TEFL International's Bruce Velhuisen- Interview Part Two

TEFL International is not only often quoted as one of the largest TEFL training organisations (see the stats below), it is also almost certainly the one most likely to set off a firestorm by mentioning it on the internet- hence its interest, and the need for these somewhat strict rules on comments:

– Please make sure all comments are directly related to the things that Bruce says in the interview. If you have any other information about TEFL International, please email it to me instead

– Ditto for follow up questions (unlike interview Part One, I won’t be asking Bruce more questions on exactly these topics, so you are welcome to do so, but only to clear up the things he says here). A good start to a follow up question is “You said…, do you mean…”

– Please limit each comment or question to one topic at a time

– Please do not comment twice in a row (without anyone else commenting in between)

– I will delete any comments that I think do not meet the above criteria, without explaining why. If you wish to argue about this, please do so by email not the comments section. Serious offenders will also have previous comments deleted, or will be blocked.


After that excitement-building intro, here it is Ladies, Gentlemen and Others:


The importance of TEFL International/ setting the scene

Alex: I’ve seen claims that TEFL International is the world’s largest TEFL course provider and that you issue more Certs than Trinity. If these are correct, can you tell us which stats they are based on?

Bruce: When we were a Trinity course, I was told Trinity had 125 centers, the vast majority in the UK and the vast majority only running once or twice per year in the summer only.  I was told that there were about 2,300 grads annually but, with several larger Trinity centers no longer running Trinity courses, this number should have decreased.

I hear estimates of CELTA grads at somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 per year.

TEFL International had approximately 3,000 graduates in 2007.  That would make us the second largest TESOL cert issuer (after CELTA) and the largest course provider.

How many centres offer TEFL International Certs at the moment?

I just went to the website and copied the list.  There is also Salem, Oregon missing and another 4 might be on the way in the very near future.  All of them are operating except for Plymouth (currently moving to a new location) and Indonesia (everything ready but no students signed up yet)

So the total current number is 25. 

Approx how many Certs have the largest and smallest centres been responsible for so far this year?

I do not have the numbers for THIS year but LAST year Costa Rica had nearly 300 and Cebu had only about 45.  Thailand remains our biggest country with almost 500 in 2007.

Are there any advertised centres that haven’t trained anyone yet, i.e. have you ever advertised courses in a place where you haven’t opened a centre yet, for example so that you can judge demand before you decide whether to open it?

No, we need too much info beforehand.  Everything from housing to airport pick ups.  It takes a lot of time and money to get that developed.  We have dropped centers that were not popular enough after advertising legitimate courses, though.

Professional status and reputation

Are there people with just a TEFL International Cert working for the British Council?

I know of a few who have or are working.

International House?

Same as above—I know of a few who have been hired.  Not sure of current status.


Bell hired a number of our trainees.

British Council certified schools in the UK?

Definitely.  We get several requests for references per week.

Using it as the entrance requirements for a DELTA?

No idea.

Are your schools in the UK British Council or ARELS accredited?

The BC does not certify TESOL courses.

If your schools in London also take money to teach people EFL, the schools (not the courses) could be British Council or ARELS accredited.

I believe the London center IS accredited and Plymouth has submitted paperwork to become accredited.  But it really is inconsequential to me.
IATQUO- What is it, what does it do, how was it set up, what is its connection to TEFL International, how do you ensure its independence, is all this information easily available to people who might need to know? Why bother giving it a different name? Have you made attempts to make it more general, e.g. contacting similar organisations?

IATQUO was created by Alan Moller, the former Chief Examiner at Trinity.  TI was leaving Trinity at the same time he was, and I suggested he set up his own examining board to visit our centers and any others. 

It worked fine for 2 years.  I had two problems with IATQUO.  The first was that he never bothered to recruit other centers—all of his business came from TI so it looked like it was just an organization set up for TI.  I complained about that rather frequently but it was not a huge issue.  But then, he, his wife and friends opened their own TESOL course in Paris and we caught him referring people to that center instead of our France course.  It was a pretty serious conflict of interest and we dropped IATQUO immediately.

Were you involved in the setting up the anti-IATQUO website or did you give permission for your comments to be used? If so, don’t you think that takes away somewhat from your criticism of sites where you are attacked?

I was very happy to end my relationship with IATQUO quietly.  It was Moller that began attacking us!  I realize we were 90 percent of his business and he probably was counting on that nice stream of revenue from us for his retirement money, but I am supposed to be the obnoxious American, he is supposed to be the reserved former British Council big wig.  When he started claiming our centers were not validated (we had already paid him for moderations for the rest of the year) and that our certs would no longer be recognized (as if IATQUO had some significant recognition in the industry), we felt we had to leak out our side of the story and allow it to be posted on some websites. 

Can you tell us about TEFL International’s association with the University of Washington?

Dr. Bill Leon, a UW professor, set up that relationship and it was very successful for a year.  But, according to Bill, we stepped on some toes in the bureaucracy and the program was suspended.  Everyone who participated was happy but in Universities, turf wars can get nasty.  Bill and I are still good friends and he is still a big supporter of our courses.

Qualifications and experience of teacher trainers

We post and look for 5+ years teaching + dip or MA, although sometimes extensive experience can compensate for a lack of post-certificate qualifications. However, trainers we hire that may lack any post-certificate qualifications, we sponsor them to get it immediately (usually the TEFL Int’l Diploma program).

Teacher training experience with other organisations? Any ex-CELTA trainers?

Dave is a former DELTA trainer, Mike is former Trinity trainer.  The rest, not sure.  You would need to talk to Dave and Mike about that. Mike can send anyone the bios or qualifications of any of the trainers at any of our centers on request.

Publications? Involvement with IATEFL and TESOL?

Dave is the academic and is published.  He is currently working on a paper for the TESOL Journal. Mike was a director on TESOL Spain’s Board of Directors.

I am a member of TESOL but TESOL does not really deal with Cert-level teachers.

What counts as a suitable post graduate qualification?  

Certainly the DELTA, Trinity Diploma and our TEFL International distance learning diploma overseen with one-to-one tutorial instruction with Dave Hopkins.  An MA TESOL is also accepted.

How can you check all this in every TEFL International training centre? 

Well, most resumes of trainers, and all resumes of our local moderators are sent to our head office to be approved of before hiring. But franchise owners that have been working with us for years and years understand the criteria needed in hiring a solid trainer, so there is trust put in them. Of course, if we saw an on-line complaint questioning a trainer’s qualifications or abilities, we certainly look into it immediately.

Structure of TEFL International and connections to other businesses

There’s a Board of Directors, and our centers have centralized programs that use the same classroom and project materials, and many of our trainers have been trained up at our main center under Dave Hopkins. There is some autonomy though.  Lead Trainers who want to change course content are able to if they write a course justification that is approved by Dave.

Headquarters and number of people who work there full time?

Oregon USA.  Zero full time employees!  Each center has 3 to 5 employees who work there full time. Each center is to have a minimal staff of a lead trainer, course administrator and secondary trainer. However, there are times when staffing may drop down to just a lead trainer and course administrator such as in very small courses or restructuring staff. Many of the centers have more than 3 though, with additional admin staff. I think we have about 10 staff for the Ban Phe course.

Number of employees of the TEFL International US non-profit


That’s the kind of statistic that generally gets red lights flashing for me

Why?  We are an organization that stresses the value of experiencing other cultures and living overseas.  And with the internet, we do not need a big US base.

Who decides how much everyone gets paid, including yourself?

For trainers we usually pay them 1.5 to twice the amount of a regular English teachers in each location. These salaries are of course dependant on regional acceptable rates such as in teaching. But we pay salaries that are equal of higher then our competitors. For me, the BOD and the IRS rules for non-profits.

Can you be dismissed?

Sure if the BOD votes me out!

Is there a board of trustees? Are any of them high status people from outside TEFL?

We have both the Board of Directors and the Board of Academic Advisors (You didn’t really read our website did you…). Most of our International BOAA are big names in the industry that we sponsor at free teacher conferences, or that give on-line interviews on our alumni site, etc. Our local moderators also hold high positions in the region they are moderating our courses. For example, we have a former president of TESOL and many university professors with Ph.ds in TESOL that do monthly moderations for us. Again, Mike can send the bios of any of our BOAA, internationally or regional.

Does the Board of Directors meet in the Oregon headquarters? If not, what meaning does it have as a headquarters?

We usually meet via Email or Skype.  And any company needs to have some place to call home.  We based ourselves in the US before we gained non-profit status because people were a lot more comfortable sending money to a US address than to Thailand.

Do the Board of Academic Advisors actually regularly physically meet?



Looking at the list of the Board of Academic Advisors (http://www.teflcourse.com/affiliations/boaa/ ), it seems to lack some basic information, e.g. how many times has each person visited TEFL International schools, when was the last time, what exactly did they do, when was the page last updated.

You don’t fully understand our BOAA.  The info is actually available right on our website.

