The TEFL Blame Game – redux

16 Feb

So we take a look around us and we see that everything in the world of TEFL is not good.  We ask ourselves, how did we ever get into such a sorry state? Who is to blame?  Who can we rant and rail against?  Who can we throw cream cakes / pies / rocks at?

So here are three scenarios:

(1) Francis pays 150 euros and gets online access to a TEFL training course.  He completes the assignments and is awarded a TEFL certificate.  He uses the the website jobs boards gets a job teaching in Asia and off he goes.  The school he works at pays him €800 a month with an immediate start and a ten month contract, but deducts part of that salary for accommodation costs and makes him pay a materials fee deposit, which he probably won’t get back.

(2) Hadley pays €1500 euros for a 4 week CELTA course.  She completes the assignments and passes the teaching practice.  She has a few issues during the course and has to resubmit once or twice but comes out of the course with a C grade.  She talks to the tutors at the centre and gets a job at a language school in bailout Europe at €1000 a month (on probation) on a nine month contract.

(3) Andriy did an undergraduate degree in English with his university and went on to do a Masters in linguistics.  He applied for a language teaching job but was then told he needed to do a CELTA (or equivalent) which he did.  Total cost is somewhere around €10,000 – but it’s difficult to be precise.  Andriy is now on the equivalent of a zero-hours contract at a rate of €10 per hour.  He probably works around six hours a week on average – at least in that particular school.

Which of these people would you hire?  Now take a look around your teachers’ room – what proportion of these people can you see in your staff room?

(Caveat – all of these scenarios are set within the private language sector and don’t consider the millions of people who teach English within their state sectors.  Sorry.  It’s not to exclude you exactly, and if you’re reading this and want to let me / us know what it’s really like for you – please do!  I would welcome the input and insight.)

Alex Case identified a quite considerable set of people who are to blame for the state of ELT in his original post “The TEFL Blame Game“.  And in so doing prompted this post….   (so you know who is to blame…!)  But he in return was reacting to the discussion that followed on from an ELTJam post about the state of ELT.

The ELTJam post was provocative.  Basically it said – don’t bother doing proper training to be an ELT teacher, you probably don’t need it anyway and it’s not worth it unless you’re sure it’s what you want.  It generated quite a lot of comment from quite a lot of people who think a lot about ELT.  Guys, you got suckered.  You were the wasp’s nest and you got poked with a stick.  But also – fair play to ELTJam for actually calling us all out; we are the emperor and we are not wearing very much!

What neither ELTJam nor Alex Case mention is “the market”.  And it is the market that is ultimately to blame for all of this.  We can argue from here to eternity about whether a native speaker has the same value as a non-native speaker.  We can argue about the value of standards and the extent to which qualifications are important, but because we are talking about the private language school sector, we are talking about market forces.  And as such, none of our much vaunted professionalism matters.  What matters is supply, demand, price and quantity.  This is economics, not education.

supply-demand

If my school does not have enough students walking through the door and signing up for lessons, then I have no job.  My school wouldn’t be able to afford me.  Schools brand and market themselves based on the product they seemingly deliver.  I have been in a teachers’ room, planning lessons and have been interrupted by the school director showing potential clients around.  The message on the surface was “And this is where our teachers work” but the subtext was “look, they’re all English!”.  We were being branded as high quality, professional language teaching provision (we were wearing ties).

There are any number of reasons why the TEFL game is unfair.  Probably, chief amongst them is the erroneous belief that we are a profession.  We aren’t.  When a school markets what it provides – what do you see on the advertisement?  We are the product – not the classes we teach, but us.  The teachers.  And if we are the product, then this helps to explain the shocking lack of parity between the highly qualified Andriys of the world and the Francises.

Like many of you reading this, I find this realization somewhat depressing.  I quite like the idea of myself as a highly qualified professional.  I believe I have a value beyond that of my salary.  I believe that I give extra value to my students as a result of my years of experience and training.  But the sad truth is that I could quite easily be replaced tomorrow.  Actually, my DoS might need a week or so to find a suitably qualified (CELTA +min. 2 years experience) candidate, but they would be cheaper than I am and they would probably have more to prove.

