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Is TEFL parasitic? If so, upon whom, and by whom?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3012
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 1:01 pm    Post subject: Is TEFL parasitic? If so, upon whom, and by whom? Reply with quote

I'm sure we've all been enjoying the "englishdroid" site - 3 cheers for JTT for posting it on the 'Interesting websites' thread!

However, when I opened up its 'the slavery of teaching English', what I initially thought was going to be a humorous take on things in fact turned out to be a serious article, and quite a sobering one at that:

(EDIT - somebody must've objected to englishdroid quoting the article in its entirety, because there are only excerpts there now. There is, however, now a link to the original article itself:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/3325192/The-slavery-of-teaching-English.html

Here is the link to the altered englishdroid page:
http://www.englishdroid.com/guestarticles/cresswellturner.html )

The implication seems to be that for all of us not working in the better TEFL jobs e.g. in universities, we'd do better to simply "cut our losses" and go become solicitors or something instead. I'm not sure, though, if working in (alright qualifying then working in) what I do consider a "parasitic" industry par excellence (legal practice) would make me feel any better (although, admittedly, I would be financially better-off, able to get a mortgage on an apartment in a swanky part of London).

What do you think the answer is, then, that would improve the situation for everybody (wanting to remain) involved in TEFL? The easiest answer, perhaps, would be for us all to become self-employed, private teachers, but this "answer" assumes that we'd all be able to offer something substantially better than what was in the textbooks our old employers/language schools were flogging, and that the price we ourselves would be charging - higher pro rata than the salary we received, but less than the total the employer charged before taking their huge cut - would therefore be better value (probably quite a few teachers who go private continue using - or would like to continue using!- the same or similar books to those which they were using before and are thus familiar and "comfortable" with).

I suspect that a lot of 1-2-1 does not actually offer very much beyond the increased opportunities for the student to talk, and the "motivational" study tips and exhortations of the teacher (usually not a keen language learner with any proof that they do what they say), so I don't myself offer private lessons (yet!).

Regardless of who we work for, "satisfaction" for everybody involved seems to come down to "knowledge paid for". If basic
TEFL training was of a higher standard (and lenghtier duration) and expense, the salaries would surely reflect this (otherwise, people really would just go and study law instead). And higher salaries would lead to higher student expectations, which might help force some of the jackasses out of their ownership/"entreprenuerial" positions (there they are, generating opportunities and wealth for you!). The biggest advantage, however, would be that the teacher would have a (much?) better idea of what to do, might see better results, and would thus feel more fulfilled (and not be looking to anyone else for help so much).

Perhaps the further qualifications available (DELTA, MAs etc) are meant to help the teacher at least, but the fact is, they are not always of much of a standard either, and even when they are, they do not command a substantial enough increase in wages to make them appear "value enough"; nor do they get the teacher out of and away from more narrow-minded bosses or back-packing "colleagues", into a genuinely "faster track" profession and career (for that, it seems you need a PhD, and I am sure I have seen several advertisments for English lecturing positions at universities in Japan where "any discipline" will do).

Basically, any vision and genuine concerns in TEFL are always brought firmly back down to earth by the stomping feet of clay of the bosses. Nobody, for example, is going to give serious consideration to (if even capable of thought rather than finances), or pay "good" money for e.g. an original and well-thought out approach - syllabus and derived methodology(-ies, depending on the language items). The temptation to set up shop and make a quick buck quicker is just too strong. It is easier to peddle the same old same old, with tacked on so-called "scientific" or "revolutionary" methods (not much mention of truly "social" dimensions - language, practice, relationships, interdependency etc) etc. Glossy pamphleteering helps "a bundle", too.

I found this part of the article somewhat amusing:

Quote:
The most objectionable aspect of this industry is not, however, the misery of those who work in it, but the posturing endemic to it. Typical of this is the pretence of professional credibility that surrounds the Mickey Mouse teaching certificate most teachers possess.