There are two types of BOAA members.  I call them the “Policemen” and the “Big Idea Men”

At each center they have a few “policemen” who visit every course.  These people are usually local school managers and DOS (our ultimate consumer).  They visit every course every month and fill out the checklist (I forwarded it to you already).  As you can see, it is quite complete and ensures that our centers are being run to International and TELF International standards.

Then we have occasional meetings with our big name “Big Idea Men” BOAA members.  We schedule one to visit a center, develop a free conference around the visit, and give that person a chance to review our course and meet our trainers.  They then can make comments and suggestions.

So the “Big Idea Men” don’t have a checklist, don’t talk to each other about TEFL International, and it seems at least theoretically possible that someone on the page on your website as a member of the BOAA might have just visited one school once some years ago. Doesn’t “board” sound like a bit of a misnomer?
Ditto for the “policemen”. If the policemen who inspect different TEFL International sites don’t have a bigger meeting, how can they be considered a “board”?

I think you are bringing your own preconceived notion of what a “board” is!  And that is so common for people with a CELTA background (just guessing you do).

According to our friends at Dictionary.com, a board is “official group of persons who direct or supervise some activity” and that is exactly what the local and international BOAA does.  They supervise our activities as TESOL course providers.  There is no mention if “meeting often” or even meeting at all!

But I am not hung up on the name.  Make a better suggestion and I might just change it!  J

Does each centre choose or help choose who inspects them (the “policemen”)?

They are asked to find 3 to 5 suitable candidates in the ESL community and then Mike is responsible for reviewing CV’s and choosing the best candidate(s).

Although there are “police” who check each centre against the checklist you sent me and “big idea men” who contribute in some way, would it be fair to say that the actual policies on inspection are the responsibility of one man (Dave) who is a manager of TEFL International.

As the academic director he is the one responsible for reviewing each checklist and making comments where appropriate.
Can you give some examples of things that were changed about the courses on the suggestion of the “big idea men”?

Marc Helgesen has made a couple of suggestions that have now been included in our course book, “Smooth Moves”.  These suggestions were teaching methodologies specifically about reading and speaking.
How long after someone works with TEFL International do you think it is okay to keep their name up on your site as a member (rather than former member) of the BOAA?

Actually if someone asks to be removed from our BOAA we usually do so right away.  I do not believe we list them as “former members” we just remove them entirely.  We also have a few secret members—they remain members but ask to be removed from our websites.
Did you specifically ask these people if you could put their names up on the website as members of the BOAA?

It’s right in the request letter.
I still think knowing how many times has each person visited TEFL International schools, when was the last time, what exactly did they do, and when was the page last updated would be useful. Could you give us some of that information now?

Yes and I am sorry I did not give you last time.  It was included in the “lost” version of this interview.

April 26th & 27th 2006    
Location  Pattaya, Thailand    
Keynote Speaker Dr. David Nunan
Dr. David Nunan: “Teaching Grammar: A Task-based Approach”
May 05th & 06th, 2006    
Location  Alexandria, Egypt   
Keynote Speaker Mr. Marc Helgeson
“Language Planning: A Tool for Accuracy, Fluency and Complexity”

July 22nd & 23rd, 2006    
Location  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam   
Keynote Speaker Dr. Alan Maley
“Creative Reading and Writing”
Aug 19th & 20th, 2006   
Location  Kolkata, India   
Keynote Speaker Dr. Brian Tomlinson
“A Flexible Framework for Teacher Developed Materials”
May 18 and 19, 2007   
Location  Alexandria, Egypt   
Keynote Speaker Mr. Marc Helgeson
“Science of Happiness: Positive Psychology in EFL”

July 21st 2007   
Location  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam   
Keynote Speaker Dr. Richard Day
”Extensive Reading: A Great Alternative”
“Fluency as an Alternative Goal to Accuracy and Comprehension.”

Oct. 8th & 9th, 2007   
Location  Beijing, China    
July 26th, 2008

Keynote Speaker Dr. Alan Maley
”The Teacher’s Voice and Intensive Reading”

Ho Chi Minh City

David Nunan 

Would you or Mike be able to put me in touch with some of the “Big Idea Men” to ask them about their involvement and experiences with TEFL International? (not much point just giving me their email as they’ll be too busy to reply, but if they do regular business with you I’m sure they will respond to a request from you to contact me)

I also can’t find a page with a list of the Board of Directors

There isn’t one.  We consider the BOAA far more important.

Could you tell us who is on the BoD at the moment?

I can, but I would prefer not to make that list public.  They have not been harassed and I would prefer to keep it that way.

Thanks Bruce.


There will be an interview Part Three (and possibly more), so if you have questions about other aspects of TEFL International, please forward them to me. If you want to ask questions to clarify what Bruce said above, please feel free to ask them here. Ditto if you have proof (or even just professional opinions) about anything he specifically mentions. Although there were many deleted comments last time, Glenski (regular poster on Dave’s ESL Au Lait) remains the only person permanently blocked on TEFLtastic (mainly for being boring), so please comment away within the rules.

This entry was posted in ARELS, Bell, British Council accreditation, Bruce Veldhuisen, Cambridge ESOL, CELTA, IATEFL, IATQUO, MA TESOL, Teacher associations, Teacher training, Teaching English Abroad, TEFL, TEFL career planning, TEFL certificate, TEFL in the UK, TEFL International, TEFL qualifications, TESOL and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

102 Responses to TEFL International's Bruce Velhuisen- Interview Part Two

  1. Alex Case says:

    Here’s my example of a good follow up question/ comment (and something I’d genuinely like Bruce to answer if he is reading):

    Don’t you need to make the names of the members of the Board of Directors public to comply with the Oregon non-profit regulations?

  2. Bruce says:

    And my answer…

    I know I have to supply it to the IRS and I have, every year.

  3. Arlette Herrenschmidt says:

    Bruce Velhuisen writes: It worked fine for 2 years. I had two problems with IATQUO…. I complained about that rather frequently but it was not a huge issue. But then, he, his wife and friends opened their own TESOL course in Paris and we caught him referring people to that center instead of our France course. It was a pretty serious conflict of interest and we dropped IATQUO immediately.”
    This is such an incredible lie: he knows personnaly both Dr Moller’ wife, Arlette Herrenschmidt and Mrs Agnès de Labrusse ; so he knows they are two different peoples.

  4. Alex Case says:

    If I can rephrase that as a question- Bruce, what evidence do you have that the school was owned by Dr Moller and his wife?

  5. Alex Case says:

    Another question I’m afraid, this time picked out of a comment disallowed for other reasons:

    Do the stats comparing TI and Trinity really compare like with like, or do they include the PELT and online TI courses and only the 4 week Trinity Cert TESOL on the other side?

  6. Teflista says:

    Re: Relationship with the University of Washington

    Isn’t it true that Dr. Bill Leon received his Ph.D. in Geography and does not have a degree or training specifically in TESOL/TEFL/ESL?

  7. Chris Carter-Smith says:

    BV said: “All of them are operating except for Plymouth… and Indonesia.”

    … and Recife, Rhodes, Lubin, Seoul, Manchester and Birmingham – all currently (as of today 21 Jul 08) advertised on the websites and with their own dedicated pages although they have not published any new courses for up to three years, and do not appear to have street addresses.

    Is this Intentional or is it an oversight? Or can one simply mislay nearly 25% of one’s operation?

  8. Bruce says:

    About France first. To be honest, I have tired, again and again, to leave details out of it because these details look bad–not to TEFL International but to Alan Moller. It feels too much like kicking the guy when he is down. But, again, I am forced to reveal more than I would like to because of a direct question.

    Here is the way it all came down with IATQUO. We received an Email to admin from a prospective trainee asking why IATQUO was recommending a center in France over our center in Mauzac. This was obviously a surprise to me because, to my knowledge, IATQUO had no center in Paris.

    So I very carefully and very politely Emailed Alan Moller and asked him to explain the situation and Email me the Emails he had sent to the prospective trainee. He politely sidestepped every question and refused to send the Emails.

    I also emailed the woman and asked for the Emails and the url of the Paris center. She did not send the Emails but did send the URL. One quick check of the school and, to my great surprise, Alan Moller’s wife was the contact person for the school, with her picture, name and home phone number.

    I sent another carefully-worded Email, accusing him of nothing, but asking Mr. Moller to explain the awkward situation. He again side stepped every issue and sent me a very strongly worded diatribe about how he had done nothing wrong. His wife’s picture and contact information then disappeared from the website.

    I immediately decided we would discontinue our association with IATQUO and transfer all external moderation to a new BOAA that we would create over the next several months.

    I cannot think of how we could have handled the situation differently. I believe anyone in my position would have acted similarly with the same ultimate result. And it would have been my choice to leave the whole story a private matter. But it does prove that IATQUO was not some kind of internally-created organization. I have seen this claim many times.

  9. Bruce says:

    TI vs Trinity stats:

    I am not including PELT or online courses. PELT, despite my belief that it should be wildly popular, has never been very popular at all! And TI does not issue certificates for purely online courses.

