From 7th April till 11th April. Harrogate International Centre will be packed with TEFL “professionals” discussing how best to help students learn English, how teachers can work more effectively, how they can use new technologies to better effect. They will be talking about the “latest ideas” in the industry. What they will not be talking about, at least not in the main halls, is how this amazing superstructure of academic research, huge publishing sales, international conferences etc is supported by practitioners who are often paid little more than the minimum wage and, of course, students, who are being ripped-off by publishers and academies.. Business managers will be congratulating themselves on another year of “progress” in the industry, despite the challenge of the economic recession.
In no other low-paid industry would such a conference be thinkable. Maybe cleaning companies would talk about new products on the market or changes in legislation, but rank and file cleaners would not rub shoulders with the elites discussing how they could work more effectively to raise industry profit levels, give greater and greater levels of service and receive nothing in return. No, 44 years of IATEFL have been an exercise in self-deceit for language teachers: Maureen Ellis, Associate Lecturer at the Open University (not your average TEFLer’s wage) says:
It’s time to acknowledge that teacher education courses, innocent of the power
and significance of language policy and the pernicious effects of English as a global
language (Skuttnabb-Kangas 2003), have not equipped our teachers with respect or
empathy for their multi-lingual students. Language practitioners today must realise
that the battles over global issues will be fought on the field of language as much as
anywhere. If we are to be critical global educators, such critical thinking will have to
begin with us and our use of this expertise of language on which we pride ourselves.
Such an agenda will enable educators in every discipline, to examine their role in the
current global crises: financial, military, economic, social or environmental.
And in concrete:
A mapping of our ELT processes and products onto the larger goals and perspective of
development, will also offer new synergies and lacunae for collaborative research.
Thus more research grants and book publishing for those who have already benefited from a corrupt industry to tell those of us, teachers, who have probably not benefited in any way, that we are responsible for this despicable industry.
It is staggering. It is arrogant. It is time to call an end to their self-righteous pronunciations. Around the blogosphere we are calling on people to join us in building an on-line Alternative TEFL Conference. A conference that addresses our agenda.