garden School, that the same person has aimed to strengthen their case by pretending to be two different people – you note that yourselves – but you allow this to stand. Next year we will have nearly 140 International Teachers and all of them will know the point of view of this one malcontent who is telling lies and making false misrepresentation on this and Dave’s ESL Board about our school. Please accept that 1% of International Teachers writing under multiple User Names should be limited in their action. Please also review your acceptance that multiple User Names should not be used by one person. I now inclu
de access to our promo video – of course it is glossy – but it will prove to you that the school is not a rundown obsolete slum!

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/hiwi0vzyahkdpu2/AABC9lACinBdueLmPhAkqWoda?dl=0#lh:null-CGS%20recruitment%202.mp4

With best regards,

 

Evaluation
6)  2014 – 2015
Academic integrity of school
1
Effectiveness of administration
1
Academic and disciplinary support provided
1
Director’s involvement in academics
2
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
1
School has adequate educational materials on hand
1
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
2
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
3
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$30K – $80K
Satisfaction with housing
2
Community offers a variety of activities
2
Availability and quality of local health care
2
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
3
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
3
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
2
Extra curricular load is reasonable
4
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
5
Average Score for Review
2
Comments:

The school is obsolete and run down, looks like a Chinese public school in the province. Teachers do not have resources and bring there personal laptop to different classes. A curriculum is not being implemented even they claim to be a I.B. world school. Do not come here for a night life because they do not have one. Housing allowance is Rmb 2,000 per month. An apartment cost Roughly Rmb 2,800-4,000 a month. Bring minimum $3,500 for rental deposit, internet etc. The school offers little housing support or moving allowance. Lastly, you must attend weekly evening meetings from 6:30 p.m.-9:00 pm or face termination. ISR Note: This review was submitted by the author of the previous review. 

 

Evaluation
5)  2014 – 2015
Academic integrity of school
1
Effectiveness of administration
1
Academic and disciplinary support provided
1
Director’s involvement in academics
1
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
1
School has adequate educational materials on hand
1
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
1
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
4
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$30K – $80K
Satisfaction with housing
1
Community offers a variety of activities
1
Availability and quality of local health care
1
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
1
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
1
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
2
Extra curricular load is reasonable
2
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
8
Average Score for Review
2
Comments:

The physical condition of the school is quite shocking.This school was built roughly 20 years ago and looks run down.Teachers buy classroom materials out of pocket since a resource room does not exist.There is no curriculum even they claim to be a world IB school.The level of the students English is so low perhaps a curriculum is not important to the unorganized administrators.The school does not provide any type of profesional development at all.

What the school does provide is 2 hour evening meetings usually starting at 6:30-7:00 p.m. and draging on until roughly 9:00 p.m. once or twice a week,and even on Sunday evenings.Weekend actiivities are very limited since this school is 1 hour each way from any type of a city.Regarding housing,teachers must find an apartment within 5 days of arriving.You need to bring $2,500-$3,000 for deposit,Internet hook up,etc and the housing is run down like the school.The salary is good if you earn the higher package which is about $80,000 a year or Rmb 34,000 per month.The package is around half of this if you are a new teacher or if they can get away pay you less.The school is a revolving door and the only school I may actually do a runner from.

 

Evaluation
4)  2014
Academic integrity of school
4
Effectiveness of administration
4
Academic and disciplinary support provided
1
Director’s involvement in academics
1
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
2
School has adequate educational materials on hand
2
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
2
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
2
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$8K – $35K
Satisfaction with housing
2
Community offers a variety of activities
2
Availability and quality of local health care
2
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
2
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
4
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
4
Extra curricular load is reasonable
1
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
5
Average Score for Review
2.5
Comments:

You will find yourself in a very rigorous Chinese community where no one understands you and no one speak English. Most students barely speak English and have no desire to. Living in Country Gardens, you will soon discover your isolation. It is 20min to the nearest expat shops or restaurants and there are no decent hangouts as you will need to take a taxi where ever you want to go. The local Chinese super market to be found in Country Gardens is not sufficient for expat needs and not the freshest nor the cleanest.

Never were we told to bring bags of money needed for getting you settled. You will need more than $2500 to pay towards accommodation deposits, service fees and maintenance fees, gas, electricity, internet and mobile phone connections and cable TV to make a very lonely isolated live bearable.

