Thursday, February 14, 2013

EF - the Tefl exploitation experts!

The latest offering to arrive in Sandy’s inbox concerns that well-known cheapo bunch of Tefl shysters and criminals, EF. Not for nothing, it seems, does EF stand for ‘Exploitation First’ – breaking employment laws, misleading punters, and undermining the teaching process are all just second nature to this gang of crooks. The story below relates to one of their summer courses in Oxford last year.

The website for EF Oxford’s ‘International Academy’ (which I am sure was only very recently a ‘Global Village’) invites us to “Study in the footsteps of famous thinkers and leaders”. It somehow manages to leave out the fact that those who unwittingly choose the summer programme will actually be studying in a football stadium on the outskirts of town, where foreign students are becoming increasingly targeted for muggings.

Of course, I only learned this crucial piece of information at my interview. The then ‘Town Leader’ finished up with “and of course, none of the classes will be here. They’ll all be at the Kassam.” 

“The football stadium?” I exclaimed. “Is there… a photocopier?” 

The Town Leader seemed to find my  reaction of shock quite inappropriate, and replied that there wasn’t a photocopier. However, the friendly Course Directors would be happy to photocopy for me if I gave them ‘one or two days notice.’

This was my first glimpse into the Empire of Evil that is known as EF, once English First, now Education First. Once you are familiar with the blue logo, you will never escape it; it is there, emblazoned on bags, pens, wallcharts, even a Routemaster bus.

The first thing we were taught at the EF training day was the importance of the wallcharts. These, they told us, were fundamental to the learning experience: even more so than, say, a classroom, with desks, or (heaven forbid) a whiteboard.

I arrived at 8:00 am to be presented with my all important wallcharts and some blue tack, to affix the said posters to the walls of the corporate football box that was to serve as my classroom. It soon became apparent that the blue tack would not take to the walls, and despite our efforts none of the posters stayed up for more than five seconds.

But this was not the most pressing matter.

I had, as the register that I had been given said, 17 students arriving in ten minutes, to which I would have to administer a test. I had 14 chairs with tiny, fold-over arms rests that served as desks and kept falling apart, no whiteboard, no pen, no CD player. When I went to the corporate meeting room assigned as the ‘Staff Room’ to ask the Course Directors where I could get these seemingly unimportant things, I only found some Activity Leaders being disciplined by their blue t-shirt-clad overlord.

17 students and a teacher in a corporate box is not a happy picture, especially in the height of summer and with no air conditioning or window to open. The only way I could fit everyone in was to put one student obstructing the door, and of course there was no desk or chair for me- only a flipchart whiteboard balanced at the back of the class.

When the students arrived they were all dehydrated, having been on a coach for two hours without any stop for refreshment. When I asked the Course Director where the water fountain was, she told me to ‘send them to the vending machines,’ as she wasn’t sure where the catering staff were, and that they usually provided us with jugs of water.

I ushered them down to the vending machines, which were all empty. When I returned, the Course Director had vanished again. I found an empty jug and some plastic cups on a table, gave it a rinse, and went to fill it in the toilets. It was that or let them go thirsty for the next 90 minutes of placement test.

It soon became apparent that the school was operating on a policy of lying and exploitation. None of my students had known that they would be studying in a football stadium on a housing estate - the website had lead them to believe that they would be amongst the ‘dreaming spires’ in EF’s main school.

They were also told that they would have an ‘international’ class, but this was a loose concept. One of mine had 14 of one nationality, with a couple of others chucked in.

Our Course Directors used bullying and emotional manipulation as a means of managing us. I was asked if I wanted to teach intensive classes over my lunch break. This would mean having no lunch break at all - teaching for 7 hours straight with only the ten minute breaks that always got taken up with the needless administration and student policing that EF seems to hold more important than having access to books, computers and a photocopier. I refused, and then was told that it ‘wasn’t fair’ on my colleagues who would consequently ‘have more work’ which we should ‘all share out’.

The same policy was employed for the discos and weekend outings. The CDs and Town Leader would routinely say at meetings, ‘teachers, we KNOW you’re tired, but you ALL must come to the megaparty. And don’t forget to learn the EF Dance! Everyone must know the EF dance.’  Apparently being able to wave your arms in time to a song (which, coincidentally, I am quite certain is about underage prostitution) is more important than having a TEFL qualification when you work as an EF teacher.

The after-school meetings generally involved the teachers being told off for not collecting enough sign-ups to trips or selling ‘fun packs’. We often raised the issue that teachers were not getting drinking water and were consequently getting dehydrated, but this was never resolved. I soon gave up on the idea of having any kind of support as the Course Directors were often nowhere to be found, or busy barking orders into mobile phones.

One of the most laughable things about EF’s curriculum was the ‘Project.’ Each class was assigned 3 netbook computers on which they had to, in groups, make movies about their ‘ Fantastic EF experience’ and then upload them to youtube. The best one was to win an Ipad. They had to start this shameless marketing ploy in their first week, when they had barely had any EF experience at all, and the netbooks kept crashing.

These sessions generally involved three students working on the netbooks, while the rest asked me repeatedly why they had to do it, and whether they could include something about getting mugged on the way to the stadium, or how their host families were not feeding them enough.

What I found most disconcerting about EF is its use of questionnaires. EF Oxford had previously received a high student satisfaction rating from last year’s questionnaires. When it was our turn to give them out, our manager had some valuable advice for us. “If you see that they have put a sad face, try to get them to change it”, she said. “Remind them about how much fun they’ve been having. Teachers, we don’t want to see any sad faces. And remember to put your wall charts up - there’ll be an inspection tomorrow.” We were urged to make the classes as enjoyable as possible, to avoid the sad faces of shame that would mark us out as unworthy teachers.