  10. Bruce says:

    Dr. Bill Leon has a doctorate in Geography. When I met him he was working in the University of Washington Outreach Office, where students can get credit for doing various volunteer projects, and this was his initial interest in TEFL International. We ran TESOL courses + “service learning” projects where UW students worked as volunteer English teachers in Thailand. We worked closely with Sandra Silberstein at the time, and she reviewed our progam from the TEFL side. He was also working on a similar study abroad program (which I believe is still ongoing) in India.

    Dr. Leon still works at the University of Washington, but now he is an instructor in the Program Evaluation department where he specializes in program evaluation of Educational projects.

  11. Alex Case says:

    Re: the BOAA

    Bruce, I am glad you aren’t hung up on the word “board”, because it is quite clearly not the right word. If we want to play the dictionary definitions game, here’s the brand new Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:

    “the group of people who are responsible for controlling and organizing a company or organisation”

    Neither the “big men” nor the “policemen” even help control or organise the whole of TEFL International, let alone have a supervisory position over the managers. As they also don’t work together in any way, it is difficult to think of another way of talking about them collectively. Maybe “Course inspectors” for the “policemen”, and “a list of well-known people who have given workshops at TEFL International” for the “big men”, as that seems to be all they do. I am sure you would like something more impressive sounding, but if we compare it to some other organisations, I think you will see that your BOAA is not worth such a fancy name.

    To give one example of an organisation I know fairly well but have no connection to, Oxford House in London has had probably hundreds of the kinds of famous people you list giving workshops there. I say “probably”, because they don’t feel any need to list them in order to show they are legitimate. The legitimacy is provided by people coming from Cambridge ESOL, an independant body that is supervised by a real board of people who meet and set policies for the organisation.

    As most of TI’s relationships with outside academic bodies seem to have disappeared, and there are no shareholders as it is technically non-profit, that only leaves the Board of Directors to supervise Bruce and the other top managers. A source tells me that at the time of the last IRS filing the board contained only Bruce’s family members, TI employees and Bruce’s business associates, people who I would suggest are unlikely to slap Bruce on the wrist if he steps out of line.

    To turn that into a question, Bruce- does anyone supervise you, and if not is your academic background and personality the only ultimate guarantee of standards in TEFL International?

  12. Bruce says:

    Well, Alex, your definition of “board” was much the same as mine. Nowhere does it say they have to meet together often.

    I also think you belittle the activies of the BOAA. They do not JUST give a talk, and I have explained their activities to you already. They are asked to look at our course and give ideas and opinions. But, lets face it, they are not necessarily experts in TESOL certificate courses. They usually take a look at the materials, talk to the trainers and say “Looks pretty good to me”. David Nunan will be spending a day doing just that (on top of his conference talk) this week in Vietnam. Hop a flight and see before you publicly belittle something you obviously know little about.

    I would not say that our relationships with outside academic bodies has disappeared. They come and go as circumstances change. I just visited a professor at Cal Berkley last month who is very interested in working wth us–and plan to involve many additional universities if things go well. Western Michigan University just praised us very publicly in an academic blog after participating in a joint venture with our Alex center and are also encouraging other universities to work with us. We recently signed two validation agreements with Asian University and Chiang mai University here in Thailand and CMU now runs the TEFL International course instead of their own course. So saying our relationships with outside academic bodies has disappeared is just flat out wrong.

    I am the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and Founder of TEFL International. I created it literally out of nothing and I think I can be proud of that fact. As the founder and CEO I had to choose the BOD. Like any CEO I chose people I know and trust. WHO ELSE WOULD I CHOOSE? Strangers? Critics? Are you being serious or just joking? Are you holding me up to some mythical standard that no one could possibly attain? Who exactly are you suggesting that I invite? Honestly, give me specifics and base them in reality. Remember, we get no outside funding. No one donates to our coffers nor do we seek such donations.

    Exactly who am I accountable to?

    Well, here is your answer. OUR TRAINEES.

    Now here is a question for you, Alex. have you ever gone to the site to see the course feedback?

    if you haven’t, I would suggest you are not doing adequate research on your subject. You are missing the CORE of our course. The KEY to all of these questions. What all these interviews really are all about. Our students generally love the course. Take a look. Read the questions they must answer. And get back to me.

    I would love to take all the credit for that, but I have almost ZERO academic input. Thats Dave’s job. Most of these people will never see me or meet me so its hard to take credit for any of the administrative side. But I am the CEO and founder. When the poop hits the fan I have to deal with it. So, hey, when you read the end-of-course feedback and someone says really positive things (and many of them do) I guess I have the right to say “My supervisors think I am doing a pretty good job.”

    Lets get specific with this. Hard numbers. How ALL our trainees rate our course.

    The course content was appropriate and useful : (4.47)
    The Trainers were competent and professional : (4.55)
    The training site (facility and location) were contusive to the course : (4.27)
    I feel confident and prepared to begin my teaching career : (4.41)
    The course met or exceeded my expectations : (4.23)
    I would recommend this course to a friend : (4.37) Star Ratings
    1 (Strongly disagree)
    2 (disagree)
    3 (not sure)
    4 (agree)
    5 (strongly agree)

  13. Bruce says:

    BV said: “All of them are operating except for Plymouth… and Indonesia.”

    “… and Recife, Rhodes, Lubin, Seoul, Manchester and Birmingham – all currently (as of today 21 Jul 08) advertised on the websites and with their own dedicated pages although they have not published any new courses for up to three years, and do not appear to have street addresses.

    Is this Intentional or is it an oversight? Or can one simply mislay nearly 25% of one’s operation?”

    As I clearly stated in my response, I was dealing directly from the TEFL International website. Our agents may have some outdated websites out there. Birmingham and manchester are prime examples. But it seems to me that anyone coming across these sites and seeing dates from 2005 can probably figure out that the center is not operating.

    But since I did not use them in my listing of centers, exactly where is the problem?

    But send me a link and I will gladly get any old of closed center deleted from an agent’s website.

    Seoul is operational but there is no set site to run certificate courses. We work more on a contract basis there.

  14. Alex Case says:


    Apologies if I am asking similar questions again, it’s been a long discussion and I don’t claim to be able to rememeber every point. Thanks for the additional details of what the BOAA do, anyway, I believe it has made things clearer.

    Ditto for the information on any new relationships with academic bodies, which you must admit you had not told me before.

    On the definition of “board”, if you can give me an example of another board that neither meets, nor discusses what they are supervising with each other nor has any power, I will happily concede the point. Otherwise, I think it gives an impression other than its real function, and could even lead to accusations of seeking academic legitimacy on the cheap.

    On a different point (breaking my own rules on one point per comment here), I’m not sure “our agents have out of date information, not us” is a legitimate defence nor good business practice- it’s like Toyota saying “It’s not our problem if car showrooms say it does 100 miles to the gallon when it only does 55”. I honestly think you could clear up many of your problems with attacks like this if you just gave one of your members of staff the job of reading all your agents’ websites once every couple of months and telling them to update what is no longer so. I managed to do this with a link on the IATQUO website to a page on an agent’s site that claimed the centre was still IATQUO certified with just two emails, and without the list of agents that you must have somewhere, so I really can’t understand why you don’t put a little bit of time into it. Some friendly advice (honestly!), so we can all get down to more important matters.

  15. Alex Case says:

    I couldn’t find TEFL International on the official list of British Council accredited schools:


    I’m guessing Bruce thought the question unimportant so just lacked research before answering rather than trying to deceive (alternatively, it could be that the site isn’t up to date, or I looked under the wrong name). As a Brit, though, being British Council accredited is the very minimum standard I would ask from any school in the UK, much more so than connections with universities. In Australia or New Zealand, you couldn’t legally operate without the local equivalent, and there has been talk of doing the same in the UK

  16. Teflista says:

    Re: British Council and TEFL International

    Trinity states:
    “The Trinity Certificate and Diploma are accepted by the British Council as an initial and a full TESOL qualification for teachers in schools and colleges accredited under the British Council’s Accreditation in Britain Scheme”

    TI claims on their website:
    “ALL TEFL International TESOL certificate courses worldwide fully meet British Council criteria for employment within the British Council and at British Council-accredited language schools.”

    Perhaps Bruce could:

    1) Define the criteria
    2) comment on the difference between ‘accepted vs. meet’
    3) comment on who decides this

  17. Bruce says:


    My apologies for biting your head off there. I thought we had discussed the activities of the BOAA in detail. Maybe I have PTSD from a few years in the “battle”.

    I do not know the activities of every “board” in the world. We do call them the Board of Academic ADVISORS, not DIRECTORS or OVERSEERS. And if we do not call them a ‘board”, what do we call them?

    And i certainly agree passing the outdated websites off on the agents is not very professional, but if old websites were the worst of my problems I would be a very happy man. And if people want to, they will find a problem in ANYTHING. But give me a link Iwill make a change.