When, several years ago, I rang up International House in London and said I had a degree in French and Russian from Oxford and wanted to do their TEFL course, they sniffily told me that they might perhaps 'consider' my application . . . later. The admissions tutor for the Harvard MBA programme could hardly have sounded grander; whereas all that was on offer was a passport to nowhere.

So I went to the Hammersmith & West London College, where I spent a month learning clownish 'miming techniques' and making idiotic 'flashcards' (silly bits of cardboard with little pictures on them). Comedy was never far off. Several people on the course were barely literate, and one of them was not even able to identify 'I would of gone' as incorrect. As one of the coaches said to me: 'I don't believe in half of this either. But just play the game, get your certificate, and then do what you want.'

Every year, about 14,000 innocents pay £1,000-odd to spend four or five weeks acquiring a TEFL certificate from the two main examining boards that peddle them. I won't deny that I picked up the odd trick, but I wish I'd spared myself the hassle and sent off to Thailand for a fake certificate, as a friend of mine in Paris sensibly did.


Somewhat amusing, because:

-Catherine Walter had the same kind of response when she applied to do the IH Paris RSA course (even though she'd done a second degree in linguistics and French literature, in French, at the Sorbonne).
http://www.eltnews.com/features/interviews/012_swan_walter1.shtml

-At least one teacher I have met (and I believe it was also on a CTEFLA course) WROTE ''I would of gone', or something very much like it - he too didn't know that the sound 'of' was a contraction of the auxiliary 'have', even after weeks of studying verb phrases both before (in preparatory reading) and during the course. Confused (I think we can also assume he didn't spot any mistakes in e.g. 'Its scratching it's ass as opposed to it's head', the same as me - but I'd never have missed or written anything like 'He could of studied harder', either before and certainly not during or after a CTEFLA course. I must admit, my eyes bugged like this Shocked when I saw his writing! Laughing ).
http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=2719

-Buying fake certificates, whilst "excusable" for well-educated and qualified (e.g. degrees in foreign languages and linguistics) people who take a responsible interest in the job, read up on TEFL and grammar etc, doesn't in the end help distinguish the more from the less able teachers. The obvious solution would be to have people failing much more rigorous courses, that weren't so much geared to instilling respect for THE method as bringing people up to speed with a wide range of complex and often (just seemingly?) contradictory, that is, in a word, HARD knowledge.


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:24 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Scott.Sommers



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have written extensively about this and related issues on my blog at http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/the_efl_professional_project/index.html
but in brief…
Quote:
If basic TEFL training was of a higher standard (and lengthier duration) and expense, the salaries would surely reflect this

that is, unless the cost of lessons became so high that no one would bother taking them. Another way to ask this question might be to ask why students continue to be so satisfied with such substandard teaching. It may be because that's all they can afford.

Quote:
The biggest advantage, however, would be that the teacher would have a (much?) better idea of what to do, might see better results, and would thus feel more fulfilled

that is, unless the technology of English teaching is not really powerful enough to reliably get better results. And if it hasn't been reliable effective teaching that's been making teachers feel good, then what has it been?

The unfortunate answer to the English teacher’s problem of pay and status is that occupations are not paid well because they are effective or need loads of schooling or even because they are high prestige. They are paid well because they have been able to organize legal monopoly over their services.
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Lucjan



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 3
Location: France

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:47 pm    Post subject: "Is TEFL parasitic? If so, upon whom, and by whom?" Reply with quote

I notice an interesting parallel could be drawn here. Are the weaknesses of CELTA and DELTA a mirror for those in TOEFL, IELTS or Cambridge exams, but in teacher universe?

Now I know that's a slightly frivolous comparison, but these teaching qualifications are about as indicative of teaching ability as the English certificates are of a student's English-speaking ability... not very.

