Cash-Strapped Teachers Are Now Tutoring Kids In China

Teaching is not an easy profession, but it’s very much a necessary one. Even more so when you have to wake up around 4 in the morning.

That is what it’s like for more than 60,000 American and Canadian tutors under the employ of VIPKid, an online English-tutoring company based in Beijing. These teachers, frustrated with their salaries, turned to teaching Chinese students online for a boost to their income. Of course, there’s the matter of time zones, which means that these educators in the Western Hemisphere, particularly those in the US East Coast and Midwest, have to wake up in the early-morning hours to tutor kids, as those hours are peak tutoring times in China.

Tutoring English has boomed in China, as many parents there look to prepare their kids for the global stage. Some teachers say that they appreciate the flexible schedules and extra funds such an arrangement grants them, but some, however, say that working a second teaching shift so early in the morning only adds to fatigue.

Online-tutoring company VIPKid is one of the largest of its kind in the country, with at least half a million students in China and across 63 other countries on the site. Any looking to be an English tutor for the company needs a Bachelor’s Degree ,as well as a minimum of one year of teaching experience. The company hasn’t disclosed how many of its tutors are US K-12 teachers, but did reveal that its tutors include current and retired teachers, both from public and private schools, as well as home-schooling parents.

Notably, 2015-2106 data from the US’ National Center for Education Statistics show that out of the US’ teachers that work a second job, more than a quarter of them say that that extra job is either teaching or tutoring.

Tutoring with VIPKid doesn’t require much planning on the part of the tutor, as the company provides a set of slides that cover the lesson material for every student. Lessons are about 25 to 30 minutes long.

However, the company has been under scrutiny recently, following complaints from black teachers saying they experienced racial discrimination on the platform. One publicized incident involved Beatrice Carre-Alleyne, a black VIPKid tutor, who posted a video of a student calling her ugly and monstrous. She responded it by calmly asking the kid if hers was the first brown face she saw, and then gave her a lesson on the beauty of all colors.

According to a statement from VIPKid, in the occasions when teachers or students report inappropriate behavior, the company immediately deals with it on their platform, saying that company policy requires the review of all reports regarding inappropriate behavior, and take appropriate steps to deal with the matter, where necessary.