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MaRIHE Master thesis reader e-book 2015

English education reforms in China:

Effective practices, explored on the example of New Oriental School (Beijing)

Pei Min


The dominant role of English as a subject in school, the frenzy of overseas study, and the increasing demand of English in the job market due to internationalisation, all this boosts the popularity of English language education and the thriving of language training industry in China. Over the past 20 years, some language training schools become successful and gain national recognition in terms of teacher quality. Unlike traditional public schools, these private for-profit organisations adopt a complete different human resource strategy for teacher management, which is similar to the practices of Strategic Management of Human Capital (SMHC), which emphasises the vertical alignment between HRM and desired teacher competencies, and horizontal alignment within HRM practices.

Among all the language training schools, New Oriental School is the the largest and most influential private training company in terms of brand recognition, and it has the largest market share in foreign standardised tests training. (New Oriental Education & Technology Group, 2014) Being the leader in training sector, New Oriental has always been emulated at how to obtain, develop, and motivate teachers with desired performance competencies.

With the growing teacher number, to improve teaching performance competencies so as to assure the quality of teachers is crucial for language training institutions to survive and thrive in the fierce competition. In Beijing New Oriental School, a series of human resource practices are employed to manage teachers. Based on this example, the study attempts to probe into the whole HRM system and measure its effectiveness in improving desired teaching performance competencies. Therefore, the research question of this study is:

How effective is HRM practices in New Oriental School in improving desired teacher


To answer this research question, Competency Model and Model of HR Alignment (Heneman and Milanowski, 2011) is used to create analytical framework, and four sub-questions are derived:

  1. What are the desired teacher competencies in New Oriental School?
  2. What is the layout of human resource practices in New Oriental?
  3. How are these HRM practices aligned vertically and horizontally with desired teacher competencies?
  4. What is the actual implementation of these HR practices?

By probing deep into the one of the most successful training schools, the research work explores what human resource practices are conducive to teacher competencies improvement, and finds out the impediment of implementation. The author hopes to offer constructive recommendations for New Oriental as well as reference for other educational organizations in China.

From the Iceberg Model of Competencies (Spencer & Spencer, 1993) and UNIDO’S Competency (2002), teacher competencies can be classified into four aspects: teaching skills, teacher’s knowledge, personal traits, and teacher’s motive. Likewise, these four aspects of competencies are grouped into two categories: 1) visible competencies (teaching skills and teacher’s knowledge) and 2) hidden competencies (personal traits and teacher's motive).

According to the functions of individual HR practice, the study will examine HRM practices in three areas: acquiring, developing, and motivating employees. Recruitment & Selection is the HR practice for employee acquirement. According to the time a employee has worked in an organization, development can be divided into two stages — induction and professional development. In the analytical framework, each stage represents all activities or programs for employee development. Performance management and compensation mechanism are HR practices that are used to motivate employees.

As the whole study is to analyse the relations between teacher competency and human resource management, Model of Human Resources Alignment (Heneman and Milanowski, 2011) will be used to design and structure interview questions. Vertical alignment analysis
will be conducted between each HR practice and teacher competencies in the four aspects, and horizontal alignment analysis within the HRM practices will also be carried out. Additionally, actual implementation of the HRM will also be analysed as another dimension for the study to measure effectiveness of HRM on teacher competence improvement.


The empirical research in the study is interested in an in-depth study (exploring teachers’ perceived influence of HRM practices so as to measure their effectiveness on teacher competencies improvement) within an educational institution — New Oriental School. Therefore, the research strategy is a case study. From the size and position in the company, NA Department is the prototype of New Oriental School, and thus it is chosen as the case for this research.

This study is primarily qualitative in nature, and data is collected from multiple sources through interviews with one project manager, three HR representatives, and eight teachers in a 3-stage process. In the first stage, internal documents (i.e. Beijing New Oriental New Teacher training Handbook (2013)) are analysed, and pilot interviews with a project manager and teachers are carried out. In this stage, all interviews are more of causal conversation. The data is used to identify desired teacher competencies and to map out the whole HRM practices in New Oriental. After the layout of HRM is unfold, interviews with HR representatives are conducted to obtain detailed information on each HR practice. In Stage 3, structured interviews with selected teachers are conducted to collect data on their perceived influence of every HR practice and its actual implementation. Meanwhile, some teachers are also asked to describe each HR practice so that supplementary information for sub-question 2 is procured. The teachers interviewed in Stage 1 and 3 are the same, meaning that each teacher has been approached by the author twice.
After the data is collected, a transcriptive summary of all interviews are produced. The code categories were derived from the desired teacher competencies identified in Stage 1 within Teacher Competencies Model. The author first perused all the data, then highlighted relevant
text (paragraph or sentences) with color coding within each HR practice. With the help of MaxQDA 11 and Numbers, the data and codes are analysed area by area, practice by practice. Based on the analysis, the interpretation of codes in each HR practice is presented and certain conclusions are made.