Would the article have been so pessimistic if the teachers involved were able to concentrate on teaching English instead of spending their time teaching their students to pass the previously mentioned exams?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3012
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Fri Feb 25, 2005 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott, I'll check out your weblog shortly, but for now, I'd just like to say:

The cost-satisfaction ratio is so skewed because bosses are taking such a large cut; that is, I don't think more well-qualified teachers would be as greedy, they'd just like to be rewarded and helped more (at least, not obstructed, as can sometimes be the case) in teaching (being expected and allowed to teach) with sounder methods, materials and OPTIONS. The basic training, and the basic "teaching is easy" mentality of especially the bosses that follows on from it doesn't encourage excellence or produce optimal results. So, students wouldn't necessarily need to pay more if a greater proportion of the money were going to more qualified teachers (to repay the teacher's educational outlay), rather than the often unqualified managers. Following this way of thinking to its logical conclusion, you might eventually have schools run on an almost non-profit/charitable basis by genuine teachers (which is what many teachers are prepared to do when they work in less affluent countries where it is the school that insists on making the profits, not the teachers - the teachers often accept local wages. You could even find quite well-qualified teachers prepared to take substantial "cuts" in pay - within reason - to continue doing the thing they love (some might continue to say 'the only thing they can do and therefore love', to perhaps justify low wages still).

I think the current "technology" reflects the limitations of the knowledge > options > vision. So much of the "vision" that abounds is, when you examine and cut through it all, just marketing blurbs designed to attract students with false (never entirely true or honest) promises simply to make money. The thing that's been making teachers feel (just) "OKAY" is their simply trying their best to make good on those promises; I doubt if there are many teachers who HONESTLY believe they are doing the best job they can, even after years of trying (desperately?) to expand on their knowledge, in order to increase their expertise.

I can see your point at the end of your post, but here's a thought: lawyers attract so much custom and get paid so well because, in 50-50 cases, at least one of the clients will definitely gain something over the other (and in matters where there is only one client, all that needs to be followed is established legal procedures - of which the lawyer is an expert - to ensure continued wealth or well-being). English teachers at present simply cannot guarantee these same levels of success (if we can accept that they are the ones who bear at least 50% of the responsibility for success in learning, whether in the classrrom or through directed learning at home, ideally with extra, tailor-made study and revision materials etc).

Lucjan, although the article didn't mention exam classes specifically, you have raised a good point. The examining bodies are simply another kind of boss (albeit an indirect or removed one), whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the student and promising everything (e.g. access to better jobs or university study overseas), but doing very little to nothing to make the teacher's job in actually providing any of the range of language and skills needed any easier (the very fact that an exam can test on absolutely anything, and often makes language processes seem much harder than they actually need to be, to "test" the examinees, all makes a teacher's job almost impossible - unless they just give in and just "teach the exam" by looking at the layout and general expectations of the exam itself. I wonder how teachers do much more than this reliably, unless there is e.g. a corpus of "TOEICese" or "TOEFLese" available somewhere, shedding much needed light on the idiomatic language of test item writers).
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Andrew Patterson



Joined: 02 Feb 2004
Posts: 922
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Sun Feb 27, 2005 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread seems to have taken a different direction to the post that I attempted to post, but couldn't because the site went down. And I haven't missed a week except last summer when I was in hospital for 5 weeks with a pulmonary embolism. (If anyone wondered where I had gone.)

I'll post it anyway:

Quote:
http://www.englishdroid.com
Occasionally very funny, sometimes very childish.

Irreverent humour, mmm. It reminds me a bit of "Istanbulsh*t" (substitute asterisk for "i". The program won't let me post the real name) - a free publication (paid for by advertising) aimed at EFL teachers in Istanbul.

The website is a little better written, though.

The title had the intended effect, and did offend the locals. For those who don't know, "Istanbul" is a corruption of "Islambol", which roughly translates as "abundent in Islam"; the title therefore not only insulted the name of the city, but Islam too. They were eventually made to change the title to "Istanbul..." (sic). Needless to say, the ever-present elipsis in the title didn't placate many opponents either. I don't know if the magazine still exists, I supose I should ask people who are still there. (Not that I really care.)
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Scott.Sommers



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fluffy, I can agree and disagree at the same time, since I think that we're talking about slightly different things. I doubt that operators would be willing to make the investment in commercial language schools if the profit margin were much less than they are right now, given that there are other places they could put their money. In the current system used for the exploitation of teaching knowledge, I doubt that there's much more money available as wages or salaries for teachers.