To go back to our original scenarios:

The school that hires Francis isn’t interested in the quality of his teaching.  What they want is a native speaker who knows just about enough not to damage the students and who doesn’t know enough to be able to complain about the working conditions or materials.  One former colleague who was freelancing told me that the only question he ever got asked by some of the schools he worked at was “Do you have your own materials?”  His reply was “Yes, do you have a working photocopier?”.  This is the “pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap” model of language teaching.  Offer lower prices, don’t market the quality but market the foreign teacher, get enough students through the door and milk all concerned for as much as you can for as long as you can.

Hadley is probably luckier in as much as the school that has hired her clearly has an interest in the quality of language teaching that they provide.  As such, they have an interest in helping her to improve the quality of her teaching and no doubt she is subjected to observations, development courses and regular seminars.  Hadley is an example of the attempt that TEFL makes to be professional.  The industry found it had a problem with too many people teaching English without any idea of what that entailed.  Schools that believed in delivering high quality language provision came to realize that this meant they had to train their teachers to teach effectively.  Thus in 1962, John and Brita Haycraft launched the International House Certificate, which eventually became the CELTA.  But make no mistake, what is now a “professional standard” has its roots in quality control.  What the CELTA offers is not necessarily any better or worse than any other language teaching qualification, the content of the courses is probably mostly the same, though delivery modes might vary.  What the CELTA offers has nothing to do with the teacher holding the certificate, because the certificate isn’t for the teacher.  It’s for the Director of Studies who wants to employ them.  The CELTA is a guarantee of standards – it says that the bearer knows these things and can do those things.  It meets tests of validity and reliability that other qualifications might not.

It is Andriy that you have to feel sorry for.  Andriy started learning English when he was ten and went on to dedicate six years of his life to learning all about English – he can parse a sentence in a heartbeat and can describe the sociolinguistic appropriacy of a rogue collocation at the drop of a hat.  All this knowledge doesn’t let him teach English though, for that he needs a CELTA.  So having sat through four weeks of native speakers not knowing the difference between “must” and “have to” and having passed the course, Andriy then finds that because he’s not English, he can’t get a full-time job anywhere within the private sector.  For the record, I would like to categorically state that if you have the qualifications and experience then I see no reason why the nation of your birth should make any difference.  However, I have yet to see that in practice.  Mostly, I see non-native speakers either co-teaching classes with native speakers or only teaching lower level classes.  Non-native speakers get a very raw deal in the private language sector – to find out more about how you can help change that, visit http://teflequityadvocates.com/.

Andriy and Francis are opposite ends of the scale, but both point to the reason why TEFL has no right to call itself a profession.  No matter how professional people within TEFL try to be, it is a business, it is an industry, and it operates according to economic principles, not pedagogical ones.  And as long as students pay money to come to classes, that is unlikely to change.  So if you really want someone to blame for the state of ELT?  Blame the market.

 

 

 

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31 Responses to “The TEFL Blame Game – redux”

  1. paulwalsh Monday 16 February 2015 at 14:41 #

    There’s no such thing as a ‘free market’ – it’s a complete myth.

    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/aug/29/ha-joon-chang-23-things

    It doesn’t drop like manna from heaven – the market is created by humans. And if the market is created by humans we can change it.

    This is the same argument trotted out when they tried to prevent workers getting the 8 hr day, or stop children going down mines – all-powerful “market forces” should prevail. It’s the same argument used to prevent bank regulation – banks can regulate themselves, let “market forces” prevail. If supply and demand curves, and cycles of equilibrium work so well – why did the whole financial system collapse in 2008?

    The ‘market argument’ is mental shorthand – this is not a comprehensive explanation of why the ELT industry is in the state it is. It’s far too simplistic.

    Why is the market different in different sectors of the economy? Because other workers have institutions to protect their interests.

    We don’t.

    Your analysis overlooks the importance of constraints on the market. Germany has one of the biggest union movements in Europe, and surprise surprise – one of the few economies that’s actually growing. Unions that protect workers can actually be good for economies.

    ELT is a race to the bottom because we have no one to look after our interests.

    Don’t blame the market: blame the (lack of) institutions.

    • David Petrie Monday 16 February 2015 at 15:55 #

      To be fair Paul, I don’t think I said it was a free market situation. A free market, theoretically at least, allows for free movement of goods and services and efficient distribution of resources. This is clearly not the case in TEFL, especially when you have language schools that are subsidised by governments, who see them as projecting soft power around the world, competing with those that are trying to compete on quality and price, and in many cases both of these competing with state provision of language teaching, which acts outside the concept of any market.

