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WARNING: STAY AWAY-- APOLLO HAI PHONG, VN
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EngTeacherAW



Joined: 04 Oct 2016
Posts: 1
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:58 am    Post subject: WARNING: STAY AWAY-- APOLLO HAI PHONG, VN Reply with quote

Warning to current and future ESL teachers: DO NOT work for Apollo English in Hai Phong, Vietnam

As a previous employee of Apollo English in Hai Phong, I cannot urge other teachers enough to steer clear of this center at all costs.

I am publishing here the free form comments section of my exit interview paperwork so that others might learn about the bad practices of this center and its leadership.

This is NOT a comprehensive list of problems encountered by myself or my coworkers. Almost every single teacher working for Apollo in Hai Phong had one story or another of varying degrees of them being screwed over by the company.

The amount of unpaid hours that the teachers are expected to work is unacceptable. While I do not expect to be compensated for all hours spent lesson planning or grading tests, teachers must also attend frequent meetings, trainings, Placement Testing, complete online reports for students, registers for every class with individual comments for every single student, be “on-call” and complete admin work, always be at Apollo 15 minutes before class, all of which is mandatory but unpaid work. It is not right to schedule a teacher for 20-24 hours per week of paid work only to fill up the rest of their time with unpaid work for the same job.

• Placement Testing is a particularly bad example as teachers are told they will be paid either for 45 minutes or less (if it does not take the full 45 minutes), however are scheduled for a full hour and a half knowing that if it takes any amount of time over 45 minutes they will not be paid. This means that the incentive for the teacher is to complete the PT in 45 minutes, leading to less thorough testing of students, who then are not appropriately placed, causing issues in their class (either because they are too high or too low for the level) and then they need to be PT’d again.

• In addition to unpaid work, I have never had a job before where I felt like I had to keep track of my own hours so closely because I did not trust my employer to do so correctly. Between covering a sick person’s class or having our hours change from week to week, I had little faith that Apollo was actually able to keep track of every teacher’s hours worked, leading me to meticulously calculate my hours on my own. This was only helpful to a certain extent as summer teachers were paid by the day instead of by the hour, so it was nearly impossible to calculate whether or not you were being paid the correct amount based on the pay slips sent by Accounting. This was also an issue in the event that a teacher’s recording of hours differed from Apollo’s recording of hours, whether for a monthly pay slip or an end of contract paycheck. Specifically, Apollo tried to cheat one summer teacher out of 80 hours of overtime due to Apollo's own mistake in the hours specified in the teacher's contract (their excuse being that the teacher should have noticed the mistake and it was therefore her fault).

• Operational issues seem to be constantly arising, whether it’s a computer in the Teacher’s Room that doesn’t have access to the server every other day, the printer that is constantly running out of toner, the charger for the Thang Long laptop not working, or being asked to begin work at 7am with less than 24-hours notice. There is always something that isn’t working or is going wrong that prevents the school and teachers’ days from moving smoothly. I applied to Apollo because I believed it to be a reputable company that held high standards for itself and for its teachers; however, after working here it is clear that the centers are not held to high standards at all and the teachers are often the ones left to pick up the slack in all areas.

• Any time there is a problem (e.g. the EC’s can’t find the PT materials for adults, students being placed at too high/too low of a level, having to go in unacceptably early to a partnership school because of their own scheduling mistake), the teachers are the ones who have to make it work/deal with the problem/accept the low or high student. There is zero support for the teachers when a problem arises, we are simply told to deal with it. However, if at any point a teacher makes one mistake, we are notified with an urgency and tone that implies that our mistake is ruining all operations and Apollo’s reputation. Teachers encounter all kinds of small hiccups in the daily operations that do not go reported because we simply deal with them.

