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European Classrooms vs. Asian Classrooms
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I'm With Stupid



Joined: 03 Sep 2010
Posts: 384

PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:39 pm    Post subject: European Classrooms vs. Asian Classrooms Reply with quote

I've read a few threads where someone is looking to come to Europe and they have experience in (East) Asia, and people have talked as if it's so different that they might as well have taught a different subject entirely. I can understand concerns about the quality of the schools worked for (even my school in Vietnam looks on experience from Japan, Korea, China or Taiwan with suspicion, and pre-CELTA experience anywhere is completely discounted), but I was wondering if anyone whose worked in both could elaborate on exactly what the differences are, and why their experience in Asia wasn't particularly useful in Europe.

I'd also be interested in exactly what teaching context in Asia would best prepare teachers for a European classroom. Would working for the British Council using the latest methodology be more useful than working for some Korean conversation school, or is it something to do with the students rather than the methodology of the schools?
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
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Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is quite a lot of relevant input here, though you'll have to sort through some bickering:

http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=94056&start=0

So far as schools versus students - the students are very different.

I’ve taught Asian students outside of Asia, and have taught in Europe for over a decade, so I don’t actually meet your standard of ‘having taught in both regions.’ But whatever - I will try to explain from my own experience how things are different here in general terms. Obviously there are many exceptions – but just as stereotypes generally hold a measure of truth, general info will be applicable to some degree or other.

I currently work with one teacher whose previous experience was in only Asia, and have worked with several others over the years. In a general sense, teachers with experience solely in Asia often haven't done well here, at least initially. Here are some ideas regarding why; they are not only my personal thoughts - this is an issue our teaching team has had occasion to discuss more than once over the years.

In Europe, pedestals for teachers are few and hard to come by. We are mostly perceived as service providers, akin to good waiters or possibly nurses at best, and burger-flippers or taxi drivers at worst. We do not receive any sort of automatic respect or status. Not that everyone needs this, but it does affect classroom dynamics and it’s useful for new teachers to the European region to be aware of the difference in how they are likely to be seen.

Most students in the European region have university degrees and many have post-graduate degrees. They work for international organizations in many cases and there is a huge percentage of people who speak more than two languages. Europeans are used to (and mostly comfortable with) multi-lingualism. They work with and meet people very often who speak other languages.

European students very often have specific goals for their language study. General English is sometimes a focus, but ESP is far more widespread. This means that students are more often focused on very specific goals rather than on general English.

It's also often the case that we teach at a relatively higher level across the board. Of course there are many high-level Asian students as well, but the percentage of students at upper-int and advanced levels here is greater.
This may be because English is more effectively taught in state schools than in much of Asia, and also because European students are quite accustomed to using foreign languages in their work/study/holidays. It's relatively rare to have beginner students unless one is working solely with new immigrants from outside the EU.

Given all this, European students are simply more demanding in many ways. They expect a good teacher to know his/her stuff, to be ready to tailor lessons to be tightly in line with a student's goals, and to give up the pedestal both in terms of respect (at best you're equal to your students) and along the lines of who has most control of what goes on in a classroom.
Most new classes start with a needs analysis -they will expect you to have some idea of what they might need/want, and they will expect you to be highly responsive to their input on plans for a course. They won't hesitate to complain directly to you and/or to managment if they are dissatisfied. Their time is valuable and they want to see/feel some demonstrable return for spending it with you. This effectively rules out the 'edutainment' that is popular in many segments of the Asian EFL markets (see the 'complaints' thread, General forum, artemesia's post, for a very nice explanation of this)


Last edited by spiral78 on Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9709
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gross generalisation alert!

Teachers vary hugely too. In many cases where I have worked with a teacher whose primary background was based anywhere in Asia, certain things stood out. In no particular order:

1. scanty knowledge of grammar and how to teach it

2. next to no idea how to teach lexis

3. fixation on teaching 'culture' and 'critical thinking'

4. few quals and very little training in EFL

5. limited ability in exploiting materials, especially course books

6. very teacher-centred classes (sky-high TTT)

7. unused to high level learners

8. unused to adult learners

9. problems grading language

10. unused to developmental observations


Having never taught in the Far East, I can only speculate as to why this should be - there may be very good reasons for these characteristics. However, the transition to Europe is usually quite bumpy if this is one's background. For all that, I can't imagine things would be so extreme if one's previous posts were in the BC, with CELTA training etc. So, I'm sure that would go a long way to cushioning the hard landing.
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I'm With Stupid



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your insights.

Hmm, from what you've said so far, it seems like I'm at the right school, because all of those mistakes are things I would get bollocked for doing (or not doing as the case may be).

