Friday, January 8, 2010

Bruce renews the BC-Bashing campaign...

Once again I am happy to generously lease a page or two of this ever-impartial blog to Bruce Veldhuisen, CEO and Mr Controller (a.k.a. Fat Bastard) of TeflLife. And no, he hasn't paid me a single fuggin' dime for this, or even promised a week's free holiday at his exotic Thai villa - but it's not a bad idea, eh, Bruce!

Bruce appears to have been tripped up - or pushed over - by the British Council, the Big Brother (or rather, the MinTru) of the worldwide EFL industry, in another of those unhealthy scenarios in which an apparently impartial arbiter of the field is once again revealed as a vested interest. Clearly, the ref shouldn't be wearing red and white stripes when he's refereeing at Sheffield United, eh?!


What if you took a company to court for some misdeed and the judge was a partner in that company? Perhaps the product you bought was defective and you deserved a refund, but the judge, along with his position with the court, was also the General manager of the company that manufactured and sold it to you.

Obviously this could never happen in the modern world, unless in some corrupt dictatorship. Right? Our government organizations, while far from perfect, certainly avoid obvious conflicts of interest. They strive to be fair, transparent and unbiased.


Wrong. Welcome to the British Council.

The British Council, as you may know, is a government-funded organization in the UK that exists to promote British culture, language, education and business overseas. They also operate English language centers worldwide.

The British Council also actively promotes British-based TESOL courses such as Trinity and CELTA. These are the only two courses listed as acceptable courses by name on the British Council website for employment at the British Council, and, if you take the time to contact British Council language centers worldwide, virtually every one will recommend that you take their CELTA. Most of the employees working at the centers have this qualification as well.

In fact, the CELTA is offered in 17 British Council locations worldwide, so the British Council is actually directly involved in offering TESOL certificate courses. And why not? Given the organization’s objectives you would expect nothing else. For years the British Council gloried in its close relationship with CELTA, and there was really no reason to complain.

But in the last few years things have become a bit more complicated. For unknown and unexplained reasons, the British Council decided to expand its role and is now accrediting English schools. And part of this accreditation requires all teachers to have an 'acceptable" TESOL qualification--and the qualifications accepted by the British Council's English and Exams Department are, not coincidentally, the CELTA and Trinity courses.

A few years back, the main competitor to the CELTA, TEFL International, a US-based non-profit organization, was reviewed by the British Council's own Alan MacKenzie. Mr. MacKenzie is the Teacher Training Manager for all of East Asia--a position obviously requiring a great deal of knowledge about training courses such as the CELTA and TEFL International. As part of his professional evaluation he wrote that the British Council "does recognise this certificate for employment purposes as a CELTA equivalent.".

Unfortunately for TEFL International and its graduates when news of Mr. MacKenzie's assessment reached the British Council in London, TEFL International was informed that a second assessment was required. Mr. MacKenzie, despite his relevant position in the British Council and Masters degree, was deemed incapable of assessing the course accurately.
Nearly three years later, despite complying with all the written assessment criteria in the British Council's handbook, the Director of "Business Management", English and Exams informed TEFL International that our course, which a highly qualified British Council employee deemed as acceptable, was, actually, unacceptable. Is it merely a coincidence that it was a director of Business Management? I believe this decision reeks of business--the business of assisting CELTA and the British Council by damaging its main competitor in initial teacher training.

Due to this blatantly biased accreditation scheme, this decision affects not only teachers wishing to work at the British Council but at any British Council accredited English school in the UK and elsewhere, thus harming thousands of teachers already holding a TEFL International certificate.

One example of problems this has caused is Kieron Jarvis, a graduate of TEFL International's course in Vietnam. He was a Director of Studies with Richard Language School, Bournemouth, UK, until a recent British Council inspection deemed him unqualified due to his TEFL International training. This despite the fact that he had successfully held his position at the school for over a year, with no detrimental remarks from his superiors!

According to Mr. Jarvis, "This is causing me considerable stress as I am now out of work and suffering financial difficulties." He has tried to appeal to both the British Council and his school, but states: "Whenever I mention this nobody seems to want to discuss it with me."

The whole situation raises an obvious question: Why is the British Council putting itself in a position of authority, where it can assess its own competitors and blacklist them? In any similar situation, in any country and in any culture, this would be deemed a questionable practice, at best. Are the government agencies that fund the British Council and its projects fully aware of this cutthroat practice?

I have always admired the British sense of fair play and their commitment to economic laissez-faire. But the recent actions of the British Council make me doubt that those noble sentiments are still at play in your country.


So, there you go - clearly another case of the judges making up the rules to suit themselves, and changing them when they feel like it too.

If anybody, including impartial observers and heavily vested interests, have any enlightening remarks to make, please add your cheeky comments and reasonable responses below. Cheers.


Alex Case said...

Fair points. What's more, Trinity went through exactly the same struggle to be recognised by the Council, possibly partly for the same reasons, although possibly it could just be because BC is a cushy government job and the people who work there really can't be arsed dealing with change.