Upon arrival you are lucky to be picked up from the airport, which is more than an hour away if there is no traffic. You will be dropped off at the hotel to settle in a lovely room for five days only, as you will be charged thereafter. After the very next day’s apartment hunting in 45’C plus unbearable humidity you will realise the communication barrier and that no one around speaks English-lost in translation! A Chinese agent will show you the most disgusting and dirty apartments with no western toilets. May I warn you that you will not be able to find accommodation for the 2000RMB provided in the contract? Landlords are very greedy and you will not get much more than the dilapidated stuff in the apartment. Don’t forget that you might never get your two month’s deposit back, as that is a common trend!

Yes, the school pays expat teachers well but you will be expected to deliver! Work days are extremely long and tiring with a two hour mid day lunch break school teacher can only go home at 4:30. You are expected to work 40 hours a week! As you live in isolation the school thinks they own you as a teacher. You will be expected to attend weekly planning meetings in the evenings from 6:30 – 9pm. During these meetings you will be threatened to be fired if you don’t comply with the rules. If there are public holidays during the week you will be expected to catch up with teaching during weekends. You will be working over Christmas and only get a day or two off.

The school comes across as an IB school, but it is understatement to mention that there is no real desire for it to be since it does not reflect international mindedness at all. The only IB visible in the school is the shell with IB poster displays swinging in corridors and IB slogans decorating walls. It does not take much too soon realise that this school still has a long long way to go to truly deserve an IB status.

Surely the worst teaching experience ever for me! Think twice before consider going to CGS as it is not worth to sell your soul for money on offer.

 

Evaluation
3)  2012 – 2013
Academic integrity of school
3
Effectiveness of administration
2
Academic and disciplinary support provided
2
Director’s involvement in academics
3
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
2
School has adequate educational materials on hand
1
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
3
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
7
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$8K – $35K
Satisfaction with housing
5
Community offers a variety of activities
3
Availability and quality of local health care
1
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
3
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
2
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
2
Extra curricular load is reasonable
4
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
7
Average Score for Review
3
Comments:

IB
Status – I do not know how they achieved IB status, it really
downgrades what the status means. The level of academics is abysmal
at best. The administration will give IB training to teachers
by reading from handbook! They do not even remotely understand
the concepts and thus these concepts are never put into place.
The school teaches to exams almost exclusively! I am calling
on the IB to review this schools status and I recommend revoking
it!

Administration
– horribly incompetent in my experience. There are administrators
who cannot speak three words of English…. at an international
school. They do not understand the concept of IB. Everything
is image based and most of them got their jobs without any qualifications.
The director of the school refused to hire a black teacher because, “she
would scare the children”.

Foreign Affairs Office – incompetent and will lie to you. They
have held teachers passports for over a month without any cause.
They have withheld pay. They work with one real estate agent
who will show you one or two apartments and if you do not like
them, you need to find you own housing. They do not pick new
teachers up from the airport, teachers have gotten lost while
trying to navigate the buses to get to the school for the first
time. They will not tell you the dates for holidays and then
change them at the last minute. Teachers were not informed until
the last week of classes when they could leave for the summer.

Professional Development – They bring people in on the weekends
forcing teachers to work 12 days weeks with trainings. Meals
are not provided for these long trainings and certificates were
never issued. The hosts were good but unfortunately the school
administrators who attended talked through the entire training
so I could not hear a lot of it.

Teaching materials – almost none. They have photocopies of textbooks
and if you request books for your class it can take up to six
months to receive them. The school will spend thousands of dollars
on nonsense image events for the but not a dime on academic supplies.

Academic integrity – Teachers who give low grades to students
can be forced to go into hearings where they must justify the
grades. The administration is also known to change grades issued
by teachers. I have heard rumors of parents bribing teachers
for better grades, but I cannot say if that is true or not.

Curriculum – What curriculum? Every teacher has to make up their
own

Personal leave. The contracts state that you cannot ask for
leave for personal issues. They follow this without wiggle room.
Unless a family member dies you cannot ask for any personal leave.

School
food – the school advertised Western Food in the cafeteria.
I was skeptical but appreciated the effort. Of course I did not
move to China to eat burgers but the “Western Food” is
a Korean buffet…. oh and occasionally frozen french fries.
The Chinese cafeteria where most people eat gave one of our teachers
food poisoning.

Location – The school is about 45 minutes from downtown Guangzhou.
There are some decent spots there, but locally there is almost
nothing. The saving grace of the location is that it is close
to Hong Kong and that is still three hours away.