      Equally, I’m not suggesting that market forces “should” prevail, simply that market forces explain a lot of the situation that ELT finds itself in. I very firmly believe in the rights of teachers to expect and work within proper working conditions and to be fairly rewarded for their labour (see some of my earlier posts on the topic such as this one: https://teflgeek.net/2012/05/29/can-you-have-a-normal-life-and-work-in-elt/). I apologise if I have given the wrong impression.

      My point is simply that in a system where students can choose teachers and schools freely, as they can in the private language sector, then price and quality are both a factor in the decision making process. Some students may simply choose a more expensive language school because of the social cachet it offers, a bit like buying a Mercedes as opposed to a Volkswagen. Some students may not have the financial resources for more than the cheapest language schools available. These are, at least in part, economic decisions. Not pedagogical ones.

      I would welcome a union of ELT professionals who act in our interests and help to raise the standards of the profession. It is a thought I have had for some years – perhaps, if you’re willing, we could start one? But I suspect that even if we did have an international union protecting our working conditions and fighting for fair pay, there would be those who would chose to teach outside these constraints and would populate the low end schools on the backpacker trail regardless.

      All the best,
      David

      • paulwalsh Monday 16 February 2015 at 18:59 #

        Hi David,

        Then I really don’t understand your argument then. Are saying the the ‘economic system’ normally runs perfectly, but TEFL is some kind of market imperfection? If you are, then this is the same economic reasoning that is in serious crisis post-2008. Even economics students want changes in how they are taught:

        http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/04/economics-students-overhaul-subject-teaching

        I think blaming the market for the state of ELT is like blaming umbrellas for rain – you’re looking for causes in the wrong place (though the market is a factor). It’s too simplistic.

        I mean I find it hard to see how “market forces” explain anything really? Of course learners make decisions based on price etc., but what’s the connection between this and the state of ELT? The hidden premise in your argument seems to be ‘it’s the market’ – so let’s not do anything.

        Like I said the ‘free market’ is a myth, as the Cambridge educated economist Ha Joon Chang says:

        “The free market doesn’t exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free because we so unconditionally accept it’s underlying restrictions that we fail to see them. How ‘free’ a market is cannot objectively defined. It is a political definition. ”

        Surely, some of the blame falls on institutions. We have organisations like IATEFL but they will not even countenance a conversation about ‘working conditions’. Don’t blame the market – blame the institutions!

        Yes, I would be interested in some kind of union! But it would take a change of mindset, away from ideas like ‘blame the market’.

        We have to believe that we can change things.

    • Dave S Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 15:29 #

      Paul,
      I am afraid that you might be missing David’s point, and it is a crucial one, because I suspect that reading your comments here and elsewhere, you are (understandably) seeing it primarily from the position of a teacher. In addition, possibly of a teacher who, like myself for many years, did not differentiate between teaching as a profession in the state sector, and teaching as a job in the private sector.

      Here is the crucial point. The private ELT industry repsonds to the market, not to best pedagogical practice. Period.

      To give you some background to the points that follow, my teaching career inclues the following: 1) UK “New University” post-grad researcher/teacher. This Uni was winning national awards for its Educational Methods research and I was lucky enough to get a love of teaching from the staff in that Unit 2) PGCE (Oxford), 3) Secondary school teacher (UK), 4) CTEFL (or was it CELTA first generation I can’t remember), 5) Teacher/Teacher Trainer/Head Teacher/DOS (in that order) at very large private educational institution in Asia, 6) full-time teacher at private secondary school in Asia, 7) freelance teacher, 8) school owner and now finally, my hat has come to rest as 9) a small business owner in Asia dealing with all things “UK”, from freelance teaching through language consultancy to homestay programs.

      I have been committed to giving students the skills they need to be able to improve their language ability ever since I set foot in Asia over 20 years ago becuase I, like you I suspect, believe that students are getting short-changed by the ELT industry; I have seen great teachers, abysmal ones, excuses for teachers, excuses for schools, both state and private educational establishments whose teachers do not deserve the title etc ad infinitum. I was constantly and unfailingly promoted within insitutions, in short timeframes, becuase of my desire to improve the quality of teaching, and my apparent ability to identlfy shortcomings in the systems around me, and offer ways to solve problems therein.