  18. Bruce says:

    By the way, if you think flying these guys all over the world is getting off “on the cheap” you have never flown Jack Richards anywhere (Business class on Singapore Airlines ONLY, please).

  19. Alex Case says:

    Seriously Bruce, why should it be our job to track down false information on YOUR agents’ websites?? You could do it yourself in less time than it takes you to comment here on a busy day! If you cannot afford to employ someone to do it for you, or there are so many crises that it is such a low priority…

  20. Bruce says:

    Alex, London is one of our newer centers and one I have not visited personally. I believe it is based in an English school but I could be wrong. Like I said, I am really just concerned about the operation of the TEFL course, not the English school.

  21. Bruce says:

    Yes, having a website out there advertising 2005 courses does not seem like a huge problem to me, Alex. Anyone seeing that site will know its outdated. And since they cannot possibly pay a deposit on one of these courses, it will get sorted out sooner or later.

    Today I had to deal with a girl teaching in a rural Thai school with severe culture shock. THAT is a problem I consider far more urgent.

  22. Topper says:


    Sorry to bust your ass, but you’ve made a couple of statements I’d have to question:

    Is “sooner or later” the type of attitude you normally give to something as important as course information?

    Do you personally deal with every student that goes through culture shock? I would have thought your course prepared your students to understand the culture in which they’ll be teaching in. Could you explain why the CEO’s help was required? In general terms of course.

  23. Alex Case says:

    – Does the qualifying experience for teacher trainers have to be post-qualification experience, i.e. teaching before you even get a Cert doesn’t count and teaching after a further qualification is worth much more

  24. Alex Case says:


    Perhaps I have been unrealistic. I was hoping I would be able to recommend your organisation because it had a philosophy of continual improvement and occassionally met criticism with changes rather than just justification. Given the claims about the size of your organisation, I was also hoping TI would be a company with the resources and professionalism for you to be able to say “I’ll pass that question to the person in charge” all the time. Both these things not being true is fairly typical of TEFL, and therefore disappointing.

    All this does raise maybe the most major question. I have no problems at all with TI being a successful commercial operation (as long as people don’t make the mistake of thinking of it as a charity in philosophy). In fact, if I was taking a Certificate that had only been around for 10 years, I’d want to know that the organisation was financially and organisationally sound enough to be around, growing and academically respected in 20 years time. Many of your answers seem to suggest the opposite with TEFL International. Here are my impressions as questions:

    – It seems most of the work of TEFL International is done by franchises, in other people’s premises or by agents (and even the agents have agents), and the actual TEFL International organisation is very small and therefore vulnerable. Is this the case?

    – The fact that you have to deal with all these questions yourself, have a board appointed by you including people with no ability to run the company, had to come back into the company after trying to retire etc seems to suggest that TEFL International could not survive without Bruce Veldhuisen. Is that the case? And if so, if you were hit by a car tomorrow, what value would a Cert from a disappeared TEFL International have in 5 years time?

    The above are some of the reasons why the discussion of the meaning of “board” is not just semantics. If the Board of Directors and Board of Academic Advisors actually ran things, the future of the company would not depend on one man, which is why governments insist that publically listed companies have real boards with real powers.

    Here’s my latest suggestion for a realistic name for the BOAA- “a list of people who have had input into the TEFL International courses”. If that is inaccurate or downplaying their role in any way, I’ll be happy to make another try

  25. Bruce says:

    [EDITED, as answering a question I’ve deleted]

    Alex, we change all the time! Constantly. I have already mentioned how our end-of-course feedback has gone through multiple versions. Just one example. But we do not change for you. We change for future, current and past students of our courses. For us, these are the most important people. Comments on the internet discussion boards by peoiple like Vince are taken very seriously and responded to. I think I howed that when i did respond to Vince, and the problems he mentioned were resolved soon after he left the course.

    And you SHOULD know that. I again chide you for failing to visit our end-of-course feedback. Because, if you had, you might have noticed a very important question we ask our graduates.

    “The thing about the course that needs the most improvement is :”

    If you want to know who we listen to, here it is. Sorry, Alex, you are somewhere after the thousands of graduates we get every year.

    We read every comment and consider every suggestion. When we start to see a general trend in the suggestions we definately make changes.

    I will give you just one of literally hundreds, THOUSANDS of examples. We recently saw several people mention that the fact that our class sizes for TP maxed ut at 25 did not give them a real experience in preparing to teach classes of 50 (common in many Asian countries). So we added a final TP where trainees can teach 40+ in Ban Phe and have suggested that other Asian courses do the same.

    So you see, Alex, we react to criticism all the time. Constantly. But we react only to criticism we feel is important. Can you see OUR point?

    And while London might be the center of the universe for some of you, for us it is not. it is just a new (and possibly temporary location that replaces Plymouth as it moves to its new location. It is certainly NOT our Flagship center and never will be. It amazes me sometimes. You guys really seem to think I need to think like you. It’s in London so it must be important to our long term operations.

    If I died tomorrow (touch wood) Mike would immediately step in as he did when I quit last time. There would just be one less loud mouth on the discussion boards.

  26. Bruce says:

    I think I missed one of your questions, Alex.

    TEFL International had revenues of just under $2 million last year and that number has been increasing rapidly every year. Its publicly available information. So to answer your question, yes we are financially sound and growing rapidly still. If there were not many, many opportunities for further expansion I would not be interested in being the CEO!

    And my apologies for the many spelling errors in my past post. I hit “Submit” before checking it.

  27. Bruce says:

    “Here’s my latest suggestion for a realistic name for the BOAA- “a list of people who have had input into the TEFL International courses”. If that is inaccurate or downplaying their role in any way, I’ll be happy to make another try”

    You are joking, right?



  28. Alex Case says:


    – Do you think happy trainees is the same thing as high academic standards?

    – There is at least one or two unanswered questions somewhere above I believe

  29. Bruce says:


    No, you can have happy trainees that have been poorly trained. We do not.

    We want to produce trainees who are competent and confident ESL teachers.

    We know that they are confident because they tell us they are in end-of-course feedback.

    “I feel confident and prepared to begin my teaching career” : (4.41) Or above “agree” and not to far from “strongly agree”.

    We know they are competent because:

    They have completed the full training course and that is conformed by the monthly BOAA visits through the checklist you have already seen.

    The training course is of professional quality because each course is approved by our Academic Director, a man with 30+ years of Teacher Training Experience.

    They have completed 6+ hours of Observed Teaching Practice and been observed by their trainers.

    if I have missed any questions, drop me an Email. I think i caught them all.

  30. Alex Case says:


    Here’s the question you missed:

    – Does the qualifying experience for teacher trainers have to be post-qualification experience, i.e. teaching before you even get a Cert doesn’t count and teaching after a further qualification is worth much more

  31. Bruce says:


    TEFL International centers have come about in two different ways:

    1. Some have been opened directly by TEFL International.

    2. Some were already operating competitors that came to us and asked to join the TEFL International team.

    We chose to accept these existing schools because:

    1. They were academically sound

    2. They were in locations that we wished to expand into

    3. We were also eliminating a competitor!

    we are currently in negotiations with 5 such schools. that would probably make the owned/franchised figure at close to 50/50. Personally I have no problem with that.

    I believe the website you are talking about is owned by our marketing agent/franchisee in Phuket, ITTT.

    These gentlemen began their own, independently-branded online course seven years ago. It has become very successful and they had Alan Moller accredit it for them back when TI was still working with IATQUO.

    They also offer what is called a “Combined Course”. You complete a portion of your course online and then go to Barcellona, Rome or Phuket for 2 weeks to complete the training. They issue certs under their own brand name, NOT TEFL International. Thus, these three centers have IATQUO mentioned but NOT for TI certs.

    I have no idea where someone claims TI has been around for 25 years. I would love to see that.

    As far as the UW letter, we have done google searches 10 times in the last 2 years in an effort to remove unacceptable quotes from the web and replace them with acceptable ones. Its not easy. But UW and TI have a cordial relationship and we do our best.

  32. Bruce says:

    TI does offer online courses but we do not issue certificates for online courses. How can you CERTIFY someone as a teacher when you have enver seen them teach?

  33. Bruce says:

    “- Does the qualifying experience for teacher trainers have to be post-qualification experience, i.e. teaching before you even get a Cert doesn’t count and teaching after a further qualification is worth much more”

    Thanks for that Alex. I am really not involved with the hiring of every trainer but I can tell you we are quite strict on the 5-year rule. And we woud never hire someone just off of a course but with 5 years teaching experience. They would have to have SOME qualification in their past before we could hire them.

    Obviously we always have new trainers participate in our courses before they begin working as a trainer. Some people have even claimed (doe to their own misunderstanding) that we hire trainers right off of our courses. Absolutely untrue.



  34. Mike says:

    I understand this forum is for people to ask questions for BV and for him to reply, but I thought I could provide some insight with my background in teacher training to some of the questions. Particularly on the points: (1) TI vs. Trinity; (2) Trainer qualifications; (3) Happy vs. qualified trainees; and (4) multinational company professionalism ratio to company / size question by Alex.

