Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TEFL course problems

I did my TEFL course in early 2002 in Barcelona with a company called ITC. A friend from my TEFL course just sent me an article about the ITC Barcelona program (now defunct) from The Prague Post Online. The article is from 2004, but it's still interesting, as I think many of the issues brought up in the article mirror issues EFL teachers could face in Spain. Some quotes from the article:

"The owner of ITC International TEFL Certificate s.r.o., Iva Brozova, denies she defrauded clients. She insists that students who were owed money have been repaid, and that her firm has had a good record for a decade."

-- Not totally true. When I did my TEFL course in Barcelona, we each paid $500 for accommodation -- which was supposed to be a shared double room in a hostal down the street from the school, with all meals included (and prepared for us). Instead, less than a week before the course, we were sent emails telling us that ITC would instead provide us with apartments and food. In my case, the apartment was nearly an hour from the school. We were given a kilo each of potatoes, tomatoes, and onions; a dozen eggs; some cornflakes, lentils, and rice; and some milk and orange juice. Each week we could put in a "shopping order" for more supplies, but many times these requests were denied (apparently one dozen eggs was sufficient for four people for a month). So instead of paying $500 for full room and board, with a 3-minute walk to class, we paid $500 for a one-hour commute, cooking and dishwashing duties, very little food (we ended up having to buy most of our food in the end), and a crappy apartment. Granted, some of our classmates had nicer apartments, but none of them were worth $2000/month!

"'I left my work and home to relocate to Barcelona. I paid for accommodation, health insurance and flights,' Lynott said. 'However, upon my arrival in Spain, on Oct. 7, a representative of ITC informed me that the course was canceled. On Oct. 8 the office was closed down ... I was unable to reach anyone in Prague or Barcelona and my messages went unanswered.'"

-- I've heard of this happening to EFL teachers for jobs in Spain as well. To be fair, I've heard of it happening to teachers in China, Japan, and other countries as well. While I certainly think it's rare, the fact is that many EFL teachers leave everything to work and live in another country, and they are very vulnerable when they first arrive. Fortunately for people starting out now, you can find a decent amount of information on the Internet before dropping everything to move abroad. If you get an offer for a teaching job, or you're planning to do a TEFL course abroad, you should get onto the online forums and see if anyone has experience with the schools.

"Erwin Ebens, 40, told The Prague Post that he was the director of an ITC course in Barcelona in September, which was interrupted when staff walked out. 'The owner was often late paying many staff. That's why many of them left. They did not want to work in those circumstances....'"

-- Hmmm.... Just like some English schools....

"On the reasons that the Barcelona program would be shelved, Brozova said 'the rules are getting more and more strict,' for Americans who want to work in Spain, and 'we do also try to find a job for our graduates, so it doesn't make any sense for Americans to go to Spain, not being able to work there.'"

-- Keep in mind this quote is from December 2004. Personally, I haven't taught English for academies in Madrid since June 2006, but most of my friends in Madrid are still teaching for English schools. As far as I know, there are still plenty of Americans teaching English in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain.

1 comment:

Troy said...

I don't work for Cambridge, but really, I can't see why anyone would bother with any other cert course than the CELTA. Unless it is for lack of information of course. A quick look at any TEFL jobsite on the web and you will quickly see that it is the standard bearer around the world that reputable schools will always ask for. It's certainly not fool-proof, but at least you have a little bit of security knowing that Cambridge has checked into these schools, even if it is just a cursory check.

Can you find a job with another cert, or even without, yes...but a pertinent question is, do you really want to work for such people?