The lack of transparency or honesty when interviewing candidates for a position in Hai Phong is also an issue. When I was interviewed I was told that I could “get anything in Vietnam” and that it could also be delivered to my door (an exact example would be getting kale delivered); that the health and dental care are very good; I was also told that Hai Phong was basically on Ha Long Bay (which it is very close, however, Ha Long Bay is still expensive and difficult to get to); and finally I was given the impression that Apollo would go to great lengths to take care of their employees and keep them happy.
Hai Phong may be the third biggest city in Vietnam by population but it has very little to offer western ex-pats by way of any kind of community outside of work, it is certainly not easy nor cheap to go to Ha Long Bay “every weekend” as I was told, and maybe you can get anything delivered in Hanoi or Saigon, but there are numerous things that you simply cannot get in Hai Phong (certain food items such as lemons, whole wheat bread, kale, spinach, or clothing and shoes that would fit a standard western-sized person to name a few). The position I applied for at Apollo was in Hanoi, however during my interview I was told Apollo was looking for teachers for Hai Phong. After being told all of these things about Vietnam and Hai Phong, it sounded like a place I could stay for 18 months, however, after arriving it became abundantly clear that it is not.
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rtm



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 998
Location: US

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This should go on the Vietnam board.
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dragonpiwo



Joined: 04 Mar 2013
Posts: 1544
Location: Berlin

PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:08 am    Post subject: sorry but Reply with quote

This sounds like any language school in the world.

I've been doing this for 21 years and haven't worked for 1 for more than 3 months in the last 19 years.
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 743

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In all honesty, I read most of this and thought, "That doesn't sound so bad..." It's kind of standard for entry level work in Vietnam. Apollo is an entry level organization.

I especially had a chuckle about the OP complaining about things not working in the office. Welcome to Vietnam, newbie.

And then there's the fact that the OP seemed to do zero research on the basic geography of where they were going. Like how far Ha Long is from Hai Phong... Come on, guy.

This isn't a report of a bad school. Just a report of a bad, lazy teacher imo.

Things like not being paid on time are what makes a bad school. Not complaining about the fact that you were too dense to figure out what the work requirements and unpaid work would be before signing the contract.
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skarper



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 473

PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm on the fence on this one.

While the OP seems to be a fresh face to EFL in Asia and shocked by a lot of stuff that is merely par for the course Apollo has a fair reputation and a lot of the stuff in the complaints jars with that. They should get your hours right at least most of the time. That said I would log mine right from the get go. Trust but verify.

Once upon a time I worked for a branch of Apollo [briefly] and felt it was a poor centre. I was new to Vietnam at the time and was hoping for better but now I realize a lot of the shortcomings are due to market pressures. I just don't think it is possible to run a good EFL program in Vietnam, especially for adults. The parents/students cannot pay the price needed. The BC is supposed to be good but I know it is beyond the reach of nearly all Vietnamese. If you are trying to make it affordable for middle class professionals and their kids then you have to cut corners. You hire underqualified and inexperienced staff. You don't do any training. You skimp on resources [at Apollo our photocopier jammed every few sheets and it took 2-3 copies to get one which was readable over the whole page] The computers were slow and with power cuts frequent it was nearly impossible to get any work done.

It was a fairly new centre and had no resources at all. Nada. You had your copy of the coursebook, a photocopy of the teacher's book and that was it.

So while some of the OPs issues are to do with not doing his research and trusting the interviewer too readily it is worth alerting people to Apollo's patchy and deteriorating performance.
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Mattingly



Joined: 03 Jul 2008
Posts: 229

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Apollo is a lower-tier, fleabag, rip-off language school.

In Hanoi they specialize in getting ignorant people from *outside* Vietnam to come on very low paying contracts.

Bad reputation.

I believe they are owned by an insurance company.

The bean counters will always try to cheat you.


Avoid.
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BenE



Joined: 11 Oct 2008
Posts: 321

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One issue to remember is that Apollo is an English center that is for entry level teachers. (CELTA and maybe or maybe not an extra year of teaching) It's paying the lowest fixed term contract but it is offering a work permit and security and if you do complete a contract there then other institutions take notice as they know there are a lot of 'extras' the place requires their teachers to do.

I never did a year at Apollo but know that people who survived the year or more there were able to move on to better jobs.
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cb400



Joined: 27 Sep 2010
Posts: 274
Location: Vientiane, Laos

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a typical ESL position in Vietnam, made worse by the fact that Hai Phong is a dump... even by Vietnamese standards.
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 743

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cb400 wrote:
Sounds like a typical ESL position in Vietnam, made worse by the fact that Hai Phong is a dump... even by Vietnamese standards.