    [EDITED- irrelevant]

    TEFL International, as we all know, began as a former Trinity London College service provider. However, BV separated his program from Trinity due to disagreements with Trinity – one I believe being the price tag to fly monthly moderators from the UK to Thailand at cost to the trainees, as well as the necessity to conform to teaching structures that were UK / European – based at the time. BV felt a separation would allow his course to be more flexible, allowing for lower applicant fees and more structured to Asian teaching (such as large classes with low levels). Having a highly-qualified academic director (Dave Hopkins) allowed the initial Trinity training to be improved upon too. The TI course in Thailand soon became immensely successful, and BV was able to grow the organization from that success to an international success (rather than reap immediate rewards of personal financial growth).

    I believe BV took to being (and is) an explorer in the industry, rather than conformer like most courses in the world that try to be like the two UK monopolies (Trinity of CELTA). He has also tried to make his large organization as client and staff friendly as possible without cutting corners on industry standards, or paying extorted staffing costs to people who saw him as a “millionaire con-artist” (which I have found working close to him for three years, he is no way near such a thing. The majority of people that know BV would say the same thing, as I have met many of them over the last three years).

    As a result of his creative exploration and expansion in the industry, BV tried out many new innovations such as: improved course content based on regional needs; new validation systems (IATQUO and now BOAA); new marketing techniques (the Internet); new application and feedback procedures (on-line instead of interviews with jet-setting moderators); new programs (STP, volunteer programs); and much, much more.

    As a result of the growth, success, and attempts to help the industry expand in new ways, BV seems to take a lot of flack from others that may: disagree with making industry changes; have personal disagreements with him; or are unable to maintain standards that he must ensure his programs maintain to be professional (and give clients what they are paying for).

    I say all of this because I feel it may help readers of this discussion put into better perspective the four issues I mentioned above. Particularly by:

    (1) TI has the same course componants as Trinity College London, but they have changes to accommodate more regional methodologies (such as the Basic Model in Asia, or an improved PPP structure in Europe), as well as to make the work easier and less stressful for course participants. Any former Trinity graduate can show you their 30 page plus 1-2-1 (or student profile) which gave them an ulcer on the course, where here at TI, it is less than 6 pages.

    (2) Trainer qualifications are also maintained at the highest level possible: + 5 years and post-teaching qualifications. Yet there is flexibility to manage urgencies, offer pro development to trainers, and replace lack of education with in-field experience. As you can see from course feedback, an important quality in a trainer is also an ability to provide a good experience for the participants — not just what they have on paper. A few hired TI trainers I know of have been fired (such as in France) due to client complaints in feedback. (Unfortunately Brandon, I am not one of them as I documented all your work and email correspondence between you and I – having been through difficult trainee fails / withdrawals beforehand. But I can say that when you made the initial complaint against me, BV immediately sought it out and it was a good thing I documented your case — otherwise I might not be here ….).

    (3) In my experience with BV, I find that he does take the happiness of participants and clients very seriously personally. He often takes on the role of answering inquiries or getting involved with them personally and immediately, rather than delegate the task to other staff. The same with answering enquiries and posts on the Internet. He enjoys helping those that need it in the industry, particularly as he has the experience and connections to offer that help. That may answer the question as to why he seems to post on the Net and answer enquiries, where most CEOs would not. Because he can and he cares.

    In terms of qualifying graduates, BV expects and assumes the clients to be trained up to a high-qualified level because he has faith in his training staff and course directors to do so. I think all of his course directors reading this would agree with that statement. They work more autonmously, with less direct supervision by BV and do so very well. They take their roles seriously, professionally and are satisfied with doing a good training job and working for a man (BV) that they really like — knowing they are accountable to their training in the trainee feedback and regional moderator visits.

    (4) I have worked for many multinational companies that have a more formal hierarchy than TEFL International as a multinational. For instance, despite having dozens of centers in Asia and Europe, you will notice there is no Asian Regional Manager, nor European Regional Manager. Whereas a McDonald’s or MasterCard may have these roles, BV often takes on these roles himself. And there is nothing really wrong with that. As a not-for-profit organization, there are not really extra funds available to pay such excess salaries when the system as it is runs very smoothly and efficiently.

    Sorry for the lengthy post, but thought my background and current position in TI could help with some of those questions. I hope I don’t get the post “he’s just saying that because he works for them”. Let me dispel that one right now. I get job offers all the time and I could get almost any job in the industry (without an MA or higher required) that I chased. And no, I don’t make loads of money here – my salary is on par with what trainers make at the other training organizations in Thailand (less than CELTA actually…). I say the above and work here, because I truly believe what TI is doing to change the future of TESOL, and I believe in the man (BV) that works so hard to try and do it.

  35. Alex Case says:

    Again, my biggest problem with the statements is that BOAA is not a “validation system”. Bruce- surely you wouldn’t claim that is an accurate reflection of its role?

  36. Alex Case says:

    This seems to suggest experience and qualifications of trainers considerably under what you have stated as your minimums, e.g. just one year post qualification experience, and no higher qualification


  37. Alex Case says:

    Before I ask three questions in a row, I’d just like to point out that only I’m allowed to do this because it’s my blog!

    “Affiliations – Middlesex University (pending), U.K. ”

    According to my source, it’s been pending for two years. Another page that needs updating, this time one of your own? From:


    And while we’re on that page (so I’m allowing myself this as maybe part of the same question, but I might not be so indulgent with the rest of you…):

    “ALL TEFL International TESOL certificate courses worldwide fully meet British Council criteria for employment within the British Council and at British Council-accredited language schools.”

    Is this statement something you had to ask the British Council for permission to print? I assume it would have to be.

    Oh let’s just do that page properly now I’ve gone well over my 3 questions shall we: I don’t think “5 continents” is accurate anymore, neither is having University of Washington under accredited/ affiliations (it even says somewhere on the same page that it is no longer true), there are missing links, it has the same paragraph heading twice, places you advertise are given as “Affiliations/Associations/Clients”, there are punctuation and grammar mistakes, the caveats and “…”s at the end of the quotes make them worse than nothing, Professor Sandra Silberstein has never been a big name in my world, and “If those two endorsements were not enough to convince you, ” literally made me laugh out loud.

    You can dismiss this kind of stuff as trivial, but as far as I’m concerned out of date information is breaking trading standards law. Can Ford still advertise the Model T as the biggest selling car in America?

    The other impression it gives me is of bad management and/ or penny pinching, and if this is truly from the biggest course provider in TEFL it makes the whole industry look bad.

  38. Bruce says:

    Alex, I would say the BOAA that visit the course monthly “moderate” the course and the bigger names validate it (but a rather weak validation process).

  39. Bruce says:

    Alex, you may not know much about Sandra Silberstien but she is very well thought of in the US. I am afraid you are just showing a bit of your own ethnocentics into the discussion. Do a google search before you embarass yourself with your own ignorance. Honestly, you look VERY unprofessional by “laughing out loud” at someone who is pretty well known just across the pond. She is not a Donald Freeman (and if you start telling me you don;t know who he is you are just too blinded by your own British biases to continue the dicsussion) but she has written several books on ELT including a pretty well respected one on reading.

    I can guarantee you that if some higher profile american ELT professionals read this blog they would laugh out loud that you didn’t know who Sandra was.

    I will admit our website has a ton of errors. We have actually been getting ready to launch a new one for… 9 months now. IT folks are not the most reliable. And speaking of IT people, try working with SEO experts–guys who will go into your website and randomly add terms that boost the SEO, even though they make no sense or are gamatically incorrect. Something we have to deal with all the time. But for now we have been focusing our efforts more on the creation of the new site instead of fixing problems wiht the old site.

  40. Bruce says:

    As far as our trainers, we operate more like Trinity than CELTA in that our GROUPS ahve one lead trainer and one assistant trainer. The lead trainer offers most of the inputs while the assistant does things like give insturctions on how to do the FLJ. So TONY in Chiang Mai with five years of experience is the lead trainer.

  41. Alex Case says:

    (We were getting well off topic, so many comments above deleted. If you believe a comment is off topic, please do not reply to it or your comment will get lost too)

    I didn’t laugh at including Sarah Silberstein, I laughed at the number- imagine it on a TV infomercial- “We have two recommendations for this product, and if that isn’t enough…” Especially if you cut off one of the recommendations in mid-sentence and the other had the caveat (“This person once thought this, but maybe doesn’t anymore”)

    Well, I have to get my amusement somewhere… I’m not trying to take the mickey here, I’m guessing you don’t get much feedback on specific stuff like that, and that was my genuine reaction

    As Chris points out, the marketing is just one of those things that does not give off an impression of professionalism in TI, and the general lack of a professional air might be one of the reason why you get so much flak (which is turning into my chief question on the whole affair)

    Bruce- Could you confirm here (which only takes a couple of minutes) which pieces of information I mentioned are indeed inaccurate now, especially Middlesex University

    – So the minimum standards you give for trainers is actually the minimum standards for Lead Trainers only, and the assistant trainers can have as little as one year post-cert experience? Even if that is the case, you (or Mike?) claimed above that the experience is only counted if it is post-Cert, which would only leave the lead trainer with a year. In fact, for the equivalent CELTA position they would only include post-DELTA or post-MA experience, which would leave him with zero as he doesn’t have any higher teaching qualification. I assume the minimum standards for Trinity would also be higher.