For most of its history, general education suffered from problems of poor working conditions and compensation similar to those often described among language teachers in commercial schools. It has only been in the latter half of the 20th Century, with the spread of universal education and the intervention of public teachers associations/unions that this problems has been addressed. This is a formula found in virtually every one of the occupation groups that we call professions. I can think of none where significant workplace autonomy and significant compensation have been accomplished without government intervention.

I am intrigued by the idea of language schools as cooperatives. This would bring language teaching closer to the professional model offered by Law and Accounting, where profit-sharing partners manage firms. I teach overseas where I doubt such an arrangement is practical for reasons I will outline below. Do you think that ESL teachers or EFL teachers in English-speaking countries would be willing to cooperate on this level for the long-term? Please share more of your thoughts on this.

Since there are no legal barriers to such an arrangement, I have to speculate that market conditions are what has inhibits their development. Very few people, outside of the public sector, actually choose to teacher language overseas. Most fall into the field or end up there as a result of temporary/permanent barriers to movement into the public sector. Subsequently, practitioners are often looking for a way out.
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stephen



Joined: 25 Feb 2003
Posts: 97

PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There have been some very interesting posts made by all. I'm afraid the key point is that is a lot of EFL employers do not want to pay for good, well trained teachers. In Taiwan, the benchmark for success in getting most jobs is being the right colour to market to parents followed by having a degree in anything, so you can be given a work visa. This is an appauling state of affairs, and unfortunately, I have known of people who suffered because of the idiotic belief that being white makes you better able to teach. Indeed, I have rung up to enquire about jobs and been asked my skin colour on the phone. (At least it saved me the time going to interviews with a couple of racist idiots.)

Things are further worsened by the fact that most schools do not want to pay anyone better qualified more. A degree in anything is apparently sufficient to teach. Add to this the fact that to teach EFL at a university any MA will do, and it does not appear that those recruiting are particularly bothered about standards.

Unfortunatelty, the biggest problem as far as I see it is that those doing the recruiting are not prepared to pay for people taking the time and trouble to learn how to teach.

Stephen
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lolwhites



Joined: 16 Jul 2003
Posts: 1321
Location: France

PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Unfortunatelty, the biggest problem as far as I see it is that those doing the recruiting are not prepared to pay for people taking the time and trouble to learn how to teach.


Either that or they're terrified that if they pay more for professionals who know what they're doing, they'd have to charge more and price themselves out of the market. It only takes one "Cowboy School of English" to bring everyone else in town down to the lowest common denominator.

Does anyone know of a case of a school that charges premium prices but grew because it competes on quality rather than price? The principle seems to work for expensive hotels, retaurants etc so why do school owners assume that all their students are money grubbing little weevils who would switch to a rubbish school to save half a groat? Could it be that the typical owner would take a farthing from under a dunghill with their teeth, so they assume everyone else feels the same way?

(Not Applied Linguistics, I know but hey...)
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Andrew Patterson



Joined: 02 Feb 2004
Posts: 922
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The principle seems to work for expensive hotels, retaurants etc


I think seems is the opperative word here, with the exception of famous chefs who either had their own TV series or who had to work their way up, the hotel and catering businesses generally don't pay that well.
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Scott.Sommers



Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Does anyone know of a case of a school that charges premium prices but grew because it competes on quality rather than price?


What exactly does 'quality' in English language teaching mean? I'm not convinced that even highly trained TESOL/TEFL professionals can answer this question consistantly, much less students in commercial schools. Try asking your students what this means. I think you might be surprised by the answer.

Incidentally, I have also written about this topic on my website.
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/2004/09/what_is_quality.html
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 7:55 am    Post subject: All of this sounds like.... Reply with quote

Good morning all!