 

Evaluation
2)  2009 – 2010
Academic integrity of school
2
Effectiveness of administration
2
Academic and disciplinary support provided
2
Director’s involvement in academics
1
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
2
School has adequate educational materials on hand
7
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
8
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
6
Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

$20K – $30K
Satisfaction with housing
6
Community offers a variety of activities
7
Availability and quality of local health care
7
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
6
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
6
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
7
Extra curricular load is reasonable
10
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
10
Average Score for Review
5.5
Comments:

I
worked here in the 2009/10 academic year. When I arrived this
new Principal in charge of the whole school called Mr. Ji,
from Nanjing had taken over. He had great plans and ambitions
to transform this school into a “proper international
school”. I have every reason to believe he was true to
his word.

Guangdong
Country Garden School is broken down into so many sections
and what co-ordination there is, is appalling even at
the best of times. Initially I worked in the DP/A-level section
and one “Principal”, Mr. Li, was in charge of the DP,
MYP and PYP sections. He basically knew nothing about education
and just cared about keeping parents and students happy without
giving any proper thought to their education. Most of the students
are rich Chinese children whose parents have big influence so
Mr. Li was scared of them.

I
myself was subject of various complaints that went through
first Donald Wang who was basically a puppet or go-between
who
again knew nothing about education in my opinion. The complaints
were vague. For example “not enough exam practice”,
which was a lie because many textbook exercises were derived
from
past papers
and I did periodically give them exam papers. Also “key
points are not clear”. That could mean many things. Anyway
as early as September I had surprise observations and when I
had one in October I was told I had “2 weeks to improve”.
There was calm until December when complaints started up so Donald
Wang gave the students a “Teacher substitution request form”.
This made me wonder why Country Garden even bothers hiring an
HR Department or all the managers if the students decide who
comes and goes.

I
then did my own proper quantitative research with the school’s
official teacher evaluation questionnaires. The average score
proved that any claims were invalid. Then in order to catch me
out, the students were given a “test” in Economics
at 24 hours notice to see if they’d been learning. Of course
by this point it was clear they knew the management weren’t willing
to back down and that it was a test of my competencies not theirs
so results were poor.

Furthermore
Mr. Ji was “moved” to the sister school
because the section principals like Mr. Li rebelled against him
as he was out to expose their shortcomings and make necessary
changes. Had that happened these incompetent heads would have
likely either been demoted or out of a job.

At the end of Semester 1 I was convinced I would be fired though
I was offered the chance to do a demo class for MYP ESL, which
I accepted. I passed the demo with flying colours and had a cushy
yet boring second semester teaching ESL.

Away
from the teaching, the contracts they used to offer were only
1 year or 10 months so no summer pay for teaching staff.
Also there was a couple who had 2 children and their contract
explicitly stated free tuition for their children but because
they were “married” and had two children, only one
qualified for free tuition in Kindergarten as this “violated
the one-child policy”. They were told if they’d had their
children out of wedlock, then they’d both have got free tuition,
which is really bizarre.

There are a number of long-termers who like the cushy hours
but none of them have any ambition and are basically there either
because they couldn’t be bothered working harder elsewhere or
because they have local commitments like family. Also they are
willing to put up with the ineptitude and incompetencies of management
at all levels.

To conclude, if you want to work here, then it is fine if you
are willing to put up with appalling management and unprofessional
practices. On the plus side your hours are easy and the surrounding
area is pleasant.

 

Evaluation
1)  2008 – 2011
Academic integrity of school
4
Effectiveness of administration
4
Academic and disciplinary support provided
4
Director’s involvement in academics
4
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director
4
School has adequate educational materials on hand
6
Attitude of local community towards foreigners
6
Cost of living in relation to salary (10 = most favorable)
6
Satisfaction with housing
6
Community offers a variety of activities
6
Availability and quality of local health care
6
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy
6
Family friendly / child friendly school and community
4
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel
6
Extra curricular load is reasonable
6
Security / personal safety (10 = very safe in and out of school)
6
Average Score for Review
5
Comments:

Guangdong
Country Garden School, an IB World School, has a lot of potential
to become an excellent school. Its Achilles heel turns out to
be the Overseas Department being run by a businessman who has
no idea about best practices and research on education. As a
result, the curriculum and course offerings displayed on the
website do not have anything to do with what is exactly happening
in the classrooms. Students of mixed ages (from 10 to 16 years
old) are packed like sardines in one class. Rapport between teachers
and students is poor. Teachers only teach to high-ability students,
while low-ability students are often ignored. Moreover, students
are not treated in a respectful, humane manner. In fact, the
usual form of punishment for not getting the work done is to
force students to stand against the wall for a long period of
time. Progressive teachers who do not agree to this type of treatment
and discipline quietly leave for fear of antagonizing the department
head. This year, one class has seen the passage of five teachers!
The Overseas Department needs a complete overhaul before it completely
destroys the school’s solid reputation.