  42. Bruce says:

    Well obviously the University of Washington quote has been heavily negotiated. I can see your point.

    Middlesex–until they tell us they are rejecting us we are still awaiting their confirmation. Perhaps we should just give up. I will give them one more email and, without a response, remove them.

    And I will then add the 5 new relationships we do have!

    Hopefully our new website will be ready by then.

    Trainers–as I mentioned, an assistant trainer just mainly does administrative sessions and observations. Same thing we did with Trinity.

  43. Alex Case says:

    – “5 continents”?

    – places you advertise are given as “Affiliations/Associations/Clients”?

    – Did you need to ask the BC for permission for that statement?

    – so when you say minimum standards for trainers, that doesn’t include assistant trainers? If so, do you think someone with one year of teaching experience could tell someone much in observation feedback? If so, there seems no reason not to make someone a DoS after one year of teaching, as it is basically just admin and observations.

    – Can you confirm that this example of a Lead Trainer doesn’t match the minimum requirements you stated, and tell us if this is a special case and if so how? And then let us know what percentage of lead trainers also don’t meet the “… years post higher teaching qualification experience” that you mentioned.

  44. TSR says:

    Bruce, it’s up to you whether or not you release the Board of Directors or not. Alex has asked you for their names. I suggest you provide their names. I am requesting your Oregon Form CT-12S that is required to contain your complete list of board of directors along with their addresses. You can either provide the names here or else I will provide the names AND addresses of the entire board of directors. It’s up to you.

  45. Teflista says:

    Re: TEFL International and Internet Marketing

    A current header of an advertisement for TI displayed on Dave’s ESL reads:

    “Take a 5 month adventure holiday in Thailand!” . Then inside the ad it goes on to say ” Includes a FREE TESOL certificate worth…”

    As a language teacher, I’m offended by this kind of advertising. I think it makes TESOL certificates look cheap and is bad for the industry. They seem to almost be giving it away as a bonus, like a free set of steak knives on a TV commercial. In my opinion, this is not the hallmark of a company that takes training teachers seriously.

  46. Alex Case says:

    Another question for you Bruce, just in case you were thinking of relaxing and enjoying your weekend (I work Sats, so don’t feel too guilty about messing up other people’s!):

    What percentage of TEFL trainees graduate/quit/fail?

  47. Bruce says:

    Here you go Alex:

    “5 continents”?

    Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Asia.

    – places you advertise are given as “Affiliations/Associations/Clients”?

    YOu lost me

    – Did you need to ask the BC for permission for that statement?

    We fully meet their requirements as listed on page 47 of their handbook. After that nothing else matters.

    – so when you say minimum standards for trainers, that doesn’t include assistant trainers?

    Yes, we are talking about LEAD trainers.

    If so, do you think someone with one year of teaching experience could tell someone much in observation feedback?


    If so, there seems no reason not to make someone a DoS after one year of teaching, as it is basically just admin and observations.

    I think I do not need to answer sarcastic and unnecessary questions. Right?

    – Can you confirm that this example of a Lead Trainer doesn’t match the minimum requirements you stated, and tell us if this is a special case and if so how?

    What example?

    And then let us know what percentage of lead trainers also don’t meet the “… years post higher teaching qualification experience” that you mentioned.

    I believe all Lead Trainers meet or exceed these minimum standards.

  48. Bruce says:

    TEFLista thank you for your opinion. I respectfully disagree.

  49. Bruce says:


    What percentage of TEFL trainees graduate/quit/fail?

    About 5 percent.

  50. Topper says:


    Where is the question in Teflista’s comment?

    But…here is the big question….one NOBODY has thought to ask!

    What is TI doing to ensure that its customers that are focused on working in Asia understand that to work legally in Thailand, the teacher is required to obtain a teacher’s license?

    This license requirements all say that every applicant MUST have at least a BA degree. Every teacher applying for a license is required to have teaching experience. Depending on the degree someone has they may be required to take a year long course costing 60,000 baht or more.

    Have you changed your advertisements to reflect this change in Thai law? Is it something that your instructors are informing your customers about?

  51. Alex Case says:

    – In the right hand column of the page we have been talking about on your site, it says “Affiliations/Associations/Clients”, and lists, for example Dave’s. I think this is one of a few that does not fit in those three categories. Padding?

    – If those are the minimum standards for LEAD Trainers, can you please make that clear in all future comments and on your websites? Without getting pedantic again, most people would assume that “trainer” would include “assistant trainer”.

    – I’ve lost the place now, but I believe you said that only post-qualification experience counts for (lead?) trainers, whereas most of the experience of this lead trainer seems to be pre-Cert, and no higher qualification:


    – Does Trinity really allow people with just one year’s experience to officially observe (and therefore grade, and therefore pass or fail) trainees?

    – Even if people with one year are acceptable, aren’t people with more much better??

  52. Brandon Fike says:

    “What percentage of TEFL trainees graduate/quit/fail?

    About 5 percent.”

    Can we get some clarification?

    Graduate, quit and fail are different words with different meanings.

    What percent of students:

    a.) graduate

    b.) fail

    c.) quit

    I read somewhere from Bruce or Mike that 5% of students graduate but my trainer, Phillip Nash, was asked this same question on the first day of our 3 day training and he told us that only one person had ever failed.

    Any explanation?

    Also, if I read the comment correctly, it seemed that Bruce admits that they do not actually ask the BC for permission……is that legitimate or not?

    Brandon/Fike2308/BAF/Chao Ren

  53. Teflista says:


    You still haven’t answered my question about the British Council criteria. Could you please define it? Isn’t it simply that a course be 120 hours in length and have 6 hours of observed teaching practice? If so, then aren’t there a lot of courses out there (including some very BAD ones) that technically ‘meet’ the criteria?

  54. Teflista says:

    Question to Bruce: how many lead trainers does TI have and how many Assistants?

  55. Alex Case says:

    An apparently new page including what we are talking about:


    Questions for Bruce:

    – Don’t you think the “Board” of Academic Advisors needs a link to “What does the board of academic advisors do?”

    – Ditto for Content Trainers (awful name- do they train contents or are they trainers who are content?)

    – Don’t you think each person needs a list of what they have done for TEFL International? Imo, what they have done in their careers is completely meaningless without this

    – Is the list of Current Trainers actually Current Lead Trainers? And is that all the Lead trainers in TI? All the ones who have worked in Korea? Just a selection of the most impressive looking ones? If it is the latter, shouldn’t it say “some of…”?

  56. Chris Carter-Smith says:

    Questions for Bruce:
    Regarding the new 2008 Korea website:
    1. If students at the Korea franchise are now able to obtain credits for an MA TESOL from Washiington University again , why is this not available to the others?
    2. Brian Tomlinson is listed twice – obviously another oversight on the part of the webmasters, but is this not ironic if he has not had anything to do with TI for over two years?

  57. Alex Case says:

    I’ve had a real cull of the top of the comments here, mainly for reasons of length and getting rid of questions that weren’t answered. A deleted or edited comment doesn’t necessarily mean anything worse than that.

  58. Alex Case says:

    I’m going on holiday from Friday, so I’m getting to let Bruce respond to the questions above and then lock the TI threads until I get back. Please save any other questions until then.

  59. Bruce says:

    Good Morning Vietnam! or, maybe, more appropriately, Hello HoChi Minh. Before I get to answers to my questions, I wanted to tell you about the great FREE conference TEFL International just sponsored here. We have over 700 people attend–almost all of them local Vietnamese teachers. Featured speakers were David Nunan and Alan Maley–both members of our BOAA. Nunan then spent several hours talking about our course content with our trainers.

    And I think this points out what I dislike about blogs and the internet web discussion boards. It ONLY focuses on the negatives. You and a few others a nit picking over some pretty minor details and website errors. OK, fair enough. But a professional journalist would balance their story with many of the positives that we do, like the thousands of happy trainees and the free conferences we offer around the world. Instead it is day after day of negative, negative, negative. Not only is it inaccurate, it is boring.

  60. Alex Case says:

    That’s exactly the kind of specific information for each BOAA member that I am saying should be on your site. Don’t see anything inaccurate or negative about that.

    Please try not to start any new topics like this, or I won’t be able to lock the discussion and you’ll have to put up with people saying anything they like for a week

  61. Bruce says:

    Hi Topper.

    Two points:

    We both know that rules in Thailand are enforced subjectively and sometimes not at all. As soon as we start getting complaints from degreeless grads saying they cannot gt jobs (and that certainly has not happened yet) we will consider accepting only grads onto our program.

    As far as the required Thai Culture and Language course, more on that in the very near future.

