Teaching English as a Foreign Language – getting a bad name?

So, I see that they have arrested someone in Thailand who is wanted for a dreadful crime over in the UK and, as he managed to escape to Thailand whilst on bail, has been doing what most people (including me) do when in a foreign country, not speaking the local language and needing money to live – i.e. teaching English.

However, if you read the article here, the emphasis seems to be on the way that language schools select their teachers.  Shock, horror!  The language school didn’t know about his possibly murky past!  How can that possibly happen?

Well, let’s look at language schools here, in Italy.  Now, there are some that are genuinely trying to ensure that they get good teachers and that the service they give is the best.  However, my guess is that most, given what they pay, are more than happy to have a warm, mother-tongue body (even that’s not always so important – the mother-tongue bit not the warm body) that they can place in front of a class of students.

Call me misinformed, if you will (but don’t bother because I already really know).  However, I know first-hand that there are ‘schools’ that do not check the certification of the teacher (TEFL/CEFL/whatever) (in fact, in spite of asking for certification, many really don’t care) and, given the hours that the teachers will work and the pay that they will be getting, they are certainly not going to do any background checks.

I’ve seen teachers who are drunk, teachers who can barely spell their own name, teachers who can barely speak English properly.  And, when I was a teacher, to think that I was worried that I didn’t know every aspect and nuance of English grammar!

And is this the fault of the schools themselves?  To a degree, yes.  However, the customers don’t actually want to pay the price to ensure that they have qualified, genuine English teachers.  Sure they want the best English course for their staff (or themselves), but only at the very best price – and the very best prices don’t allow for anything other than warm bodies who purport to speak English.

It’s a job for gap-year students, wives who are married to locals, or people who can’t get a different (better paid) job for whatever reason.  The pay is barely above the level of subsistence.  The hours are intermittent.  The job can be very unrewarding.  I remember, once, leaving home at about 7.30 a.m. and returning at about 7.30 p.m. – having done 6 hours actual classes and just travelling (for which I did not get paid) in between.

So, if Thailand really want to get teachers that are qualified and the schools to do background checks, start by making the customers pay enough so that both the schools and teachers can make some real money!  Alternatively, closely check the schools and close down the ones that fail to do proper checks which will result, of course, in underground English teachers willing to do it for cash – no questions asked.  Ah, stupid me, that already exists.

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