How do you feel about being part of educational outsourcing?

I’ve spent most of my career being sent to teach in universities, companies, junior colleges, kindergartens, cram schools and such-like by conversation schools who also provide teachers for other organisations. During that time I’ve met quite a few teachers who have worked for the same universities etc directly, including some who have gone from being outsourced teacher to a direct hire or vice versa, sometimes teaching in the exact same institutions.

I get the impression that in general most of those teachers have found that by being direct hires they can get more money for doing a worse job, due to less supervision, fewer colleagues they can really work together with, idiotic syllabi designed by the organisations without any outside input, identical classes repeated over and over until they lose all interest in them, time spent documenting their classes rather than improving them, etc. If they had tenure, they’d probably be able to get away with even worse classes for even more cash.

I feel exactly as torn about the situation on both sides of that equation as you might imagine from that description. If someone offered me more money to teach worse classes I’d probably do so too, but as things stand I don’t feel so bad about providing at least slightly better classes for what is probably a reasonable amount of pay, even if the rest of the cash is going into the pockets of people who don’t teach.

And you? How do you feel about educational outsourcing and/ or being part of it?

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7 Responses to How do you feel about being part of educational outsourcing?

  1. I avoid doing it. I have done a little bit (in Japan) but I tend to feel that while direct hires can get away with doing less for more – I think these people would be bad teachers in any situation.

    Outsourcing is a trend we can do little to oppose, but I’d rather the companies/schools.universities hired directly and then managed their programs better, rather than outsourcing and further reducing the income of teachers who already earn too little. But again – there is ‘naff all’ we can do about it – so I don’t bother complaining.

    The future of EFL if indeed it has one is in increasing the direct link between student and teacher – with students choosing and paying their teachers directly.

    But I think TEFL will die with this generation of teachers.

  2. olyasergeeva says:

    I quit my language school six months ago to get employed directly by an IT company and haven’t regretted that decision. This is by far the most challenging and the most fascinating job in my life. The school had the same syllabus for all in-company students, regardless of what line of business they were in, and I felt that a lot of what I was teaching was quite irrelevant. But as an employee, I can get the full picture of how English is used in this sphere, having direct access to emails, real-life meetings etc, can ask my students to write up descriptions of past projects to use them for case studies and so on. Adapting the course is definitely more challenging and at times even nerve-wracking, but also way more rewarding. Also, I can research ‘niche’ problems my students have, like listening comprehension at higher levels, and develop short courses that target those problematic areas, which is a boost to my teaching skills.

    Regarding supervision, I guess there’s another side of the coin: in order to develop professionally, you have to be allowed to take risks and fail spectacularly from time to time. In some schools the policy is not to let teachers know beforehand about observations, for instance. Other people might be better than me at ignoring that, but I just didn’t feel like experimenting much and kept well clear off any non-conventional stuff that wasn’t ‘communicative approach’, e.g. wouldn’t even have dreamed of spending 90 minutes teaching a vocabulary learning technique, for instance.

    On the other hand, in this IT company there’s still a lot of supervision and the feedback loop is much shorter, as my superiors get feedback directly from the students on a regular basis, and in a way this is again a lot more challenging, but also maybe more valuable for me professionally, than getting it once a few months from the DoS.

    And yes, the pay is 50% higher. Can’t imagine going back to a language school, in short..

  3. The above post describes exactly how I think direct hiring should be done – everyone wins except the chain schools/dispatch companies.

    But the pay should really be 100% of more than a basic language school gig pays – you will have much more prep to do and far less of it will be reusable. But 50% is a good start. Well done.

  4. alexcase says:

    Sounds great, but I am worried about getting feedback straight from the HR department, who got it straight from the students. I’ve been lucky enough with my bosses who were sending me to these contracts that they were experienced teachers who knew when you should and shouldn’t take students comments with a pinch of salt. In my experience, HR departments and universities are much more likely to demand a complete swing in approach due to one student’s strongly worded feedback (sometimes positive, of course, like having to do yet another course on presentation skills because that was the only thing anyone had a strong opinion on). I prefer having someone to stand between me and that kind of stuff, while I also get my own feedback from my students and decide myself how I will respond to it. That person also gets to sit in all the meetings of course, which I will be eternally grateful for. I get to just plan lessons, create materials, and teach.

    It’s kind of the same reasons I rent rather than buy and take the train rather than have a car.

  5. I have always tended to have a rather robust attitude to feedback – so I would just ignore it I felt it was mistaken or unhelpful. Many of the people with the strongest views have the least basis for those strong views.

    I remember working in a proper language school in the UK where they asked for feedback and archived it meticulously, but I never bothered to go and look at the forms. I just didn’t care and didn’t believe they were the honest opinions of the students anyway.

    Now working in Asia feedback has been absent or kept secret from teachers as a management policy.

    In the end the students will vote with their feet – and I’ve had that happen only to have them come back a few months later and ask to join my classes again. Usually I don’t let them back in but sometimes I have done. This is based on the luxury of having 2-3 times as many students on a waiting list as in classes.

    I don’t mean to come across as arrogant – just that I believe my style and approach has merit though it is definitely not for everyone. Those who don’t like it/want it had better look elsewhere for what they do want – cos I’m not changing just to suit a vocal minority.

  6. alexcase says:

    Although my attitude to feedback isn’t quite as “robust” as yours, I definitely interpret rather than accept feedback, and that is my worry with having an HR manager as your new boss.

  7. After clicking send I thought maybe I was sounding like I didn’t care at all about how students feel about my lessons. Which is not the case. I constantly try to be aware of student reactions and I try to give them what they need in a form they will want to consume.

    I do lose patience with students who are trying to be annoying in order to prove some point and with the ones who are in class but will not learn and try to hijack your lessons in order to avoid having to do any actual work in class – being too busy to work outside of class I can accept – but being too lazy to work in class I will not tolerate. Don’t come to class and tell me you’re ‘tired’.

    Some at least of the most vehement feedback is from students who have another agenda. They are I feel often trying to cover for their own failures as students by blaming the teacher. Some just have the wrong idea of what teaching is and will use feedback forms to agitate for a total change in methodology. I’d be prepared to fine tune my lessons but I’m not willing to make complete 180 degree change in direction.

    Also, I suspect we’ve all encountered corporate types who try to use lesson time to have you do the parts of their job that require them to use English – ghost writing reports or presentations for example. If you want a translator – hire one – don’t try to use an English teacher as a cheap alternative and then complain because we aren’t very good at it!

    I have an increasingly robust and thick skinned attitude to the kind of feedback conducted in an offhand manner – fill in the questionnaire of tick boxes type stuff. I think it’s just useless. If someone held an interview with the students and asked them to make comments and suggestions then to justify their opinions it would be worth taking more seriously.

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