      However, I chose to leave all of that and downsized myself.

      Why?

      I began to see that it was really market forces shaping the decisions being taken at educational institutions rather than pedagogical ones, just as David says.

      The more I looked, the more and more obvious it became. And depressing as it seems, regardless of any attempts to create either barriers to entry or permanent tenureship for employees, is unlikely to ever change.

      Why?

      The private sector educational industry (PSEI) is just that; an industry. It has no desire nor need, no requirement to ensure that the population are able to communciate in English. No, it is none of those things.

      It is though, there to meet a need. And that need comes not from the teachers, not from governments, not from the institutions themselves. It comes from the (I hate this word)….. the customers.

      You suggest there is not such thing as the free market (the link you gave has precious little to do with ELT by the way) yet I’d like to add a slant to this, for even if you believe that financial institutions are not “free”, there is a very visible free market on view on every street corner, every day here in Asia at least.

      It is the free market of the purchase decisions made by the “customers” of the ELT industry.

      I have seen tens of thousands of people walking in through the doors of the PSEI and all of them have one thing in common, they have a “basket” of disposable income, a myriad of choices of how they could use that “basket”; are shopping to try and work out how to use that basket to educate themselves or their children, and a million and one businesses all looking to be the ones to empty some of that basket into their own school’s coffers.

      And here is the really crucial point as to why the ELT industry resonds to that market more than best pedagogical practice.

      There is no PSEI in the world that can guarantee students anything more than “getting better at English”. They cannot guarantee being called to the Bar, getting membership to the BMA, to the Institute of Chartered Thingamiwhatsists or Association of Professional Whojyamaflips. They can offer nothing more than the possibility of getting a bit better at English. They have nothing concrete to sell.

      And when you have nothing concrete to sell, nothing standardized, nothing unique, nothing that cannot be gotten elsewhere by other means, you cannot hope to regulate your industry to maintain and improve standards; it is a non starter. There are too many people offering too many alternative delivery systems to regulate it.

      The BMA is not a free market, neither is the Bar, not the Institute of Chartered…. well, you get the point, there are barriers to entry and absolute standards to be maintained. If that is your industry, you are on to a winner!

      ELT though. Oh, that is responding to the market that is the customers purse strings, and will forever be, a free market, full of great / abysmal teachers and great / abysmal schools.

      • paulwalsh Thursday 19 February 2015 at 20:56 #

        But Dave – you’re just talking about customers and ‘demand’ – what about supply?

        Let’s just suppose that there was a way of making the initial training course more difficult or longer. Like other people have commented here – the 4 week CELTA qualification is perpetrating this whole system – it’s a supply NOT just a demand problem. Why not make the Diploma the ‘entry qualification’?

        Then we would have some kind of ‘professional closure’. This would definitely affect the ‘market’. Schools wouldn’t be able to find enough teachers, some schools (e.g. cowboys) would go under, wages would rise. Isn’t this what happens in a normal market?

        And I find it hard to understand your point about schools not having something unique to sell – here in Germany if you have a special service, e.g. Legal or Engineering/ Technical English you can make a lot more money. You’re offering a service that is rare in the market.

        We need to acknowledge that there are other constraints on the market then customer preferences. That’s just basic economics.

        So the ‘market’ can be changed.

  2. teachingbattleground Monday 16 February 2015 at 16:28 #

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. Ben Young Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 10:43 #

    yes, we should all feel sorry for the linguistics graduate who cannot find work in a quality establishment. After all, knowing how to teach is redundant, and the market doesn’t require it? Bollocks.

