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Stay away from Jingbei Foreign Languages College
After spending almost a year at Jingbei, we decided that it was necessary to write a letter and have it given to the next foreign teachers who are to work here. When we started to think about the content of the letter, we realized that it would conclude with our advice to turn around and find another school. We wish we had been warned about the conditions at Jingbei so that we could have better made a decision about whether or not to come. 
The fact that we feel the need to warn future teachers about coming to Jingbei shows that there are some serious problems with the school. The constant dishonesty and browbeating that takes place in almost every contact with the school authorities, and their insistence upon our teaching at outside schools (an hour's drive from Jingbei) make life here stressful and uncomfortable. 
The following is a list of examples of problems we've had at the school. We'd like to point out that this list is by no means exhaustive. 

Mr. Zhao took Y200 out of our first paychecks, didn't give us a reason, then refused to give the money back to us until Council intervened.
He agreed to pay us for one month of our winter holiday, and when we returned he refused to give it to us until Council intervened.
He cut our Labor Day holiday in half by requiring that we attend a recruitment meeting for Jingbei in the city. 
A large part of Mr. Zhao's income comes from classes taught in another school in Qinhuangdao. These classes start a few weeks into the school year, and he would have had us make up a large number of hours (over 32) that we didn't teach because he hadn't given them to us yet. Council intervened and he backed down again.
After American teacher Mark French died at the school, authorities made up a separate contract for use of electrical appliances. All of the foreign teachers refused to sign it because of the final item, which removed all responsibility from the school in case of an accident. We doubt that the electrical setup in our rooms meets any kind of safety requirements. We were first told that we were required to sign it by the police. When we still refused, we were told that the police had nothing to do with it, and he only wanted us to sign it to prove that we'd read it. When we still refused to read it he dropped the subject altogether. This kind of deceit is something that we've come to expect every few weeks.
Mr. Zhao refuses to answer our questions, and refers us to a woman who can not speak English. His English is really good enough to talk to us, but when he needs to he can make things difficult for us by pretending not to understand what we're saying.
I was asked to cover some classes for a new foreign teacher for two weeks. I agreed. Then they told me she was coming in one more week. Then it was extended for another week. A teacher at the school later told me that Mr. Zhao never intended to bring a new teacher to the school. He told me that she was coming to get me to teach a semester’s worth of classes that I otherwise wouldn’t have taught.
From what we’ve heard, Mr. Zhao often gave the previous foreign teachers problems as well. He refused to give them their salary in a timely manner before their departure date and ignored problems with living conditions. 

Without the help of Council Exchanges, our program, we would have been working in virtual slavery for Mr. Zhao. He remorselessly exploits his employees, Chinese and foreign, and becomes childishly vindictive when they show any resistance. 

People decide to teach in China because of an interest China's culture, language, and way of life. No one who decides to come here expects to be required to deal with the machinations of a devious businessman. Any organization concerned with its image and reputation should think twice before sending teachers to Jingbei. We feel it would be best if people were at least warned about the problems they will encounter at Jingbei, and at most if Jingbei itself were taken off the list of schools eligible to receive foreign teachers.

Matt Roslund,
Currently teaching at Jingbei (Council Exchanges)

Natalie Probst,
Currently teaching at Jingbei (Council Exchanges)

Columba Mary Moore,
Currently teaching at Jingbei (Alliances Abroad)

Becky Hobson,
Former Jingbei teacher (Council Exchanges)

Ben Rushin,
Former Jingbei teacher (Council Exchanges)

Razavan Orasanu,
Former Jingbei teacher (Independent)

Geeta Nambiar,
Left Jingbei before signing a contract (Alliances Abroad)

Felicity Rogers,
Left Jingbei before signing a contract (Council Exchanges)

Geeta's comments:

The information ( which I think is on the net somewhere ) given to me by which I suppose came from described the school as being situated next to the sea in a beautiful pine-filled campus… sounded quite idyllic. It turned out to be in the middle of a sandy desert, nowhere near the sea and far from pleasant, let alone idyllic.This kind of false advertising is quite illegal I'm sure. Also the" western syle "apartment which was supposed to be fully furnished and did not even have a chair and desk and the floor was unfinished and the celing falling down. 

Also I was advised by the same sources to come on a visit visa which could be changed to a work visa on arrival. On arrival at Jingbei I was told this was impossible. Either Mr Zhao or Ms Helen or both are responsible for this. 

This is as far as Jingbei goes. I hope you will be able to add the following in your letter as well as it is of concern to future ESL teachers in China. If you would rather not broaden the scope of your letter may I have all the addresses so that I may send it out myself. 

Raz's comments:

Raz (JingBei Jan 9th- June 23rd 2002)

Jing Bei is a profit-making institution in which money-grabbing takes the place of decent working standards. Having said that, the school reflects the audience that it targets, which is mainly reasonably well-off kids that failed the university entrance examination. 

Zhao Long Sheng is the headmaster, and in charge of the school. The problems partly stems from expectations of a decent, clean and helpful envirionment to be joining. It is hardly any one of the three. A related and complementary problem is the acute shortage of foreign teachers, which results in insitent demands to teach more lessons, which of course make more money for the 
school, and thereby directly its owner. 

The problems experienced by foreign teachers are different, but the basic underlying idea is the same : it is a low-trust, dog-eats-dog environment, in which you should set clear written guidelines from the beginning. Don't expect them to be met by the other side, but it makes it less likely that you'll have the daily hassle if they are less than clear- cut in the contract. You should stick to your guns and not give in to pressure, which is very likely to be pressed on you. 

A related idea would be to try to quickly make friends amongst your pupils (teaching extra private lessons to a couple of them is always a good way) because the less you rely on Jing Bei, the better for you. For example, whilst I was met at the airport and intensly courted in the beginning (to agree to some extra lessons) I wasn't even said "good bye" to before I left, never mind at least shown to the local railway station or to the airport. I was lucky to find a helpful friend of a friend in Beijing. 

Think long and hard before chosing this school- I would personally not recommend it. 


Ben's Comments:

Hi Natalie, I took my family there last summer for an advertised workshop for teachers that turned out to be his regular con game. You can add my name as a former teacher from Council Ben Rushin. I'm glad we got out alive! There was a girl that summer from council who took one look at him and the school, demanded to be taken to a hotel and had disappeared by the next morning. I have great admiration for her foresight. I think her name was Natalie. Was she you? I am heading into my fourth year teaching out west at a state university where the treatment I receive is soooooo much better. Sorry you had to experience JingBei. Drop me a note if you feel like it. 

Heather's Comments:

Matt,Feel free to put my name at the bottom, too. We also had to constantly resort to Council to keep Mr. Zhao in line, and I do feel guilty about not filling out the school evaluation form when I left, to warn other teachers about Jingbei. I was just so tired and burned out when I left that I never got around to it. Maybe if I had, things might have been different foryou guys.
Heather Thams
(from Oklahoma, US, taught at Jingbei Feb. - July 2001)

Felicity's Comments:


Yes, you're right, I went to Jingbei last summer with the intention of teaching a special project for one month. When I got there, absolutely nothing was organised, nothing was ready, and I felt I was just conned into doing something that was inappropriately advertised. I spoke to Council Exchange and they said they were lied to about the whole affair. I arrived at the school on a Saturday; by the evening there was no power or water, so Mr Zhao took me to a hotel that night. I stayed in the hotel and next morning I waited at the hotel reception for Mr Zhao to pick me up. Nobody came so I left and went back to Nanjing where I worked.