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Working at a cram school vs working a regular school

Working at a cram school vs working a regular school

Cram school or regular school? That is the question. If you plan on working overseas you may have to decide between working at a regular school, or working at an English language school. I’ve worked at both, and talked to plenty of people who have as well, so I’ve made this summary about the positives and negatives of both to help you decide on your future work choices.

Cram School

These school are often advertised online as English schools, English conversation schools, or international kindergartens. Some may only teach adults, while others are designed for children and may have their own kindergarten section as well.

Most English schools are designed for students and adults who attend after school and work, so if you are not teaching Kindergarten, most cram school jobs start in the afternoon and then finish late at night. Most of my friends usually work from 1pm to 9pm. Some schools also has split shifts where you teach Kindergarten in the morning, finish at noon, and then come back in the late afternoon to teach adults and older children.  Some schools exclusively teach adults and business people, so it’s
great if you do not enjoy teaching children and teenagers.

Working hours and start times vary from school to school. So you do need to thoroughly read each job advert and ask plenty of questions during the interview.

Most working days vary from between six to nine hours, four to six days a week. Some English language school also adversities a lot of part time positions that may only be one day, or a few hours a week. This is great for students who may be studying during the day, and also great for teachers who want a second job in the evening.   

Saturday is also a popular day for English lessons so you may have to work on Saturday or Sunday with one or two days off during the week. I have met many people with Friday Sunday, Sunday Monday, Sunday Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, days off from work. Many people enjoy this because they can do many activities on a week day without having to worry about crowds. The majority of people are usually free on Sundays, so I recommend getting a job that at least has Sunday off if you enjoy socialising with other people.

Many cram school jobs do not provide payed preparation time, so you may be expected to prepare for all your lessons, mark homework, and write reports in your free time. This can be equal a lot of unpaid hours for new teachers, but after you’ve been working as a teacher for a few years you don’t need as much time to prepare. My worst experience with unpaid overtime was when a school expected me to do a lot of crafts with small children, mark homework, and write reports, all of which required far more overtime then just preparing lessons. I highly recommend asking about lesson planning time in your interview.

Most of the staff and English language schools can also speak English, and many school have rules about speaking anything but English in front of the students. It makes working in English easier, but there may be very few opportunities to improve your foreign language skills.   

Public or Private School

Unlike English language school public and private school are usually a little harder to get a job at. It can be difficult to find a job at a school without a degree, and some schools will only accept candidates who already have teaching qualifications and experience.

Most working hours usually follow the school day, so you may work something from 8am to 4pm, or 9am to 5pm.  Weekends are usually off with the exception of some school events that may be held on the weekend. You may be paid a set salary every month, which means that any extra hours you work may be unpaid. Like every job it’s best to read the job ad thoroughly and ask plenty of questions.

It can be difficult to get a job as a main teacher without any teaching qualifications in a public school, so you may just be an assistant. This means that you may still have to plan all the lessons and teach along with another teacher, or you may just help the main teacher during the lesson. Depending on the people you work with, you may have less control and input into planning lessons, and many English language assistants complain about being used as an English tape recorder who just reads the textbook for the students to repeat.

Many classes can be bigger than an English language school so you may find yourself teaching as many as 40 or 50 students at once, with or without an assistant. English language school usually have smaller classes without about 1-20 students on one class.

The advantage of working at a school is that you are often given time to prepare lessons within school hours, and your holidays may follow the school calendar which may mean plenty of time off school. Most private schools also pay more than working at a cram school, but they can be very selective about their candidates.

At a cram school, you may be working with other English language speakers, or people who can speak English, but you may be the only English speaking staff at a public or private school. This can be a little difficult for people who are not familiar with the language of the country that they live in and it can be a little isolating. But it’s great for people who want to immerse themselves in the language and culture of the place they live.  You may also have to participate in school events and spend time with the students outside of class. This can be a little irritating for people who just want to teach lessons and go home, but it’s a great way to learn more about school life and get to know your students well.


Over all English language schools are probably best for people who prefer shorter working hours, prefer teaching adults, and don’t need much preparation time for class. There are also more opportunities to speak and socialise with staff who can speak English, so it’s best if you want a more English speaking work environment.

Public schools are better if you want to immerse yourself more in the country and improve your foreign language skills. It’s also great if you enjoy working with young people. The working hours may be longer but it includes preparation time which gives you more free time after work. The holidays are also longer which is great if you plan to travel more around the country of your choice.

Recommended English schools

Kinderkids (only kindergarten)

Recommended assistant language teaching jobs

Great sites to find an English Language School Jobs

Know any other great school or place to find jobs? Feel free to comment below!




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