  4. marekkiczkowiak Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 10:47 #

    A bit of a disappointing conclusion to a post that started really well, if I’m to be honest, David. I have to agree with what Paul said above. Blaming the market doesn’t take us anywhere. Neither does it pinpoint the real nature of the problem, nor gives us the necessary motivation to change things. It’s exactly the attitude I’ve been trying to fight against on http://www.teflequityadvocates.com So I’d paraphrase your last sentence to: So if you really want someone to blame for the state of ELT, blame yourself. I’ve met too many nNESTs who complain about the state of ELT, but do nothing to change it. Equally, I’ve met way too many NESTs and recruiters who excuse the state of ELT with market forces, which to them means that while it might be desirable to change the current status quo, we can’t do much about it.
    As Paul pointed out above, market forces, or the demand for a white native speaker (regardless of their possible lack of qualifications), have not appeared on the scene out of thin air. Depending on the socio-cultural context, there are various reasons which helped bring about the notion that only a native speaker can teach you English. Just to give one example, if the quality of local teaching in the public sector is very low (as it is the case in Spain, France, until very recently Poland), students will very likely draw the conclusion that unless they go to a language school that offers NESTs, they will never learn English. If we add to the mix how the private sector chooses to advertise itself, i.e. Learn real English with native speakers; we end up in a situation where the client has been led to believe that the only thing that matters in a teacher is their mother tongue.
    One of the things we as teachers must do is educate the market. Talk to students. Challenge their misconceptions and prejudices. And those of the recruiters and academic directors too. If, on the other hand, we continue to blame the market, the situation will never change.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and I hope I haven’t been too honest and direct in my answer.

  5. Costas Gabrielatos Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 14:15 #

    David, you say that you “would welcome a union of ELT professionals who act in our interests and help to raise the standards of the profession.” This has already been tried: the British Institute for English Language Teaching (BIELT) was set up in 1998. Membership status depended on a member’s education and training, and continuing membership depended on proof of professional development. BIELT lasted only two years.

    I don’t disagree that market forces play a role; however, ELT is also doing a very good job of shooting itself in the foot. https://www.academia.edu/2733856

    • paulwalsh Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 19:21 #

      I really liked your short essay Costas. I would also say that the move towards “life-long learning” is also part of a neo-liberal discourse, which means that we as teachers are now responsible for our own training and professional development (maybe soon, our own learners?).

      The recent cult of entrepreneurship (that we should all become business people, or auto entrepreneurs) also reinforces this.

      But that’s a big topic!

    • paulwalsh Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 19:26 #

      It would be interested to read an account of why the BIELT failed.

  6. Vicky Martins Tuesday 17 February 2015 at 23:05 #

    I really enjoyed reading your post and it made me reflect on my own personal situation. I’m bilingual, was born in the UK and moved to Portugal in my mid-teens. I took a degree in teaching English and German at secondary school level. I had 4 years of theory and one year of teaching practice. During my teaching practice year at a state school,I had a German and English class to myself. For both I had to write daily lesson plans in depth, with aims for every stage of the lesson. I survived and graduated…with quite good marks….but not enough to get me into teaching in state schools. So I decided to send out cvs to English language schools…their reply: you need a CELTA. I felt crushed. WHAT could a 4 week course teach me that I hadn’t learnt in 5 years?My degree in the esl world is worthless, but 5 years condensed into 4 weeks is what got me my job today. I feel cheated. I would like to hold a DELTA (I have got module 1: for self satisfaction), but to be honest I don’t think I should have to prove my worth to anyone, especially when it comes to module2. Wasn’t one year of observations enough? Why should I have to go through it all again?
    I suppose I’m a combination of Hadley and Andriy.

  7. knowledgehunter Wednesday 18 February 2015 at 09:42 #

    I have worked within the state school in Australia, where TEFL teachers are treated exactly the same as all other school teachers. So that means 85% face to face, yard duty at recess and lunch time, participation in after school sport, pastoral care etc. Requires a degree in Education, possibly with a specialist area of English as an Additional Language (or Dialect). There is definitely an acknowledgement that native speakers are preferred, and at the same time an undercurrent that many local students have no background in grammar. Neither do regular teachers. English lit doe isles might have some tertiary English. Often they are Physical Education specialists needing another teaching area. We now use “Functional linguistics” – different names for most areas if grammar depending on the function of language.

    Ball park figure, salary of $AUD85,000 (currently $USD75,000) a year. I was permanent with 25+ years experience. Others were employed in a minimum of 10 week contracts, because schools prefer to check teachers our before offering permanent appointments. Many schools now have up to 20% contract teachers and English as a Second Language teachers seem to be on the end of the list.

    I have also worked in the tertiary EFL “Foundation course” system. My CELTA was highly regarded. It was a 10 week contract, but only 12 hours a week. That was 9 hours face to face and 3 hours prep. Ultimately it was about $AUD 45 an hour, and although I cannot prove anything, my contract was not renewed and I was replaced by a person at $AUD 15 an hour. Got a great reference. I did one day emergency relief with the Intensive English class, where teachers did not get any prep time, and it was about $20 a hour. My hours were calculated without any breaks.

