For a business that has been one of the world’s top growth industries for more than a few decades, a business that reaps 6.25 billion pounds a year globally according to The Economist, it seems rather strange that no-one can agree on what to call the English teaching profession. Is it EFL, TEFL, ESL, TESL, ESOL, or TESOL? No-one’s quite sure. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
But, when you come to think of it, this inability to decide on one name for the profession is rather indicative of the state of the English teaching industry today. Since worldwide demand for English language tuition surged in the late sixties and early seventies, the industry has grown like topsy. Some of the key players have been well-organized professionals; some have been incompetent opportunists eager to clamber aboard the band-wagon. That’s why today you have English language schools ranging from the professional to the haphazardly run bucket-shop. And if you’re in Asia, South America, or countries like Spain and Greece, you’ll find that three out of four schools are in this latter category.
Why are these sub-standard schools allowed to operate? Who exactly is keeping tabs on schools which are out for an easy buck, with not the slightest regard for service, quality, student needs, or teachers’ working conditions? Why hasn’t the body responsible for governing schools clamped down on them? Why haven’t they been given the ultimatum: ‘Shape up or ship out’? All good questions. The answer, of course, is that there is no body responsible for ensuring minimum quality standards in English teaching. Some European and Western countries have set up their own codes of practice, but worldwide? Nowt. Nada. Nuthin. And thus the rip-off schools, the schools where the only thing that matters is money and where the words ‘quality’ and ‘standards’ are unknown, continue to operate unfettered, and in most cases operate very profitably too, thanks very much.
Anyway, what to call the game we’re engaged in? How about English Teaching for Students All Over Who Just Want To Learn the Bloody Language (ETFSAOWJWTLTBL)? Ok, everybody agreed? Let’s call it that then. After all, there’s no international body to say we can’t.
In my new book, EFL minus the B.S. (soon to be available on Amazon) I have touched on this theme, along with many others. In the book you’ll find answers to these questions: How can I get an overseas English-teaching job? Why in the hell would I want to get an overseas teaching job? How can I survive that job once I’ve got it?