Yep... It's a bit of perfect storm. Your typical level of Vietnamese management, coupled with the fact that Hai Phong is the most corrupt city in Vietnam, with a bright-eyed, newbie teacher who thinks coming to teach ESL in Asia is going to be a fun vacation.

I'm not saying that doing unpaid work is a good thing. But if I was looking into a job, the first thing I'd ask for would be a detailed job description and expected duties. I cannot fathom why so many fresh off their TEFL teachers don't bother with reading their contracts or looking into what the expected job duties are.

Teaching English is a job. If you're thinking that you're somehow doing the school a favor by working for them instead of the other way around, you're going to have a melt-down such as the OP has had.
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skarper



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 473

PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do understand why new recruits don't grill their interviewers before taking a job.

They want to get hired for one thing.

Secondly, the contract rarely states how many hours of non-teaching work are required - the answer is in fact "as many as we can get you to do".

If you do push for answers you will get lies or evasive answers. Any promises you get will not be written in to your contract so it's moot. If you come across as 'difficult' they will usually hire someone else.

What an employer wants above all is compliance.

The better employers [and Apollo is not one of them] will treat their staff well in the hopes of retaining/recruiting motivated professionals who will in the long term secure and grow their business.

Alas, most don't look that far ahead.
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Mattingly



Joined: 03 Jul 2008
Posts: 229

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

skarper wrote:
Secondly, the contract rarely states how many hours of non-teaching work are required - the answer is in fact "as many as we can get you to do".


That's why I avoid signing contracts.
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 743

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

skarper wrote:
I do understand why new recruits don't grill their interviewers before taking a job.

They want to get hired for one thing.

Secondly, the contract rarely states how many hours of non-teaching work are required - the answer is in fact "as many as we can get you to do".

If you do push for answers you will get lies or evasive answers. Any promises you get will not be written in to your contract so it's moot. If you come across as 'difficult' they will usually hire someone else.

What an employer wants above all is compliance.

The better employers [and Apollo is not one of them] will treat their staff well in the hopes of retaining/recruiting motivated professionals who will in the long term secure and grow their business.

Alas, most don't look that far ahead.


I can't speak for other schools, but as someone who does the hiring at my current school, I mark it as a positive if they are smart enough to ask questions about the job duties before signing a contract.

Every job interview I've ever attended has had a time where the interviewer asks if you have any questions. If they haven't already covered it in the interview, this would be the perfect time to ask for more information on what your job duties are outside of teaching.

A decent school will have an outline of the required job duties within their contract as well. As a potential employee, it's your responsibility to read it over and ask for any follow-up information on things you don't understand.

Anyone who signs the contract without asking too many questions just to land the job is setting themselves and their new employer up for disappointment.
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skarper



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 473

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you don't want to say where you work Expatluke but I suspect it is an atypical school/centre.

I'm not saying it's a good idea, but I do see how it happens.

EFL is an open profession. Almost anybody can get their foot in the door, including some deeply undesirable types. Some become excellent teachers. Many not so much. A lot of people coming into EFL have very poor qualifications and irrelevant [if any] experience. You get disillusioned graduates of all subjects. Some do far better than the more obvious graduates of applied linguistics or English literature.

You never can tell. I'd never have got a look in if EFL weren't so wide open, so I try to cut the newbies some slack. They won't all make good but some might. They deserve a chance.

What I would like to see is more teachers in charge of schools. Too often you have some borderline crook with a background in god only knows what running a school. They don't even have a clue what to do beyond count the money and skimp on wages, materials, etc.
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 743

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That all strikes me as a little jaded, but sadly true of most of the EFL world.

I'm lucky in that I work at a place where I feel valued. I suppose I do forget that it's not the norm in Vietnam, and that a lot of the newbies come expecting more than what's realistically attainable.
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skarper



Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 473

PostPosted: Sun Oct 16, 2016 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jaded about sums me up. I used to be an EFL zealot. Now I just try to make a living while doing no actual harm. Perhaps that'll change if circumstances do.
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