    Am I cynical about the TEFL system? Yes. I know many people who are working in 5 week courses, paid for face to face and no prep time. Averaging $AUD 25 an hour. Two friends, recently arrived from Nigeria, who have done CELTA courses are getting about 12 hours a week at ELICOS centres. Full time seems to be 20 hours a week, with no prep time. I had no response from my application- a thank you, and “We will call you if we have a vacancy”.

  8. knowledgehunter Wednesday 18 February 2015 at 09:49 #

    Frankly, here in Australia the TEFL “market” is mainly tourists wanting a Gold Coast or Great Barrier Reef holiday. The second group is Middle Eastern students, some Chinese, some from India, and others who missed out on uni because of IELTS scores of 4 or below. And it would be very unkind to say that some arrived with IELTS of 6+ but could not answer basic conversations.

  9. Rajdeeo Sinha Wednesday 18 February 2015 at 15:46 #

    I’d like to learn more about the teaching of English.

  10. davedodgson Wednesday 18 February 2015 at 20:13 #

    Personally, I would blame Francis and those like him who take those ‘courses’ in sufficient numbers to make them profitable, and the people who decide “hey! I’ve taught for a few years so I’m going to run my own course.” There are enough of them to ensure the lesser reputable schools out there can find the magic ‘native speakers’ easily enough, which then leads to the Andriys of the world struggling to get jobs.

    If those courses and their participants were fewer in number, the number of ‘teachers’ who enter the market with poor qualifications would drop. There would also be more a gulf between the unqualified ‘chancers’ and the people who have at least taken a CELTA or Trinity course (some would dispute that I know!) Prospective employers would then have to think twice about who they hire or even running a school at all. That would in turn improve the market.

    I think the market is a product of the people who operate in it, not a cause of the problems or even something to blame.

    • marekkiczkowiak Saturday 21 February 2015 at 13:43 #

      Couldn’t agree more, Dave. Especially with the last statement. Blaming the market is a very easy way to point the finger away from where the blame might really be. And it doesn’t really offer us any solutions to the problems our industry suffers from.

  11. stordar Thursday 19 February 2015 at 12:35 #

    Reblogged this on Me: a teacher and more and commented:
    It is so sad…actually) when you start thinking about your own fate in the business. I believe only in myself and, for now, I see no other way. There are numerous examples of people who succeded in the industry though being non-natives. It’s been rough for them, but they did survive. I honetsly think I should make my English as perfect sa possible and present myself as an exceptional proffesional. That is my part of the responsibility. Call me naive…

  12. Costas Gabrielatos Thursday 19 February 2015 at 15:43 #

    A few thoughts on market forces and professionalism in ELT.

    As things stand, all is needed for international ELT employability (in the private sector) is completion of secondary education (level of achievement immaterial) and a short course that barely scratches the surface. As a way of comparison, Cert-type courses offer about 120 contact hours; this is equivalent to one semester (i.e. one-sixth) of a BA course. Now, why would anyone with these qualifications expect to be treated as a professional, or earn much above minimum wage?

    The Cert-only route is, unsurprisingly, a very popular choice, as it is by far faster and cheaper than other routes; that is, routes similar to those required in (more) established professions (e.g. a BA plus a one-year postgraduate course). The resulting abundance of Cert-only teachers (or ‘teachers’) pushes salaries down for those with better qualifications, while also helping to equate ‘EL teacher’ with ‘low-skill worker’. Simply put, if the Cert is the ‘professional standard’ for ELT, then the message communicated is that ELT is a ‘profession’ only in name.

    • paulwalsh Thursday 19 February 2015 at 21:01 #

      I’m really amazed that no one ever questions the dominance of CELTA / TESOL.

      If the entry qualification is part of the problem – keeping wages and standards down through flooding the market with teachers – then why don’t we try and think of something else?

