A recent typically involving discussion on ELT Jam turned about halfway through into a version of my new favourite comedy podcast The Blame Game. Instead of questions like “Who do you blame for Jeremy Paxman?”, the TEFL version had questions like “Who can we blame for the conditions of our ‘profession’?”
Here is who I would most blame, in approximate order, with explanations below.
- Organisations which are put in charge of educational standards such as The British Council in the UK
- Teachers’ organisations (IATEFL, TESOL, etc)
- The most well-established TEFL certification providers (mainly meaning Cambridge and Trinity)
- The British Council, International House, Bell and other chains which traditionally had good educational reputations
- Big local publishers who (also) produce EFL materials
- Big international ELT publishers
- People who choose to go into the classroom with no or minimal teaching qualifications or training
- Less well-known and/ or well-respected four-week face-to-face TEFL course providers.
- Purely online TEFL course providers
- Business HR departments
- Large very commercial chains of schools like EF and Wall Street
- EFL exam boards like Cambridge English, IELTS and ETS (of TOEIC and TOEFL fame)
- TEFL bloggers
- Students (or their parents)
1. Governments –Because immigration rules that mean a degree in Physics is more important than a teaching qualification (of any kind) for getting a visa to teach basically show that most governments have no interest in how much their citizens actually learn as long as no one complains.
2. Organisations which are put in charge of educational standards such as The British Council in the UK – For thinking they can improve educational standards without improving teachers’ job conditions, or that such a thing would be desirable even if it was possible
3. Teachers’ organisations (IATEFL, TESOL, etc) – For not putting (more) effort into pushing governments etc into really improving standards
4. The most well-established TEFL certification providers (mainly meaning Cambridge and Trinity) – For treating their teaching qualifications as cash cows and putting basically no effort into showing governments, school boards, potential trainees, students etc the value of teacher training.
5. The British Council, International House, Bell and other chains which traditionally had good educational reputations – For showing less and less confidence in the idea of quality teachers teaching well being another way to make money, or at least not being willing to offer good enough conditions to make that work
6. Universities – For being responsible for probably the biggest drop in teaching standards and conditions, including in some cases using teachers from the very worst language school chains and outsourcing companies to teach their students
7. Big local publishers who (also) produce EFL materials – For making the international publishers look like the kind of non-profit educational groups that some of them used to be with their complete pushing of quantity over quality
8. Big international ELT publishers – For just following marketing rather than trying to lead the market (as all good companies do), including when what the marketing department tells them people want goes completely against what they know to be true about teaching and learning
9. People who choose to go into the classroom with no or minimal teaching qualifications or training – Some people might put them lower in this list, but I think there is no excuse for claiming to be a teacher with zero training, even if it is “just” a TEFL teacher
10. Less well-known and/ or well-respected four-week face-to-face TEFL course providers. – For devaluing four-week courses with their lies about CELTA, lies about their own courses, lies about accreditation, etc and their obviously dodgy marketing – rather ironically most of all laying the seeds of their own destruction by making online courses look no worse
11. Purely online TEFL course providers – For all the same things as the dodgier face to face courses, but I blame them less because they came later and if someone chooses to believe that a few online questionnaires and 60 quid makes you qualified to teach, they pretty much deserve what they get
12. Business HR departments – For just treating English as a quick, easy and cheap way of ticking off the “employees trained” box, with little serious attempt to ensure that is actually true
13. Large very commercial chains of schools like EF and Wall Street – Less blame than the traditionally more respectable schools, because after all what can you expect…
14. EFL exam boards like Cambridge English, IELTS and ETS (of TOEIC and TOEFL fame) – Lower than teacher training organisations despite their possibly bigger effect on the industry, because I believe being commercial is more understandable in this case
15. TEFL bloggers – For putting too much emphasis on activities rather than activism (myself included)
16. Recruiters and outsourcing companies – Like estate agents, you can hardly expect anything but lies from recruiters, so I’d more blame anyone for believing them or using them
17. Students (or their parents) – In the same way that you can hardly blame car drivers for ending up with faulty airbags, I don’t think you can put much responsibility on students to be canny shoppers if no one is trying to make them so.
Have I missed anyone or got anyone’s responsibility level totally wrong?