OSCA China

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OSCA China

Teaching English in Beijing with OSCA is one of the best things you will ever do.  The sense of achievement, coupled with an amazing opportunity to explore China’s capital city and beyond, makes it one of the most rewarding ways to spend your summer vacation.

There were 7 Oxbridge volunteers running the OSCA camps in China in 2018. Being part of a small team allows you to form a close knit group and make lasting friendships. They were based in Beijing, in schools OSCA has been working with for over a decade.  The schedule changes from year to year. In 2018 there were was one amazing week of preparation/cultural immersion, followed by four camps (3 days long, 4 days long and two 7-days long camps).  The dates for 2019 are as yet unconfirmed but are likely to be similar to the 2018 dates, from around 1st July to 5th August.

We were based in one of the best high schools in Beijing. The Beijjing camp is a semi-residential camp (students go home in the evenings but volunteers live in the school).


The Beijing camps are designed for school students aged 11 – 14 years.  The standard of English is very variable (a few kids are almost fluent, but many can barely speak any English at all).  At the beginning of the camp all the kids are interviewed and placed in one of six ability-set classes of 20 students, and each teacher is responsible for one class.  You will either teach classes 1 – 3 or 4 – 6, so you will need to be able to tailor your lesson plans (10 lessons under one over-arching theme, e.g. celebrations; travel; media and communication - planned before arriving in China!) to the ability level of your classes.  You do not need to be able to speak Chinese to do OSCA Beijing - each class is assigned a teaching assistant (TA) who will stay with them in lessons and activities.   TAs are Chinese university students who speak fluent English, and as well as being invaluable for breaching language barriers (especially in the lower classes), it is really great to get to know them and see a 19/20 year-old’s perspective of China.

The kids are all lovely, and it is so rewarding to see how much their spoken English (and confidence when speaking) improves by the end of the camp.  Most of them are keen to learn and show off what they can do, albeit drawing, sports, or problem solving.

Structure of the day:

The camp day runs from 9am – 5pm.  Each teacher teaches the same lesson to classes 1 – 3 or 4 -6 in the morning, followed by lunch in the school’s cafeteria.  This is a chance to take a much-needed breather and catch up with the other teachers, or as you get to know the kids towards the end of the camp, eat lunch with them and get to know them better too.  After lunch, there is an hour of tutorial time (each kid writes a ‘camp diary’ whilst the teacher speaks to each student individually) which is also an opportunity to start practising for the class play in the closing ceremony!  This is followed by an extra-curricular activity (ECA - e.g. rocket-building, group games, tower building) – each teacher plans one of these and rotates through the classes over the course of the camp.  The day finishes with an afternoon activity – each teacher and the camp director plans an activity for all 120 kids, e.g. fashion show, disco dancing, British birthday party afternoon, sports day.  The afternoon activities are really great fun for the teachers as well as the students, and full use is made of the school’s purpose-built party room!   There is also a school trip for each camp: last year, we took camp 1 to Beijing Zoo and to an alien exhibition, and camp 2 went to the Old Summer Palace and to see Ice Age 4.

The Opening Ceremony – each camp starts with an opening ceremony where the teachers introduce themselves, before performing a pantomime (drag is a huge hit with the kids!) and teaching everyone the OSCA song – with actions - to the theme tune of ‘Bob the Builder’.

The Closing Ceremony – each class performs a play which they have written and practised throughout the camp, drawing on inspiration from the opening ceremony (inevitably involving a lot of drag!).  A photo montage from the camp is made and each student is presented with a certificate and a class photo taken earlier in the camp.

Seeing Beijing / travel in China:

During the preparation week, we had time to visit the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  On our days off and between camps, we cycled around Beijing’s hutong (the old parts of the city – this was incredible), went to lots of temples and practised our haggling skills at the many markets.  There were lots of opportunities to explore the city and surrounding areas, including after the school day has finished many of the days.

After OSCA, a group of us carried on travelling down through China to Hong Kong via night train (to Xi’An); plane (to Guilin); coach (Yangshuo and Xingping), and night bus (to HK).  China is an amazing country ; there is so much to explore and we barely managed to scratch the surface in one week.  The rest of China is so varied and so different to Beijing that I would definitely recommend travelling through China afterwards for as long as you can.  In terms of cost, flights were about £90, night trains/buses were £20 – 40, and hostels (which were amazing!) were about £3 – 5 per night (August 2013 prices).

If after reading this there is any other info you’d like to have about this project or about China, please email us.