  62. Bruce says:

    As far as minor web site suggestions all of them are good and I will ahve the web team change them in the next few days.

    Please remember, Alex, that Trinity (and tefl international) do not do observation TEAMS. Each day the trainee will have a different observer, depending upon the schedule. Also, our Cert courses are quite perscriptive (since they are for NEW teachers). So while one day they may have someone with less experience, the next day they will have someone with more. And because the lesson plans should follow very defined parameters, anyone familiar with our course can observe effectively with a bit of training.

    The first time I observed a course was BEFORE I got a cert (but with 7 years teaching experience) for a Trinity course. that was on a course run by Cov Technical College.

  63. Bruce says:


    British Council Accreditation Handbook 2006, Page 47
    Section 4.2 Academic Staff Qualifications
    Paragraph 5 – Qualifications
    Certificate-level qualifications are first-level qualifications, usually taken by teachers with little or no ELT/TESOL experience who wish to enter the profession. To be considered by the Scheme as a valid certificate in ELT/TESOL, a qualification must:
    – be externally validated by a reputable examination body (usually a university or recognised examination board)
    – contain at least six hours’ supervised teaching practice (i.e. teaching practice where a qualified assessor observes the trainee teacher teaching real students and gives feedback on his or her performance)
    – contain at least 100 hours of ELT/TESOL input.
    TEFL International has two methods of external validation:
    • TEFL International is fully validated by Chiang Mai University and Asian University as well as having credit-bearing relationships with many US/UK/AU universities. We would be happy to Email you the validation agreements with these universities.
    • Each of our courses is visited and assessed by an external member of the Board of Academic Advisors.
    All TEFL International courses have 120 hour of training and at least 6 hours of OTP as verified by an official review by the British Council.

  64. Bruce says:

    We have about a 5 percent dropout/failure rate. We try to NEVER have end-of-course surprises where someone fails when they think they will pass.

    Therefore we have far more drop outs than we have fails. Most of these drop outs occur in weeks 2 and 3, when trainees either realize the workload is far greater than they anticipated or realize teaching is simply not for them.

    We rarely have situations where a trainee works very hard, does what he/she is asked and still fails. This is not rocket science! And nash confirmed that he has only had one trainee that tried their best through the full four weeks and could not pass.

  65. Alex Case says:

    Bruce says he’s done for now (and who can blame him, it’s been a looooooooooong process), so this and all other TEFL International threads will be locked at least until I get back from holiday. Please don’t try and spread the discussion onto other threads. You have been warned!

  66. Alex Case says:

    “My program (GIC Argentina) sends its TEFL students to the TEFL International classes, but they never told me that or where to go or when. It’s all sorted out, so no need to worry about me.”

    From a personal blog:


    A little odd?

  67. Teflista says:

    Re: TI and Conferences

    Well, congratulations, Bruce, on the conference. If you were going to have one, then David Nunan and Alan Maley were certainly good choices. I’ve enjoyed hearing him speak in person several times over the years and have a few of their books on my shelf, too. Many teachers in the region can’t afford to attend conferences out of their own pockets, and often don’t attend for that reason, so it looks like they got another one that was ‘free’ or sponsored. And as you like to say, ‘something is better than nothing’, although I’m not so sure that that’s always a good thing.

    I’ve personally been on the receiving end of TI at a conference or two and vividly remember having a number of promotional materials stuffed into my bag at a ThaiTESOL Conference. In this regard, TI certainly seemed to view teachers as potential money making customers more than anything else. The materials I received were written in Thai and encouraged teachers to incorporate TI in to their local school districts. And surely if everyone who got one acted upon it as suggested, then TI stood to gain enough money to fill a football stadium. I felt that the whole thing had a somewhat creepy vibe about it, too – like Microsoft pushing Windows and Office discs in the name of saving developing countries. Let’s face it – ELT is a big bucks business and China and Vietnam are two of the largest emerging markets on the planet. Please just call it what it is – a potentially lucrative promotion in motion.

    For some strange reason, TI also appears to be taking credit for having trainers with deficiencies. You’ve mentioned that the TI Assistant Trainers can have as little as a TEFL Cert (which is a basic entry-level qualification and not suitable for teacher training) and a year (or less?) of teaching experience. So TI offers an afternoon of additional training, which is the least they could do, but then waves a big conference flag about. The reality is that assistant trainers should be better qualified before setting foot on the job in the first place. Surely the CELTA, Trinity, SIT (and several others) have higher standards.

    Questions for Bruce:

    How many Lead Trainers does TI have? According to the new website, it appears to be only 8, which works out to an average of 1.6 qualified Lead Trainers per continent! And about half of those appear to be based full-time in Thailand. Is that the case?

    Bruce, everything is beginning to look more and more like the Wizard of Oz here… ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…the great Bruce has spoken’.

  68. Teflista says:

    Re: TEFL International Teacher Trainer Qualifications, CMU TEFL Validation

    So what has been the response by TEFL International and CMU TEFL (Chaing Mai University TEFL) to the above mentioned series of posts? They have simply taken down the webpage that describes the teaching qualifications of their trainers at CMU! Here they are again (taken verbatim, including grammar mistakes) from their previous webpage. Note that the only TEFL qualifications that the trainers have is a TEFL certificate, which is not a qualification for teacher training. Ironically, Bruce himself pointed out how the British Council defines such courses:

    Certificate-level qualifications are first-level qualifications, usually taken by teachers with little or no ELT/TESOL experience who wish to enter the profession.

    So the question still remains as to why the TI BOAA, CMU TEFL and Asia University (both in Thailand) would validate such courses and that’s anyone’s guess. I should point out, however, that Thai nationals pay approximately 15,000 Thai Baht per year to attend Rajabhat University. And that’s for an entire YEAR of university instruction. Now how much are people paying for a TI TEFL Certificate course at CMU (which has approximately 25 days of instruction)? Well, 52,000 Thai Baht with a deposit of 16,000 Baht required upon registration! I will leave it up to the readers of this blog to draw their own conclusions.

    Anthony Sanford (Tony)
    TEFL International Lead Trainer
    National ity: American
    Email: tonys@tefl intl.com
    Education: BSc – Social Work, University of Alabama, United States;
    Teach English as a Foreign Language Certification, Siam
    Educational Experience, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Brief Bio:
    TEFL International Lead Trainer, Tony has been teaching English in
    Korea for more than five years. In which time, he taught at two universities, private language institutes and was able to help develop and open Korea’s first total immersion English village. Tony has managed English camps for both children and university students, and has also served as a teacher manager. Tony has been in Thailand for over one year now, during which time, he taught at a publ ic school and managed a university English camp.

    Monika Brandli (Mo)
    TEFL International Co-Trainer
    Nationality: Thai/Swiss
    Education: BA -Business Administration, Commercial College,
    Switzerland; Teach English as a Foreign Language Certification,
    Language Institute Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Brief Bio:
    TEFL International Co-Trainer Monika has been teaching English in
    Chiang Mai for more than 2 years now. Monika has been teaching
    English at various government, and private language schools
    including most recently Sart & Sl ip School. Monika gain her ESL
    Certification through the LICMU TEFL Certificate program last year, and is now the TEFL International Co-Trainer here at LICMU.

  69. Bruce says:


    Wow, you uncovered a huge scam. Sheesh. So there is a free conference but we are making football stadiums of money because we inclde a bit of promotional material when they arrive.

    Are you really that stupid and do you believe everyone else is that stupid s well?

    So our “scam” free conference has been uncovered. Those 700 teachers who enjoyed a days worth of free talks by a few of the worlds most famous authors were really duped into filling football stadiums with money just for me.

    its funny. It might be just me but if this was such a huge money-making venture then why isn’t everyone putting on free teacher-training seminars? Why is it just us? And why are organizations like TESOL charging me hundreds of dollars for basically the same thing.

    Man, can anyone give me a better example of a complete putz? Someone with nothing better to do than put others down for completely imaginary reasons?

    Sorry, TEFLista, you just lost your response privileges from me. You have proven yourself to be a complete moron with absolutely nothing worthwhile to say.

  70. Teflista says:

    Obviously you are looking for any reason you can not to answer any further questions, as this page has made you and TI look quite bad.

    And if there is a complete putz among the posters here that distinction would have to go to you for offering TEFL certificate courses taught by so-called trainers who only hold a TEFL certificate — no wonder Alex listed you and TI on his wall of SHAME. Seems the perfect place!

  71. Alex Case says:

    Although the title might suggest that, I think if you read the original post my judgement was a bit more nuanced than listing on a wall of shame (if there was one, a lot of ordinary TEFL teachers would probably get on it too), but in this case I must say I had the same feeling about looking for an excuse not to answer the other questions. It must be said, though, that you did give him the excuse, hence my policy on one question at a time and no commenting twice in a row without reply…

  72. Bruce says:

    Alex, if you would like to ask me a question, feel free (but Email me so I know you asked). But when an obvious TROLL (moron/idiot) is exposed I feel no need to respond to him/her ever again.

