Earlier this week I mentioned James and Sallie Bishop, foreigners teaching English at a provincial university in China who have been told that they must leave the country because they have reached age 60. Background here and here.
Many things in China are true where they are true -- and untrue, or true in different ways, in other parts of the country under other circumstances with other local officials interpreting and applying the rules. I've received a large number of reports from across China, some recounting situations like the Bishops', others saying that there's no change and no problem. I'll start with these two:
First, from a young Westerner who has taught in China but is now in Europe as a graduate student. He says:
"Just a word regarding Mr. Bishop's situation. I am just hearing from two of my expat friends who have been teaching in Chengdu for 3 and 4 years each, that a new visa regulation is being enforced, which will force all but a very select group of people to leave the country for at least one year after having been there for 5 years more or less continuously. Whats that all about? Great teachers who like their jobs and would be happy to stay are forced to leave the country for a year? I don't want to know how many of them will find a job some place else in that year off and never come back."
Next, from someone who says there is no problem -- and indeed a market for older teachers:
"I read your article on the banning of teachers over the age of 60 in China and I just wanted to let you know that this is not true across the country. For years, we [a volunteer group] have been sending 60-100 teachers a year to teach in a number of universities in China and for the most part, they are retired, over the age of 60 and the schools are now saying that they should be under the age of 80! Many of the teachers we send are for short-term summer and fall classes, but many stay on for long-term teaching assignments. I suspect that they are watched closely to see that their characters are acceptable before the offers of longer contracts are made."
The reader goes on to offer a hypothesis about how Chinese officials have used age limits in the past as convenient excuses to remove foreigners. It raises sensitive issues, which I'll deal with in a separate post. On a constructive note, here is a reader suggestion about a group that has often placed older people in teaching positions in China: Teach For Friendship, which is based in Tucson but deals with teachers from across the U.S. and Canada.