I’ve been involved in English teaching in China since 2002. I first taught IELTS speaking classes at New Oriental from 2002-2004, and then I helped to found New Channel and worked there from 2004-2016. Since leaving New Channel, I’ve been encouraging students to practice English through my “Morning Reading Club” public WeChat account.
Two things stand out from the time I’ve spent in this space: 1) learning English well opens up lots of doors, both personally and professionally; and 2) many kids spend a huge amount of time learning English in school without much to show for it.
Number one is fairly self-evident, as many high paying jobs require English, many other jobs are enhanced by English, and learning English opens people up to a broader world of travel, communication and entertainment. I also happen to think that the opening of these doors is as good for the world as it is for the individual, as once they are open they lead to greater understanding between cultures and nations.
Number two has definitely improved over the years I have been here, which is to say that more students exit the educational system with fairly functional English. But there are still so many students who learn English in school from first or third grade through graduating high school, and yet still have basically no functional ability that stays with them through their lives.
There are a variety of reasons for this, including a focus on tests, poor textbooks, poor teaching methods (although I think the reason the situation has improved over the years is largely due to teachers getting better and better), and a lack of motivation on the part of students. No matter what the reason, there is a great opportunity for improvement. Could students spend the same amount of time but get better results? I think so, and I’m working on a project that I hope can help at least some students over the next few years.