There's definitely a distinct lack of high level classes in Asia. But I think having goals for English study is universal for adults. There's definitely an aversion to general English courses amongst adults (at my school). You even get people enrolling in exam classes with no intention of ever taking the exam, because at least there's a clear focus there. There's a massive focus on doing needs analyses for adults now because of this, and giving adults more control over what's studied.

I would agree on the grammar front. Most native teachers tend to learn grammar as they teach it, and so I can see why mainly teaching low level classes would be an issue when you turn up in Europe to teach an advanced class and they ask you a question.
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spiral78



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's not a massive number of teachers making this particular transition in any case.

Given the EU hiring restrictions that limit non-EU member citizen teachers to Central/Eastern Europe for the most part, it's mainly UK teachers who want to be closer to home who transition from Asia to Europe.

We get a few US/Canadian/Australian/New Zealanders turning up in Central Europe from Asia, but the relatively lower salaries and higher cost of living, and the need to pay up-front costs, and the paperwork hassles, generally make it a less-than-tempting proposition.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear I'm With Stupid

What you say sounds like you are well placed to continue developing as a teacher, like we all need to. Your place of work sounds as though it has the basics in place, at least. Bear in mind, my comments refer to those who spent god knows how long in universities or hogwan type establishments with little or no academic support. The lack of support shows very clearly when faced with a different learning environment, as they are not only totally unprepared for the new conditions, but had no idea that EFL was more than just 'oral' English clubs or 'human tape recorder' classes.

Incidentally, I too had to learn a lot of English grammar through teaching it. I am still doing so - even in low level classes, strangely. (What is the verb to be, really?) This is something we all need to do, and nothing wrong with that. But again, the types I have described have not even done the smallest grammar-related lesson in their whole career. They sometimes argue as to the efficacy of this whole notion, preferring to indulge in video and media classes or some such piffle.

Their new European learners generally put paid to any delusions quite sharply. These teachers either have to shape up or ship out even more sharpish. They usually don't last long.

In general, I tend to have some measure of sympathy for teachers such as this. It is not their fault they were never trained, nor given any support. But my sympathies lie more with the learners who need to be able to endure hours of poorly planned and executed lessons. European students do not do well in this regard. That said, nor do I when I am confronted with the occasional colleague or fellow member of the greater EFL community who supposedly worked or works in a Far Eastern university and looks down his nose at the lesser mortals who are gainfully employed in language schools elsewhere. I have very little sympathy at all for that type: head clouded with notions of academic grandeur, yet no trace of teaching ability or knowledge to be discerned anywhere.


Sasha
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Master Shake



Joined: 03 Nov 2006
Posts: 968
Location: Itabashi, Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MOD EDIT

I taught in Thailand a couple years ago after having taught in Poland. I taught upper-middle class kids and teenagers at a reputable, established K-12 school. I found Thai students:

-Expected a much teacher-centered classroom and quickly got off-task if I was not hovering over them.

-Needed a carrot and stick approach to tasks. Everything had to be made into a game or done for points or they wouldn't do it.

-Have a much lower standard of English in general. In Thailand, the highest level I taught was pre-intermediate. Here in Poland, I teach advanced teens.

-Parental involvement was absolutely zero. The mentality was that when the kids are in your class, they're your sole responsibility. Parents were only contacted in cases of fighting or repeated truancy.

-Everybody passed. Having a student repeat a level was simply not an option. Mixed ability classes were the norm.

-Cheating and copying answers were widespread and tolerated.

-Students just weren't as interested in learning English.

MOD EDIT
This was part of the reason I left.

I'm not saying every East Asian or even Thai school is like this, but many are.
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artemisia



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught mostly adults English language in both Asia and in Europe. Overall, my teaching experience in Europe is far greater than in Asia. I think the two are, for the most part, entirely different markets. However, as I posted elsewhere, a teacher with a lot of business and technical ESP teaching experience would be of value in Europe. It just seems that it’s far less likely that you’d ever have that kind of teaching focus in Asia from what I saw myself, and have seen with Asian job adverts.

The majority of what I did was with adults, but I did have a small amount of teaching experience with Japanese girls and boys. As I recall, many of the girls were eager to learn and often very bright and developed language skills quite rapidly. I found this to be less true of boys, but I don’t want to generalise too much about this because my experience with young people there really was limited.

In Europe, you’d almost certainly be tapping into the business English market and given this and the expectations of students, I think it would quite a difficult region in many respects to start out as a beginner teacher. Even if you’re experienced, transferring either way means you’ll need to rethink your teaching approach. What works in one region won’t be appropriate in another. With business Eng. you’ll most likely be dealing with highly qualified, multi-lingual clients who’ll not thank you for taking them away from their high pressured jobs if you don’t meet their needs and expectations. I didn’t really operate as a ‘teacher’ most of the time. I was more of a facilitator or even a colleague. I viewed a lot of what took place as an exchange of information (with me supplying the necessary English for whatever purpose) and that approach worked well for me.