A few inaccuracies though:

"British Council accredited English school in the UK and elsewhere"

The BC does not accredit schools elsewhere, as then they would be competing with schools accredited by themselves. Some schools try to use a connection with a BC accredited school in the UK as a proof of standards, but it is no such thing

"But in the last few years things have become a bit more complicated. For unknown and unexplained reasons, the British Council decided to expand its role and is now accrediting English schools"

Depends how you define "few", but the BC has been accrediting schools in the UK for at least as long as I've been teaching (LONG!) The only difference is that the government's crack down on visas makes that position much more important than it was.

"He was a Director of Studies with Richard Language School, Bournemouth, UK, until a recent British Council inspection deemed him unqualified due to his TEFL International training"

If he was DoS, he should have a Diploma or MA. Don't know if that's BC rules, but it should be. You can get on either of these with a TEFL Int Cert, or indeed sometimes with no Cert, so I don't see that doing your initial training with TI is the issue here. Anyone care to clear this up?

In summary, I think Bruce's point about conflict of interest is good (and wish he'd put it on my blog instead!), but of course that doesn't prove anything either way about what conclusion a non biased BC would come to concerning TI or the individual points he mentions

Dr F Kim said...

BC are elite conceptuele artists. Accept.

Why you make fun van Bruce? He is kewl Dutch name entrepreneur. I tell Dutch hacker-commies you anti-Dutch. They hate English because island people take New York/Nieuw Amsterdam. If no, then world speak Dutch and not language of infected island people. Why dictionary so big? Don't know it is you say want?

mr f's aunt said...

tradesman? - you're a cunt

? said...

hey, en BC choose Tracey for big art show in Venice on 2007. This prove BC is conceptuele artist and have good taste with art. But beat in Bruce is bad art.

Bruce, we take Dutch ships over Channel for you. We fight infected island people, ja?

The TEFL Tradesman said...

See? I try to some good for the general public, revealing Bruce's dodgy reasoning, and all I get is abuse and ridicule! It's enough to make a guy give up blogging, BUT I won't go away that easily.

And you, 'Dr. Kim' are nowt but a cheap impostor. Bring back the real one! His humour was far better, and his bad spelling much more sophisticated.

dr f kim said...


I is Dr Kim and mijn English is prefect!

Anonymous said...

A very interesting post. To be considered by the Scheme as a valid certificate in ELT/TESOL, a qualification must:

1.- be externally validated by a reputable examination body (usually a university or recognised examination board)
2.- 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)
3.- contain at least 100 hours of ELT/TESOL input

I believe that TI probably didn't satisfy #1, as they were, at one point, claiming validation by Chaing Mai University. At one point during a series of discussions on Alex's blog, it was pointed out that the moderator and the administrative director of their courses at that location held no TEFL qualifications whatsoever (based on his own bio that was posted on their website), and that neither of their trainers held a higher qualification and highly questionable qualifications (again, based on their own bios).

To further muddle things, the BC have made a mess of the criteria and there are a number of loopholes that they need to clean up. For example, based on the above stated BC requirements (from the Accreditation UK Handbook), it would be technically possible to have 100 trainees on a TEFL course and only one trainer. Now we know that that CELTA wouldn't allow more than about 12 or so (and with TWO trainers, and at least one with a higher qualification). But Bruce himself has stated that they've had well over 15, maybe even near 20 on some courses, so I'm not surprised to find the BC (or others) reluctant -- and thank goodness.

As much as I dislike TI (I personally refer to them as TROUBLE International), I do think it's unfair for the BC to not have clear criteria. Both the BC and TI need to clean up their acts.

Anonymous said...

P.S. For years TEFL
International ran advertisements claiming that they "meet the BC requirements" and they were fully aware of the difference between in meaning between "meeting the requirements" and their certificate being "accepted" by the BC. This was pointed out directly to Bruce by posters on Alex's blog and many beleive it to be misleading to consumers. And Bruce's response was to just continue his marketing campaign regardless of the outcomes. Well, it looks like Kieron Jarvis and many others got the short end of the stick and now we are supposed to feel sorry for TI? Aren't they the ones who profited from their marketing? I think TI should give all Brits their money back back.

Dutch mafia said...

ANON above: please indicate address. Dutch mafia has already been contacted to stuff 10000 marijauana joints in jouw flat. Then we call UK police.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Well, that's an interesting couple of comments there. Would Bruce like to comment? And whoEVER heard of a 'Dutch Mafia'?!?

Dutch mafia said...

We supply drugs to all Europe. Then we collect tax from sale. Then we make conceptuele art. We know Englisch so we don't need you.

We are Dutch mafia and Bruce have Dutch name so fuck off tosser en buy Dutch drugs!

10000 joints for BC!

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting follow up for any Brits out there who feel that they might have been taken TI's marketing campaign:

What to Do If You've Been Had by Your TEFL Course:

Anonymous said...

A recommendation by David Nunan doesn't help.