Eastern Promise: Guardian TEFL revert to type.

The Guardian TEFL have returned to their old ways. After publishing some interesting articles, one about  problems with IELTS (International English language testing System) and two similar but separate articles about the role of English in Uganda and Malaysia, the last two months have seen them reverting to their trademark advertorials. Apparently, if you want to get on in the world of business, you should spend a year teaching TEFL in China, Japan or Taiwan. While you are there you can make friends, learn about new cultures and master a foreign language. The perfect addition to your CV and an excellent way to escape the recession.

Guardian TEFL  is renowned for publishing this type of rubbish, which is a cosmetic exercise to disguise simple exploitation of the naive by unscrupulous language schools and related employment and teacher training agencies. These practices help drive down experienced teachers’ pay (both native and non-native teachers) and damage the quality of teaching on offer to students. As a certain “JellieAnne” points out in the comments (and we quote them in full):

Nice advertising piece for Reach To Teach in Taiwan. 😀

Grads; the main questions to ask yourselves:

1. Why are R-T-T and all the other dodgy agencies go to the expense and risk of recruiting on the other side of the world when there are legions of qualified and experienced native English teachers who already speak Mandarin (and not the mandarin you get from a year on a working holiday – um, actual functional language)? Because a bunch of unemployed grad-kids will do it for far below the going rate.

2. Why do you imagine that east Asia has escaped the global recession? Discretionary spending and corporate budgets for luxuries such as private language training have been slashed in the last year or so, causing unscrupulous language school owners to dump all their staff and replace them with non-teachers straight from school, on very low wages on exploitative and often illegal contracts. For example, in Taiwan, it is illegal to teach under 6s, or to work before you have your work permit and residency card in your hand. They won’t tell you this, but you will still be fined heavily and deported if this happens. The school owners will receive a fine and continue to hire abroad, through agencies.

3. Learning Mandarin in one year to any useful level is a fantasy and just agency bs. It takes years.

4. How much money do you expect to make? In the current climate in Taiwan, you’ll be lucky to clear £800-900 a month, before tax. Tax is 20%. You won’t save much unless you live on instant noodles, never go to pubs or travel, or live outside a major city. Any savings will be wiped out if you need to do a visa run because of problems with your papers, or you get fired. One or the other will happen, unless you are preternaturally lucky. Furthermore, hourly rates have stagnated and declined in the last decade, and that’s without taking into account inflation and the huge rise in living costs.

5. How does it benefit the children you will be teaching to have unqualified, unregulated, inexperienced foreigners who don’t speak their language, conducting their education? Would you tolerate that for your children, here in the UK? There is a considerable buy-in to this viewpoint amongst ordinary Taiwanese people, who have been ripped off for a long time by high prices for tuition with qualified English teachers, and given grads with no training, or just a daft four week course (CELTA, et al). You will be tolerated and patronised, but not welcomed.

This sounds negative, I know. Taiwan is a brilliant place, but I wish people would go there to contribute, not simply on a silly middle class gap year. It’s misguided, and everyone (the students and yourselves) are being exploited.

Very well expressed JellieAnn, we hope others will join JellieAnn in posting “pertinent” questions to the “panel of experts” when they invite your questions on Wednesday 7th October from 1pm.



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2 responses to “Eastern Promise: Guardian TEFL revert to type.

  1. lbaker

    If JellieAnn’s comments were not directed at such graduates why take such digs as “I wish people would go there to contribute, not simply on a silly middle class gap year.” I know this may be a growing issue, BUT, what IF there existed graduates passionate about teaching the English language to others, who take a “daft Celta et al” course in the hope of developing their teacher skills so that they can contribute. I myself have met many such students who are certainly expecting more out of teaching abroad than a silly middle class gap year and it is on their behalf that I comment now.I agree with some of JellieAnn’s statement but I hate the generalisations.

  2. marxistelf

    Thank you for very much Ibaker for your important comments.

    We must say at the outset, however, that JellieAnn’s comments, while angry, showed genuine concern for those who might be possibly tempted by the advertorial. In the paragraph you qoute from, her full words were:

    “This sounds negative, I know. Taiwan is a brilliant place, but I wish people would go there to contribute, not simply on a silly middle class gap year. It’s misguided, and everyone (the students and yourselves) are being exploited”.

    Her points are
    1. that you need more than four weeks to prepare to start to teach.
    2. A year is hardly any time to reach a reasonable level of expertise in teaching or the language
    3. that this revolving door of 1 year students undermines standards and pay

    Seems pretty solid reasoning, doesn’t it?

    That said, many enthusiastic people do a four week tefl course, go abroad and give it their very best. Many become so committed they stay in the profession and go on to become outstanding teachers. Indeed, some students are often extremely inspired by the enthusiasm of these “novice teachers”. And of course, this is the general path the vast majority of current experienced teachers have undertaken. The very experienced teachers, like us, who want the industry to change.

    Moreover, many CELTA trainers on those “daft four week CELTA courses” do an amazing job.

    However, we can’t escape from the harsh reality, we do neither ourselves nor the students a favour by perpetuating this model.

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