I remember after a long stint in Europe I was given this “business English” class of mixed Asian nationalities. I was dismayed to find out that they wanted it to be “funny” and that “upper intermediate” no longer fit at all with my European understanding of what to expect at this level. I had to adjust back to a very different way of thinking and teaching approach – can’t say I enjoyed the experience very much because it felt like regression, not progression.
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hollysuel



Joined: 07 Oct 2007
Posts: 217
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught in both S. Korea for two years and Finland for 11 years. I found that teachers who had previous experience in Asia were more successful in Finland because, unlike other European countries, Finland is a silent culture like many of the Asian countries. So, there were techniques I learned teaching Asians to get a group of students talking and participating that worked just as great in Finland.

However, there were differences. In both countries, I taught in the students' workplace and so it was basically adult learners (I did teach children in Korea and teens in Finland, but it was not my main job.)

Here were the differences I experienced:

1. In Korea, students wanted to know about your credentials. In Finland, they could care less as long as you could teach them.
2. In Korea, it was impossible to successfully teach a class with managers and workers in the same group. The 'juniors' (who were generally better at English) wouldn't speak because the boss had to be the best in the group. In Finland, I could teach the CEO and secretary in the same group and it wouldn't matter at all.
3. In Finland, the students preferred a student directed approach whereas in Korea, they wanted a teacher centered approach.
4. In Korea, I was able to negotiate payment for travel time to the companies. In Finland, that is unheard of!
5. Koreans were generally at a lower level of English and the Finns were at a higher level. Koreans wanted to go over grammar and few Finns wanted to although they would.
6. Some of the Koreans were excited to be taught by a foreigner. The Finns were not.
7. Koreans preferred games and really needed practice debating and saying with they think. Finns need help on intricate small talk and conversational skills.

Similarities:
1. Worldwide--it seems that workplace English students will not do homework although they want to be assigned it. They genuinely want to improve, but their duties at work get in the way of actually doing the homework.
2. They all need confidence building!
3. They all need practice using vocabulary in their specific field.

These are just two countries from two different continents and only my experience...
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I'm With Stupid



Joined: 03 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 wrote:
Given the EU hiring restrictions that limit non-EU member citizen teachers to Central/Eastern Europe for the most part, it's mainly UK teachers who want to be closer to home who transition from Asia to Europe.

Yeah, I'm a UK citizen.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guessed that from your use ofthe term 'bollocks.' Smile
Threads such as this are hopefully read by many people - it's quite useful information all around. LIkely a few North Americans or others will stumble upon it and find it helpful Cool
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kona



Joined: 17 Sep 2011
Posts: 143
Location: Busan, South Korea

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thought I would revive this thread just to see if anybody would care to comment on how teaching styles differ between Europe and Latin America? How about the Middle East? I would think between Europe and Latin America, there would be a lot of commonalities, but maybe less so with the Middle East? Just a hunch...
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Europe" contains hugely different places ! Finland or Greece ? Portugal, Germany or Switzerland?
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And all dwarfed by Russia - just the 'European part' too.
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kona



Joined: 17 Sep 2011
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Location: Busan, South Korea

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
Gross generalisation alert!

Teachers vary hugely too. In many cases where I have worked with a teacher whose primary background was based anywhere in Asia, certain things stood out. In no particular order:

1. scanty knowledge of grammar and how to teach it

2. next to no idea how to teach lexis

3. fixation on teaching 'culture' and 'critical thinking'

4. few quals and very little training in EFL

5. limited ability in exploiting materials, especially course books

6. very teacher-centred classes (sky-high TTT)

7. unused to high level learners

8. unused to adult learners

9. problems grading language

10. unused to developmental observations


Having never taught in the Far East, I can only speculate as to why this should be - there may be very good reasons for these characteristics. However, the transition to Europe is usually quite bumpy if this is one's background. For all that, I can't imagine things would be so extreme if one's previous posts were in the BC, with CELTA training etc. So, I'm sure that would go a long way to cushioning the hard landing.


Ah scot47, as you can see, I'm looking for gross generalizations! Laughing

Of course there are great differences between the different cultures of Europe (Greece vs. Germany, Slovakia vs. Romania, France vs. England, Mel Gibson vs. England, etc), but in general, it seems that there is stark difference between teachers that build up experience in certain Asian countries as opposed to those that build up experience in European countries; hence, the transition from Asia to Europe can be difficult because the teaching methodology and expectations of students is different from where they once taught.

I'm wondering if others that have taught in Europe or are teaching in Europe have also known teachers that had jobs/careers in the Middle East or Latin America, and if so, did they have the same sort of problems that teachers with experience in Asia had?

Yes Sasha, the hand of the Vozhd does reach far...
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