Based on Spencer & Spencer’s Iceberg Model of Competency (1993), teacher competencies are divided into four aspects: teaching skills, teacher’s knowledge, personal traits, and motive. Teaching skills include all kinds of techniques and methods that facilitate effective teaching and learning, like to motivate students and to impart knowledge in a clear way; teacher’s knowledge refers to command of English and understanding of the subject as well as knowledge in other fields that enriches the course content; personal traits include personalities that are conducive to teaching, among which, expression ability is most mentioned; motive here means one’s love or passion for English and teaching.

The human resource management in New Oriental is comprehensive and consists of recruitment & selection, induction, professional development, performance management, and compensation. According to their functions, they can be grouped into three areas: acquiring, developing, and motivating teachers. Induction is an intense and demanding period for new teachers. Four programs (Course Auditing, Critique Seminar, Mentoring, and New Teacher Training) are developed to support the growth of new teachers, while three programs (Teacher Seminar, Incumbent Teacher Training, and Open Lecture) are used in professional development to assist their further development. Performance management and compensation system are closely connected to each other: Without basic salary, a teacher’s monthly income consists of monthly lecture fee, which, to some degree, is affected by Teacher Scorecard, and bonus, which is completely determined by Teacher Scorecard and Student Score Improvement. In additional, wage rise is decided by the whole performance management system.

From the purpose, content and teacher’s perceived influence, the overall HRM is vertically aligned with desired competencies, especially in the aspect of teaching skills and knowledge.

Most teacher interviewees conclude that their motive and personal traits almost remain unchanged throughout the years in the company. Horizontally, the system is also aligned mainly by performance management’s linkage with practices in compensation, induction, and professional development. According the Model of HR Alignment, the HRM in New Oriental should be effective in improving teacher competencies.

However, the actual effectiveness is undermined by a third dimension — action dimension: the actual implementation of HR practices. In this study, quite a few problems are exposed in terms of design, organization, and regulation of these HR practices.

The next section will further elaborate the findings in three areas.

Area one: Acquiring teachers

Via various tests to job applicants, Recruitment & Selection aligns closely with competencies in teaching skills, knowledge, and personal traits. With few HR practices aiming at improving or motivating teacher’s personal traits, the whole HRM system mainly rely on Recruitment & Selection to acquire teachers with desired personal traits.

Area two: Developing teachers

  • Induction stage is very intense with four programs held simultaneously for new teachers, and some teachers are overwhelmed by the workload. Auditing gives new teachers a complete course demonstration of an experienced teacher who they can learn from and emulate in the four aspects of competencies, especially in teaching skills, knowledge of the subject, and even personal traits. Critique Seminar provides feedback and suggestions for course preparation and class demonstration, which link with teaching skills and knowledge of the course. Mentoring offers customized couching that focus on course content and teaching skills, while New Teacher Training introduces company spirit introduction and outstanding teachers, which greatly improve teachers’ motive.

But there are a few issues in the programs implementation:

  • It is not a rare case that teachers get neglected in the induction. Some new teachers fail to participate in the programs because they are not informed.
  • Mentoring system is ill regulated. No direction or training are provided to mentors. Without reward or punishment mechanism, mentoring completely depends on the will and conscience of senior teachers. Therefore, how much a teacher can get from this practice rely largely on luck. Sometimes, a new teacher is assigned with a mentor that teaches another subject, limiting the mentor’s help. 3)New Teacher Training focuses on introducing company spirit and corporation culture, and little practical content is included. Its schedule always conflicts with some new teachers, who are college students in the last semester. This makes this so-called compulsory program ends up with not so satisfying participation rate.
  • Compared to induction period, fewer programs are designed for teachers’ Professional Development: only two are open to all teachers and they assist only a little in their competency improvement. Teacher Seminar provides a platform for ideas exchange on issues related to teaching and course content, which is linked with teaching skills and knowledge, Incumbent Teacher Training and Open Lecture concentrate on widening teachers’ knowledge in other fields and touch a bit on teaching practice. But most teachers improve competencies mainly through real-life teaching after the induction period, thus in general, they are not at all closely aligned with the desired teacher performance competencies.

Besides, there are also some issues in the implementation:

  1. Teacher Seminar benefits teacher little in improving competencies, and it is organized separately by subject-teams, but some teams barely organized (i.e. vocabulary team organizes only 1-2 times a year).
  2. Incumbent Teacher Training is effective in enriching teachers’ knowledge, but it is limited to a small number of teachers.
  3. Though opened to all teachers as a supplement to Incumbent Teacher Training, Open Lecture is largely ignored. Few teachers participate or even pay attention to it. Schedule conflict is the main reason for low attendance rate.
  • Area three : Motivating teachers

In the area of motivating teachers, all indicators in performance management are aligned with teacher competencies. Teacher Scorecard is effective in stimulating new teachers to improve teaching skills and knowledge, but its effect fades away as one teaches longer in the same subject, since their score is getting stable. As classes are getting smaller in accordant with the market demand, the reliability of Teacher Scorecard is challenged. Newly introduced Student Score Improvement effectively motivates teachers to adjust course content and add after-class service, but its data collection system is far from perfect and its corresponding bonus is lagging behind. Linking with principle of wage increase, contribution assessment has a bit effect in motivating teachers to participate more actively in some programs in development area.