      • marekkiczkowiak Saturday 21 February 2015 at 13:47 #

        If you compare ELT to most other professions, it’s shocking that one can become a certified and qualified teacher after mere 4 weeks of training. I wonder who’d ever go to, let alone employ, a doctor, architect, state school teacher or a lawyer, who had 0 experience and a 4-week training course…

  13. Costas Gabrielatos Saturday 21 February 2015 at 13:56 #

    Paul, you say that “the ‘market’ can be changed”. It is possible, but not very probable. Considering that changes have to be across the board to have any meaningful effect, what are the possibilities? The ones I can think of are:

    1. All governments impose BA+PG (the latter with a strong practical component) as the minimum entry qualification for ELT in both public and private sector.
    2. National ELT professional bodies/unions are set up, which a) agree on this minimum and b) successfully lobby governments.
    3. All EFL school owners agree to only hire teachers with BA+PG.
    4. Training-course providers agree to only offer PG-level one-year full-time courses, with a BA as the minimum qualification for applicants.
    5. Worldwide, ELT customers become better aware and avoid schools that don’t hire teachers with the above minimum qualifications.

    How probable are these scenarios? Not much, as far as I can tell. ELT seems caught in a vicious circle.

    Of course, I’d be happy to discuss other possibilities.

    • paulwalsh Saturday 21 February 2015 at 16:39 #

      Of course, that’s the whole point – ELT is trapped in a vicious circle. I think that’s why we’re having this conversation, no?

      The first thing we should do is to accept (in theory, however difficult or impractical it might see) that the ‘market’ can be changed. It’s obvious: Demographics and Globalisation are two phenomena which have totally transformed the ‘market’. But even Globalisation is not a one-way street – it’s not an unstoppable juggernaut.

      Students in Chile have just succeeded in winning free university education (and overturning neoliberal reforms) after years of struggle.

      The point is, they believed that they could do it.

      • Costas Gabrielatos Saturday 21 February 2015 at 17:21 #

        Paul, each of my scenarios involves one of the participants (or market forces, if you like). Which of them do you think would be willing to fight for considerably higher ELT entry standards — particularly in the private sector?

  14. paulwalsh Sunday 22 February 2015 at 22:32 #

    Hi Costas,

    My problem is that with all your 5 suggestions – only point 2 has some chance of working in the ELT world. All the others require some kind of top-down regulatory change – which is simply not going to happen when too many people make too much money.

    If teachers could form unions – or any kind of grassroots organisation – then they might be able to lobby for change.

    One of the other problems is that the existing teacher organisations (I’m speaking in Europe) haven’t taken much of an advocacy role traditionally. But with a rise in what we can only call ‘precarious working’ more and more teachers find themselves in difficult economic situations.

    So, I think initially – teachers have to ‘do it for themselves’.

    • Costas Gabrielatos Monday 23 February 2015 at 10:28 #

      Paul, you suggest that “teachers have to ‘do it for themselves’.”

      Which teachers? Do you expect those being currently teaching on the strength of their being native speakers or having only a Cert to mobilise in order to raise minimum entry starndards in ELT? Not a chance. Those with a BA+PG can be expected to either work in state schools or to have moved to teacher training. Not too many left who would care to change things for chalkface ELT in the private sector.

      • paulwalsh Tuesday 24 February 2015 at 09:35 #

        Sorry Costas,

        I don’t agree. There are teachers in Berlin who have just a CELTA + BA who are organising for better working conditions. Why? Because things are getting worse and worse.

        I should know – I’m in a group with them! Here’s our new website (beta): http://languageworkergas.com/

        Raising minimum entry standards would, in theory, stem the constant flood of new entrants to the profession. This raises working conditions for those remaining.

      • paulwalsh Tuesday 24 February 2015 at 11:48 #

        Costas, isn’t the whole point of any kind of collective action to stand up for the rights of people you don’t know, or have never met, for the good of all?

        Why are native speaker teachers now supporting the rights of non-native teachers? This doesn’t provide any economic benefit to native speakers – far from it.

        “There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve alone.” (Lyndon Johnson)

        Some issues are worthy of solidarity.

  15. Costas Gabrielatos Wednesday 25 February 2015 at 09:53 #

    Paul, you ask: “Why are native speaker teachers now supporting the rights of non-native teachers? This doesn’t provide any economic benefit to native speakers – far from it.”

    Are the NSTs supporting the rights of NNSTs those who teach solely on the strength of their NS status? I’d be surprised if that was the case. Similarly, it is unreasonable to expect NS-only or Cert-only teachers to support a cause, the success of which will put them out of a job.

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