Daily Archives: November 24, 2009

Private ESOL Colleges Come Under Scrutiny.

Following our piece on English UK, we are delighted to discover that the British Media are in fact concerned with the standards of private academies. Non other than the Sunday Times has taken it upon itself to investigate the standards of private schools involved in teaching languages. However, rather than concentrate on EFL (English as a Foreign Language) schools and their infamous disregard for both staff and students, they have targeted those academies involved in providing ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) courses and certification for migrants. Apparently, some of these schools have been subverting UK Borders’ racist policies by helping students cheat the system (for a handsome profit, of course).

This is something of a scandal to us given that BAC (British Accreditation Council) the authority for overseeing these schools has such close links with the British Council Accreditation UK scheme which “maintains standards” in EFL colleges in the UK. Indeed, the British Council were heavily involved in helping establish BAC, BAC’s Accreditation handbook is largely a cut and paste version of the British Council’s own miserable offering, and BAC sit on the Accreditation UK board and vice versa. Also, according to BAC, those colleges offering EFL classes in addition to ESOL courses (of course, those primarily offering EFL are recommended to register with the British Council Accreditation UK scheme-for fear of offending the parent) will be given special dispensation with regard to inspections.

We are naturally thankful for the keen investigative powers of The Times for bringing such abuses to light because BAC’s complaints and inspection procedures, a little more effective than the British Council’s,  failed to do so. Indeed, unlike the British Council complaints procedure:

  1. Students can complain direct to the accreditation authority
  2. There is no stipulation that complaints be made in English
  3. Complaints are welcome from staff (incredibly the British Council refuse to hear the complaints of staff, who are best-placed to report breaches in stipulated standards).
  4. If three or more complaints are received there will be an unannounced inspection.

Sadly, this complaints procedure failed to bring to light this collusion between migrants and assessors and only the courageous Times was able to warn the nation of the “danger” it faced. We wondered whether the same Times journalists would be interested in a story of Chinese visitors to the UK being packed into damp rooms, in a squalid semi-detached house in North Kensington, fed cold baked beans and cornflakes with sour milk for two weeks and taught, in part, by teachers who hadn’t even finished their basic four week training course in teaching English. But then we stopped wondering After all, The Times along with other British newspapers, carries advertorials encouraging graduates and other native-English speaking unemployed to jet off to various parts of the globe with a worthless piece of paper (earned at one of those UK Accredited academies) saying:

this person has spent four weeks shouting in the face of bemused visitors to Britain and  after being carefully schooled in how to pass a grammar test which is repeated every four weeks (and often left lying round the premises) is now fully equipped to teach all manner of foreigners (including, and especially, the young and vulnerable) in the subtleties of a language.

No, the Times is unlikely to do so because it is neither interested in “foreigners” nor naive TEFL adventurers. And, most pointedly, such stories do not pander to the carefully cultivated racism of the general population.

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