All of this sounds like my inner discussion with myself this year on if I will continue teaching ESL or not in the year to come. At this moment I am debating over showing the original article that began this thread to my boss and just shutting up and plowing through the day, as I have a job and so many do not.

My boss once told me that he found it useless to start a business just to earn a salary. That was in reference to a girl from one of the failed academies in our town starting up her own when she lost her work in the closed academy. His comment made it all too clear that he was the one making the money here and that his employees were to be happy with the salary that he is willing to pay, in general about 25 to 30% of what the company earns for the classes. Private classes apart (and there are few private students in our academy), individual students do not bear this cost; rather, groups are charged according to how many students are in the class in order to insure that the profit margin is always at a 1 - 3 ratio.

One cannot deny that overhead costs are present and at times high. One cannot deny that creating the business, selling it and maintaining it is also a job that needs to be paid. Yet, one cannot deny that in the end, it is the teacher who is at the front line. That teacher, however, is always just considered as another expense in the equation, a little less expensive than the rent or the light bill, but never as expensive as the photo-copy bill.

When working at a langauge agency in New York in the '80s, it became clear to me, once I became "director of studies", that the language teaching part of the business was a "cash ready" plot, a way to be able to pay bills on time, as translations, which were the main butter on the bosses' bread, often paid late (corporations take a long time to settle invoices). Teachers' checks were never handed out until all the other overhead had been secured. Student satisfaction hardly ever entered the equation, there are millions of clients out there to sell to and choose from.

In my current town there are not so many to sell to. There are too many academies and competition is often fierce. For a couple of years the boss tried to face this competition by trying to create a firm staff. He screwed that one up by paying us poorly and this year by increasing class size, thus reducing class hours available, as well as selling huge blocks of hours without considering teacher avalability or the multiple holidays that were once paid and now in some cases are not. His best qualified (though underexperienced) teacher left to work as a secretary for mobile phone salesmen, the pay was better, the conditions were better, there was less demands, less stress, less all the bull that he was demanding from us for free. And yet the demographics put us between a rock and a hard place. I myself have seen three academies close in the four short years I've been in this town.

The curious thing is, when a teacher leaves one of these academies, directly contributing to its downfall, that teacher tends to start up his/her own academy with his/her students from that academy. One case involves a girl who, on leaving the work to start her own shop, took about half of the clients with her. The bosses don't seem to get the message, that it is the teacher who is in contact with the client, that the academy might be pretty, the administration might seem efficient, the price might seem right, but it is the teacher that the client is really interested in. So, why don't teachers build cooperatives and take the middle-man out?

Because the current legal situation in Spain does not allow such. Being a self-employed worker is expensive and complicated. The paper work would leave any ESL teacher's head spinning. The cost of hiring a solicitor to handle this paper work would make the prices sky-rocket. Some teachers who are struggling through immigration processes need an outside contract to insure their status in Spain. The time spent managing the cooperative would be a full time job that would end up making one teacher an administrator who would finally turn into just another boss. The idea might start out as a pretty thing but would become an ugly monster in the short run.

Well, don't know where I was going with all that, just know that the subject stimulated me to contribute a bit. Don't know if I have any answers to the problem, don't think so. Just the other day I commented that at least I would have a "job" for as long as I wanted it, even if I were booted into the street tomorrow, I could have sufficient private students to pay the rent in less than a week's looking. However, the drudgery is indeed getting to me. We'll see if I can get back to doing what I want instead of what I am told to do in the next year, my last year of forced working for someone else in order to be eligable for work and residency permits.

peace,
revel.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry if I got you thinking negative thoughts, revvers, but the post you produced as a result was very interesting! Razz

I'll reply at more length a bit later (actually, there are several threads I've been meaning to reply to for quite a while now...all in good time, eh!). Thanks to all who've replied on this one so far, anyway, and keep 'em coming! Wink
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stephen



Joined: 25 Feb 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
One of the most common justifications raised for why English native speakers are needed as instructors is that their instruction has greater efficacy. It is my impression that this justification is most often seen in two places. This is an extremely common justification among teachers who have taught in Japan. In Japan, there appears to be an informal, but well understood division, that language instruction be divided along racial lines. Linguistic content is provided by local instructors and communicative content is provided by foreign teachers. As a result, many foreign teachers whose careers are spent in Japan are under the impression that foreign teachers are necessary to teach communication. As I have said in other places, Japan is an extreme case. The reality of the world outside Japan is quite different. In fact, there is no place in the world where communicative English skills are taught successfully as a foreign language where teaching is done primarily by foreign teachers. There are highly effective locals teachers in Europe, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and I dare say Japan.


