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* This article was updated February 27, 2019, and it will continue to be updated as more information is released by the Ministry of Education in China.  

ALO7 Tutor teaching online ESLOnline ESL teaching requirements for China are changing. Before December 2018, requirements varied across companies with most requiring a Bachelor’s degree in any field and some only accepting native English speakers or those living in North America. And, the requirements for years of teaching or tutoring experience also varied across the board. Now, beginning in December 2018, there will be at least one standard requirement for teachers working for Chinese online teaching companies: a TEFL or TESOL certification. This new online ESL teaching regulation comes directly from the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) as it works to standardize after-school institutions.

What exactly is required to satisfy the new online ESL teaching requirements for China?

The MOE announced in late November 2018 that it will now require online after-school institutions to “submit class names, training content, schedules and class hours to provincial education authorities,” according to the English language newspaper China Daily. These programs will also have to submit instructors’ names, photos, schedules, and credentials. For those working as online ESL teachers, this means you will need to have a certification to teach English as a second language, such as a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certification. At the time of writing this article, the MOE requires certificates that are specifically for ESL, even if you have a degree in teaching or education in your home country.

These laws come as China tries to standardize and regulate after-school institutions aimed at primary and middle school students, both physical and online. Students often enroll in after-school programs which may include extra classes in Chinese, math, English, and other extracurricular activities. The MOE has been examining these brick-and-mortar institutions since February and determined that over half of those inspected had problems.¹ It cited issues such as programs being exam-oriented or using a too advanced curriculum which caused students unnecessary stress. Others were found to be dangerous or poorly managed. Since then, China has also turned its attention to online after-school programs as well. Whether you are a current online ESL tutor or thinking about applying to a company, this applies to you! But don’t worry. There are certification programs that are 100% online and can be done at your convenience.

On December 13, 2018, the MOE held a press conference to give an update on how many after-school programs were found to be out of compliance with the new regulations, and what measures were being taken to become compliant. The MOE press release states, “By December 12, in a national campaign targeting extracurricular programs that put students under too much pressure, a total of 400,000 after-school training institutions had been examined. 273,000 were found to be non-compliant, of which nearly 90% or 248,000 had introduced corrective measures.”² While not all after school programs include an online component, many of them do, so teaching ESL online in partnership with these afterschool programs means that the online teachers also fall under the same regulations.

At the end of 2018, the MOE announced that it is developing an online management platform to monitor afterschool programs for compliance with the new regulations. This platform will give the public a place to lodge complaints against poorly managed programs and educational authorities will also have the opportunity to “blacklist poorly-managed institutions.”³

Choosing a course

Two of the most common ESL certifications are Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). These terms are often used interchangeably; the distinction is that TESOL is meant for teachers who work with ESL learners in a country where English is the native language. There are other qualifications such as a Certificate of teaching English to speakers of other languages (CELTA) or a Masters in TESOL if you are considering ESL teaching as a career. However, if you are only looking to meet the new online ESL teaching requirements for China and your specific company, then a TEFL or TESOL will be the fastest and most cost-effective route.

An Internet search for “TEFL TESOL certification course” will give you thousands of results for schools and online programs. When choosing your TEFL/TESOL course, it’s important to consider a few factors, so you know you are learning from quality instructors and materials.

  1. Accreditation: Unfortunately, there is no one accreditation body for TEFL certifications. You should check to see if your course is affiliated or recognized by a reputable accreditation body. Below is a list of accreditation bodies primarily for onsite programs. ICOES and OTTSA are two organizations that accredit online courses.
  2. Length of the program: Most online ESL companies want a 120-hour certification from their tutors. The benefit of longer courses is more in-depth material and options to learn how to teach specific demographics or English skills, such as ESL to young learners or business English. If 120 hours seems like a long time commitment, remember that most online TEFL courses are self-paced and you may be able to complete content more quickly.
  3. Price: TEFL/TESOL courses can range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Groupon sometimes offers discounts for online programs such as a 120-hour course with International Open Academy. So, if cost is your main deciding factor, make sure to do a quick online search for coupons and offers. As for on-site courses, they will be more expensive but will give you access to real instructors and practical teaching experience. If you plan to teach English abroad in brick-and-mortar schools, this could be more beneficial to you than a purely online course. Your goals can help you decide which choice is best for you.

TEFL/TESOL courses

The following courses are all accredited by one of the bodies listed above and offer at least a 120-hour course:

  1. International TEFL Academy: These courses are on among the most expensive, but International TEFL Academy is one of the most recognized names in the business. They offer online only, in-person and hybrid (mix of online and in-person) courses around the world.
  2. myTEFL: myTEFL offers a reasonable priced 120-hour online course with tutors to give you feedback during your course. However, they longest online option is 120 hours so those looking more in-depth training will need to look at other companies.
  3. i-to-i: This company offers online and hybrid courses at an affordable price. With their online programs, you will have access to a tutor to answer your ESL teaching questions.
  4. Premier TEFL: At the moment, Premier TEFL has a deal for their online courses, making them very wallet-friendly. They also offer shorter specialty courses if you want to add to your teaching toolbox in the future.

These are just a few of the many TEFL courses that range in price and options. Remember to do your research and consider your ESL teaching goals when choosing the best course for you to satisfy the new online teaching requirements for China. In the end, having a TEFL or TESOL certification will make you a more qualified candidate and better prepared for teaching ESL learners.



1 “China Tightens Supervision over After-school Institutions.” Xinhuanet. November 21, 2018. Accessed December 02, 2018.

2 “Press Releases.” Ministry of Education, The People’s Republic of China. December 16, 2018. Accessed February 18, 2019.

3 杨屹立. “China Tightens Regulations Over After-school Institutions.” Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Accessed February 27, 2019.

Images used in “New Online ESl Teaching Requirements for China”
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