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.
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?
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 (), 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
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.
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.