  73. Bruce says:

    And, by the way, you might want to tighten up the moderation of these discussions. Attacks on a completely FREE seminar? If you want this discussion to descend into crap, leave attacks like that up. if not, delete STUPID posts.

    Its not my board. Do what you want. But if this gets ridiculous why should I participate?

  74. Alex Case says:

    If things are ridiculous, I trust my readers to be intelligent enough to work that out for themselves without any help from me or my delete button.

  75. Bruce says:

    Well then you just might need to do it without my participation.

  76. Alex Case says:

    Because you don’t think my readers are intelligent enough to work such things out for themselves? Okay, if you don’t want to use the opportunity I have given you to put your side of the stories in the links I have given above etc, that is certainly your free choice to make

  77. Bruce says:

    Readers have no way of knowing fact from fiction from a website like this. You know that very well. Trolls do not support free flow of information. They hinder it. Do your job. Get rid of trolls. Then your readers can make informed decisions based upon a fair exchange of ideas and opinions.

    Or run your site like TEFLWatch and see your credibility go down the toilet.

  78. Teflista says:

    Are you joking, Bruce? Is that why TI took DOWN the information about the trainers at CMU? So people can make informed choices? Please.

  79. Alex Case says:

    Comments will be taken down or edited when they are libellous, off topic, excessively aggressive or repeat themselves. Those are the rules. Anyone who doesn’t like them doesn’t need to take part.

  80. Bruce says:

    “Excessively aggressive” would certainly include sarcastic attacks on free Teacher Training seminars.

  81. Bruce says:

    Alex, obviously you are too lazy to do your job at moderating the forum but how about asking me a question about CMU and teacher qualifications? I certainly have no intention of responding to obvious trolls, especially trolls that are so brainless and stupid as this one.

  82. Alex Case says:

    “Excessively aggressive” would include calling me lazy, demanding that I ask you questions, and using words like “brainless and stupid”. Acting like you are doing me a favour by commenting is not against the rules, but it is anyway guaranteed to put me in a bad mood.

    If you don’t want to answer the question from Teflista, don’t.

  83. Bruce says:

    You think YOU are in a bad mood? Read the crap post by Teflista where he accuses us of running free seminars in order to make tons of money.


    Last time I checked, every conference I go to not only charges me tons of money but also loads me up on promotional materials.

    Any accusations that our free conferences are money makers are absolutely LUDICROUS.

  84. Bruce says:

    “TI certainly seemed to view teachers as potential money making customers more than anything else.”

    “TI stood to gain enough money to fill a football stadium.”

    “I felt that the whole thing had a somewhat creepy vibe about it, too – like Microsoft pushing Windows and Office discs in the name of saving developing countries.”

    These comments are so over the top and unfair that, yes, I really do believe you are failing in your job as the owner of this site. These comments probably are libelous. They certainly are bull$#!*.

  85. Alex Case says:


    Permit me a little amateur psychotherapy. You seem to be starting with the assumption (conscious or not) that there is something you can do to make all the criticism stop. That is not going to happen, not even if you narrow that down to fair criticism. That is life, and even more so since the internet came into it. Not accepting that one of the responses to criticism is just to let it be leads to the kind of anger that you are showing, and can lead further to nervous breakdowns and/ doing things that are underhand or you later regret in order to make the criticism stop.

    If you believe the comments are libellous, please ask a lawyer to look at them and tell me which parts are libellous under which law (any country’s law is okay) and I will edit or remove just those comments. I don’t see how something as subjective as “creepy vibe” can be libel, but then I know very little about the law.

    Again, I also believe that accusing someone of giving free conferences entirely (rather than partly) as a money making scheme doesn’t make much sense, but it is precisely because that is obvious even to me who has never been to one of them that I don’t see the need to actually delete that comment.

  86. Bruce says:

    Its really a lot simpler than that, Alex. I am just tired of Trolls. Idiots who post any nonsense they want. Really, don’t these people have better things to do than talk about free conferences making stadiums filled with money or how I got them fired from their jobs?

    People who have taken our course rarely are here complaining. Now if our course were so bad, wouldn’t these boards be filed with actual complaints!

  87. Teflista says:


    It’s very easy to be on solid legal footing with this. Simply change to:

    “I believe that TI seems to view teachers as potential money making customers more than anything else.”

    “then I believe that TI stood to gain enough money to fill a football stadium.”

    IMO, “I felt that the whole thing …

    Bruce: I have never called your conference a scam. Those are YOUR words and you are reading more into that part of the post than what is actually there — perhaps a Freudian slip on your behalf? I do believe that it is largely tied the potential money generating opportunity there and that you are not just the simple do-gooder that you were making yourself out to be in your previous post on the topic.

  88. Topper says:

    From TEFLista…..
    “I believe that TI seems to view teachers as potential money making customers more than anything else.”

    Maybe I misunderstood something, but if the people are teachers, then presumably they’ve completed Bruce’s course, so how do these teachers continue to make money for Bruce unless they are happy with the course and spread the word to non-teachers?

    I’m confused, can you explain it to me please?

  89. Teflista says:

    Many working English teachers in public schools have had limited training or no training at all, so you are making the wrong assumption. The degree of happiness is irrelevant. Do you think it’s a good idea to learn how to drive a race car from a person who just got their driver’s permit?

  90. Bruce says:

    Topper, attempting to make sense of TEFLista is similar to trying to make sense of someone else we know. It is ultimately a futile and frustrating experience.

  91. Topper says:


    So if they’re already employed in public schools, how could a free conference make Bruce enough money to fill a stadium?

    Good analogy…driving and drivers permits. I got out on the street legally with a learners permit. Wasn’t until I got that permit that I could. Guess thats what Bruce does…provide learners permits. Doubt anyone would let someone let a person with just a learners permit drive a race car, but they might let them start off driving an old VW Beetle.

  92. Teflista says:

    Here’s an entertaining — if not alarming — series of posts about TEFL International (just scroll down a bit):


    [EDITED- You can read it all there, so don’t see any need to repeat it here]

  93. Bruce says:

    yes that thread is entertaining and alarming. I can summarize it.

    We have a few crazed (jealous? sad? pathetic?) stalkers that enjoy simply making up crap about us.

    We have a few CELTA zombies who like to criticize us because we are… not CELTA.

    The two groups above who criticize us are almost NEVER our actual graduates or actually have anything to do with us. That is indeed alarming and disturbing.

    We have much easier admissions procedures than CELTA courses because I believe CELTA scares away many potentially good teaches with its Draconian interview process. In my opinion, people are smart enough to know if they want to take the course and we are smart enough to know if they pass. Its a crazy concept, I know.

    We have people who have taken our course and sometimes know me personally that actually enjoy the course a great deal.

    Fair summary?

  94. Teflista says:

    And two more interesting posts about the China program here:

  95. Bruce says:

    The thing I find most “interesting” about the complaints that we have received on a few message boards in China is he complete lack of response! These complaints have come from new posters and, oddly, no one has ever followed up with me or the BBB.

    it leads me to believe that these posters are nothing more than trolls. In other words, more of the same.

  96. Bob Hoskins says:

    Yes Bruce, You would say that!

    Like we should believe you because you said it, right!

    We are all trolls unless we speak good about you!

  97. Teflista says:

    The only thing that is more of the same, Bruce, is that you have opened your big mouth and stuck your foot in it again. Your personal response to the person on that blog , to the one who called your program ‘just terrible’, was that the program had ‘glitches’ and that some management needed to be replaced. We all know that for a CEO of a company to publicly put such a statement in writing is nothing more than managerial double-speak for ‘our program is big mess’. Please top trying to insult our intelligence.

    I also believe that the only reason you are back on Alex’s blog again is because your sales are down. Why else would you run an ‘October Special’ on Dave’s ESL giving away free Mandarin classes for your courses in China (something that is dirt cheap there, anyway)? As usual, I believe that TI would rather result to cheap advertising gimmicks rather than address any serious issues of quality. Please do us all a favor, Bruce, and spend more time improving your courses. Trawling and posting on every blog in the galaxy is something that real CEOs simply don’t do.

  98. Bruce says:

    Let me get this straight.

    I publicly admitted there were problems with a course and suggested that the complainers contact me for possible compensation. Its happened before–a trainer screws up, so we have given discounts and/or additional free courses. People have gladly taken us up on the offers. But in this case… silence.

    I would love to hear any viable explanation other than calling me names. LOL

  99. Teflista says:

    Two reasons:

    1) you posted your response a month later and they are probably not glued to the blog – no surprise there

    2)That would be because they are SMART! As soon as they put their real name up I believe that you and your legal team would try to pounce on them like a 500 pound tiger on a bag of catnip! Just like you tried to bully Alex. Not to mention that they need a recommendation from your company because they took your course…Duh!

  100. Sandy says:

    Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? … Ain’t this scratched record EVER gonna get turned off? …

  101. Bruce says:

    yeah, me and my legal team. just like Alex. LMAO

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