The above quote is taken from the link posted by Scott Summers.

An interesting piece, but one that is in places limited. It is true that being a native speaker does not mean you're a better teacher than a non native speaker. However, I question the highlighting of Japan as an isolated example as it has a pretty poor reputation in terms of student's progression in general and their performance on the major international EFL exams. However, while I'm sure there are some highly effective non native EFL teachers in Taiwan and probably in Japan too, I have to say that having worked in actual Elementary and High Schools in Taiwan as well as language schools (bushibans) the majority in Taiwan are not. Taiwan in economic efficiency terms has one of the worst EFL systems in the world. That is if linguistic progress could be evaluated in relation to time and money spent on it, it would not be a pretty picture. Rote learning and memorization are definately the order of the day amoungst many Chinese teachers. Indeed, I have seen Chinese teachers deliver EFL lessons with such low English content that it would have been quite an observant student that noticed any.

That said I do not believe that employing any foreigner will necessarily yield improvements although many adult students and parents seem to. The fact that the paying customers do believe this in fact makes the situation worse because of the low standard of many foreigners employed. In fact, many foreign teachers I have met here regard teaching English as a way of earning some money to fund their traveling or pay of their student loans whilst taking a paid vacation. The fact that in Taiwan, in general, schools are not prepared to pay extra for qualifications and experience has a predictably negative effect on getting a quality improvement. This also has the effect of discouraging teachers from making an inverstment in training and developing themselves as teachers. I, personally, have a cert.TESOL and quite a bit of experience. When I came to Taiwan, I was considering either doing a DELTA or an MATESOL; however, I am not in a financial postion where I can make the financial investment necessary for something which will certainly not increase my salary (in the case of a DELTA) and quite possibly will not (in the case of an MATESOL.) (Being in a position of financial pragmaticism, I need to be able to recoup the cost in the long term.)

To return to my point about poor quality in general coming from Chinese teachers, it would be an obvious question to ask why this is the case. The most obvious point would be the traditional approach of Confucian education. This, undoubtedly, leads to a situation where students listen (or sleep) whilst the teacher follows a test, preach, test format. One of the rationals for bringing in native speakers would obviously be in terms of bringing an improvement in terms of expertise and methodology. (I do not wish to get involved in a detailed attempt to define expertise as this would undeniably be a very contentious issue but, for the purposes of this post, leave it defined vaguely at an ability to deliver quality classroom performance.) However, this is undeniably not going to happen with the number of teachers on working holidays whilst backpacking around Asia currently teaching English here. (I might add that they are doing this on two to three times the wages of many local teachers.)

This obviously leads to the questions of first why are native speaker EFL teachers here and how can the Taiwanese education system be improved. The arguement for having trained and experienced native speaker teachers is that they do have a lot to offer in terms of providing better classroom practice than many of their local contemparies. As to improving the Taiwanese educational system there are several things to be addressed. One of the biggest problems was for a long time the government high school tests; however, these have been replaced recently with a system of tests called GEPT (which is also used by other test takers.) This system, whilst not perfect, is a definate step in the right direction. The training of teachers is definately something which will need improvement as will the administration of English programs. Having dealt with both Elementary School and High School administrators, I am speaking based on my personal experience. (I should add here that my experience is based on teaching in private rather than state schools although I have not heard good things about EFL in the state school system.)