Therefore, a teacher in New Oriental, once hired, grows quickly through various programs in the intense induction period, provided that s/he is not neglected and has no time conflict, and is motivated by Teacher Scorecard to continue improving desired competencies. But for further development, supports from the company is insufficient and ineffective. As s/he teaches longer and the classes gets smaller, motivation power from Teacher Scorecard gradually subsides. To continue to improve desired competencies relies largely on one’s self-motivation and personal effort.


Area one: Acquiring teachers

  • In Recruitment & Selection, besides teaching skills and knowledge, more attention should be given to the hidden competencies—personal traits and motive — of the job candidates. Personality test can be included in the selection process, and more situational questions for personal quality assessment can be designed.

Area two : Developing teachers

  • In induction, organizers or responsible persons for the four programs should communicate before they set up the schedule to avoid time conflicts and deadlines overlap, so as to increase the participation rate and lower the burden of new teachers on some specific days.
  • Hiring specialists and HR representatives for programs in induction should strengthen communication. Once a teacher is hired, his/her information should be forwarded to respective program organizers, in case any one gets left out.
  • Mentoring, as an efficient practice to cultivate new teachers, should be regulated by the department. First, mentor should be carefully selected based more on teaching skills and sense of responsibility. Department should guarantee that mentors teach the same subject as the new teacher in order to maximise the effect of mentoring. Second, mentors should receive guidance and training in terms of what and how to couch. Third, reporting system should be in place. For example, every time after the mentoring, whatever form it is, a report should be sent to a responsible person. In addition, a mechanism of rewards and punishment should be established, assessing the output of mentoring. A mentor should be rewarded for the couching time investment or when the mentees achieve high score in Teacher Scorecard for the first time. Likewise, senior teachers invited to Critique Seminar should also get trained and receive financial support.
  • Apart from company spirit and corporation culture, more practical content related to teaching and course design should be included in New Teacher Training. The weekly training can be organized during the evening rather than day time to minimise the schedule conflict, since most new teachers are college students in the last semester.
  • In Professional Development, a series of systematic programs should be developed according to different stage in a teacher’s teaching career: different programs or activities should be available for teachers in each corresponding year. For example, more programs and activities should be organized, such as experience sharing conference and competitions on teaching and oversea visit and training opportunities. In the second year, specific training should be designed. Besides, Course Auditing should be available to all teachers. This will encourage more senior teachers to prepare for new courses and improve teacher’s knowledge. At the same time, it makes mentor allocation easier when a senior teacher can teach more than one subject.
  • Teacher Seminar should also be regulated more by the department. For example, a minimum number of sessions can be set up, lest some subject teams fail to organise this gathering.
  • Incumbent Teacher Training should open to bigger audience, and the company should make sure that teachers with over 5 years of service have participated in this program.
  • Open Lecture should improve advertisement and adapt its timetable to the schedules of more teachers. Before inviting speakers or lecturers, a questionnaire on lecture themes should be issued to find out the most popular topics. To encourage higher attendance, Open Lecture can be listed in the contribution assessment, further strengthening HRM horizontal alignment.

Area three: Motivating teachers

  • A new motivation mechanism should be designed to replace Teacher Scorecard for smaller class and for senior teachers. Student Score Improvement should be introduced to other exam-oriented course programs besides TOEFL. But a reliable pretest system should be developed to guarantee the accuracy in reflecting students level. New Oriental can establish cooperation with ETS (Educational Testing Service) and co-develop a pretest paper, and invite ETS experts to introduce grading system. In addition, once the students score data is collected, bonus should be issued on time. The proportion of Contribution Assessment on pay rise principle should be enlarged to further boost its motivation power.

Future research

Based on the study, the author would like to propose some possible topics for future research.

  • The feasibility of this HRM system to be adopted for language teacher management in public education institutions.
  • Since few HR practices in the study help to improve teacher’s hidden competencies (motive and personal traits), it might be interesting to study on how weak performers in these competencies improve these areas.
  • As one interviewee contends that programs in induction are not necessarily conducive to a teacher’s final achievement, a follow-up research can be a comparison study on the final achievement of teachers who were absent in induction programs and those who were not.


Odden, Allan and Kelly, James A.(2008). WHAT IS SMHC? . Strategic Management of Human Capital . UAS;

New Oriental Education & Technology Group. (2014). New Oriental Education & Technology Group. retrieve date: 02-04-2015,source: New Oriental : http:// www.neworiental.org/;

UNIDO (2002). Strengthening Organizational Core Values and Managerial Capability. UNIDO Competencies. Vienna;

Spencer, L.M and Spencer, S.G (1993). Competence at Work: Models for Superior Performance. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc;

Heneman III, H. G., and Milanowski, A.T. (2011). Assessing Human Resource Practices Alignment: A Case Study. Human Resource Management, 50(1), 45–64;


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