* This article will be updated as more information becomes available. 

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.


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.


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. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-11/21/c_137622725.htm.

Images used in “New Online Teaching Requirements for China”
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels 
Photo by Chuttersnap on Unsplash

I started teaching English abroad after graduating from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts with a degree in English Literature. Although I originally planned to teach in Cambodia for a year, I discovered I had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional and personal goals through language learning. I’ve been an Alo7 tutor since April 2017 and am currently living in South America.

I am Chinese-Japanese American, but sadly, I’m not trilingual. I grew up in a relatively “Western” household–no Tiger Moms but plenty of fried rice and a healthy dose of Asian guilt. My favorite part of English teaching is getting the opportunity to learn about my students’ daily lives, traditions and customs, so I’m very excited to be writing about Chinese culture on the Alo7 blog!


  • Jan Millsaps says:

    It’s interesting they are looking into helping the stress level of their students! No doubt their supervision of the schools will protect their students and I do believe that requiring tutors to have a certificate is a good idea. Thanks for the great article!

  • Peter says:

    There is also a lot of ageism with these agencies/companies, if you are over 40, with Years of teaching ESL both in class and online experience and having relative certification. You will have 90% less chance of being hired compared to a person with no certification but is far younger in their twenties or thirties, with, I would say at least 70% having no certification at all. Going by the spelling that I see in the teacher’s chat, It is possibly a lot more.

    • Dalissa McEwen says:

      I’m not sure which teacher’s chat you are referring to, so I can’t really speak to that part of your comment. Nor can I really speak about the practices of other companies. With that said, ALO7 has tutors of all ages and does not practice ageism. Our older tutors have just as high of a booking rate as our younger ones. And, one of our ten 2018 Teachers of the Year is older, with the majority of the awardees being middle-aged. Most of our tutors are certified or hold teaching degrees, as well.

  • Tara Martin says:

    This was a very informative article. I truly enjoy teaching Chinese students and luckily I already possess the certification. I’m all for schools/government ensuring their educators meet a rigid standard. In the long-run, it benefits the students. Thanks for the update!

  • Peter says:

    I was not referring to ALO7, but in general, most agencies. not all, have a lot of uncertified Tutors

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