The bottom line in Taiwan is that money should be being invested to bring in top of EFL personnel from abroad to train the next generation of teachers, and the way English is run in schools should be reformed. It is, however, very clear that whilst local English teachers could teach English well enough, they are, in general, not doing so. I am not too optimistic about the necessary reforms in terms of administration and training being made either.

Stephen
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lolwhites



Joined: 16 Jul 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the languages department I work in, one of the most frequently asked questions from potential students is "are your teachers native speakers". The answer is "not all of them, but they do all know how to teach." We've had bad experiences in the past with people who thought that just because they were a native speaker, they could teach their language. If anyone approaches me to ask about the possibility of taking classes, my first question is "what teacher training have you done?" and the second is "what experience do you have?".

I'd rather have non-native speakers who can teach than native speakers who don't.
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 11:37 am    Post subject: Compensation for Formation Reply with quote

Hey all!

Jumping into this debate again, I'd like to address the question of compensation for formation. I will, of course, illustrate my point through my current work experience, that is, a small private academy in a small town in Spain.

All of the teachers that my boss hires are covering hours that he has sold. Of these teachers, the vast majority have little cumulative experience as ESL teachers. I have 23 years of teaching under my belt and another has 18. Then we drop down to eight or nine years, and then down to "just getting started" or "a couple of years giving private classes". All of these teachers, despite (or because of) their formation, receive the same hourly wage. I have suggested to the boss that, certain teachers who have proven their capacity in certain teaching situations should be rewarded with a different pay scale, but he considers that unfair. He certainly does not consider it unfair to pay a highly-qualified, experienced teacher the same low, hourly rate as the newbie who he has to help plan classes almost on a daily basis.

There is, however, something of a reward in being the efficient, self-motivating and self-sufficient teacher. We get more hours than the others, but that reward is based more on how little trouble we cause the boss during the year (we are never sick, never need to be substituted for, never need to be told how to do the work or what work we need to be doing). I move my butt a lot preparing projects and special classes, and those efforts are appreciated but the only compensation offered is more hours of work, something that finally leaves the teacher with little preparation time, little time for grading exams, little time for anything more than being in the classroom and following the text. I have not been directly paid for any of the projects that I have developed, though when those projects are sold, I am first in line to teach the classes.

Last year, on my own, I did a special course on teacher training and adult continued education in the workplace. This year I refused to take another course of the kind. Though the course didn't offer me much news in the face of my own experience, it was indeed valuable in giving me a framework for preparing my projects under the European Community structure of such. And yet, having taken the course, having given my boss a copy of the diploma, which he then uses to lend prestige to his selling pitches, the only thing he can offer is the same wage he pays to any pawn off the street who is willing to take this or that class to earn a little pocket money, or more hours, which I can not physically or spiritually take on. So, there is no compensation, so why bother? It is not my job to make him see the light, he had to finally lose a teacher to realize that he was doing things poorly, but his answer was to replace that teacher with temporary people who will not directly help his business prosper. In the end, he complains that we teachers are more work than we are worth and is directing his attentions to sending Spanish kids to Ireland, Canada and the UK to participate in summer ESL courses. He makes a great deal more money off of those deals, as there is no one else but he collecting the profits. There is no payroll, there are no teachers demanding a more representative wage in relation to their work and dedication.

Soooo, despite the formation that any teacher might have, at least where I am working presently, that formation might only help open the door to having four or five hours a week at 9.62€ an hour and possibly more hours when another teacher quits because he/she has found something a bit more stable. Since the process is always first to sell the hours and then cover them with a warm body, any warm body will do, which ends up hurting the teachers who are a bit more than a warm body (so much warm body is because of the Artic Cold Spell we are suffering here these days....).

The closest I've experienced to compensation was in NYC, where in one prestigious academy there was a regular pay rise based on longevity in the academy. Naturally, if one were a good teacher, one would last longer and thus be able to take advantage of these pay hikes. Even so, the more qualified teacher was taken on at the same base rate as the recent TEFL graduate. We are, after all, not dentists or lawyers, we are mere teachers.

peace,
revel.
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