However, my lessons often became devoted to fixing chairs, finding water for thirsty students, and listening concerned for my students’ welfare as they told me the dubious details of their living situation, or vented their anger at having been misled by the EF website. Having no projector, no photocopier, very limitedspace and only EF’s course books, filled with errors, senseless exercises and trashy topics, this was a quite a task. However, once you have taught in these conditions, anything seems possible.

In short, it was a true TEFL baptism of fire.

I urge any student (or teacher) thinking of EF Oxford to run for their lives.

OK, so a true horror story there, the sort that only EF can inspire. Does anybody else have similar tales of woe to tell about EF? I'm sure there must be hundreds!

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not just EF, it's the whole of EFL!

Turncoat Ted said...

I see that the school 'headmaster' is a tranny called Ted Mcgrath!!

The TEFL Tradesman said...

PS: I forgot to mention that the EFL 'Flagship School' in London is looking for a new DoS.

Have a look here if you really want your EFL 'career' (Ha!!) to take a marked downward turn.

http://www.tefl.com/jobs/job.html?jo_id=55183

There's no mention of a salary of course, but I guess you can expect at least 300 quid a week after tax!!!

Anonymous said...

As much as that? They must be feeling very generous!

Anonymous said...

I have worked for EF in a number of countries - more fool me - because I was desperate and heard they take almost anyone (including paedophiles as Sandy previously reported).
They are a marketing business. All teaching issues are secondary.
Anyone who has worked for them knows this.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true. It's just a shame that so many children have to suffer, what with EF's woefully inadequate programmes and inept management.

Anonymous said...

The children? What about the bloody teachers? They suffer a lot more - indignity, together with crap pay and conditions!

Recovering EF Instructor said...

What about their hillarious EF Englishtown online venue?!

As one nugget, I was told by our supervisor and teacher trainer - a retiree who supplimented her social security pittance with EF's ET classes and a general non-presence as a supervisor - that I "shouldn't expect to be treated well" because she wasn't. She was right.

For instance, in training I had to (secretly) observe five teachers' classes and then write little reports that no one read or commented on. Once I passed that test, I found myself "teaching" but getting paid the measly near-minimum wage 1.5 months later. This was EF policy not an anomaly of payroll. Best of all, I got punished for giving up classes with advance notice to subs, by not only not getting paid for them (which makes sense) but also by getting the amount I would have earned DEDUCTED from my 1.5 month late paycheck (which doesn't make a whole lotta sense).

Come to think of it, even that I would have accepted had they not told us that we were free to click on or unclick a class in the roster in coming week. Rather than "if you unselect a class and remove yourself even with able time for another teacher to sub, you'll be fined the cost of your wage for that class in addition to the money you won't receive for not teaching it and the same of having something else come up in your life" (like better paying teaching hours).

Oh, EF, I now see your point. ' You had better get your "education first" before you end up getting duped by the likes of us'.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked at the secret observation thing - I'd taken it as read that short of actual bodily harm EF don't give a monkey's what happens in the classroom. EFL is a cowboy industry but there are better people to work for than EF. There are worse, too, but they are comparative minnows and as such unable to cause misery on anything like the same scale.

Anonymous said...

I worked for Twin, several years ago, and had complained that between teaching and doing activities (inc bedtime and wake up duties) I didn't have enough time to plan. The centre manager / DoS told me not to worry, they'd re-work the schedule. A little while later I was walking back to my room, and my DoS appeared in front of me with the ADoS (backs to me) and I heard the DoS bitching about me, with one of the final comments (before I quit) being "Does he think this is a school ffs?"

damo04 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UK Study said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Having worked for EF London on their academic year programme last year, I can only confirm what the original poster has said regarding the 'company'.
Some grievances I would further add to the list are as follows:

- no proper vetting of host families: my students were placed in families that did not feed them if they were not there for dinner by 6 pm (classes on the AY programme finish on some days at 6.35 pm), call them names, show racist/homophobic behaviour towards them etc

- Sales offices mis-selling the courses, giving students incorrect information, and making unrealistic promises

- space issues - 17 students in tiny classrooms. Some classrooms(so called studios) have no doors; others have no no windows or windows that don't open.
There's no air-conditioning in the summer and radiators break all the time in winter

- teachers, especially those on contract (as opposed to hourly-paid), are overworked and paid peanuts and frequently told off for not being positive enough.

-levels of bureaucracy are sky-high, and teachers are not paid for taking part in (obligatory) meetings etc

- EFekta books are ridden with errors, boring and all-around useless

- some members of the academic management/coordination team have no relevant teaching experience and can offer little if any support to teachers; others haven't taught for so long, the 'advice' they offer is impractical and frequently unfeasible

All in all, I would strongly discourage people from applying to EF London. The teachers are all wonderful people but the crap you have to put up with from the management is simply not worth it.

The Polish DoS said...

Ha!! I see that Ef are begging for 'Senior Teachers' on tefl.com. No salary is advertised, but the following is what the job entails:

Duties will include:
 Teaching at least 26 hours contact classes per week using the EFEKTA Blended Learning System or University Prpearation classes, classes to include General English classes and/or Specialist Modules, Exam Preparation classes or lectures.
 Covering classes in the event of staff absence
 Acting as a Team Leader and Mentor for teachers
 Maintaining the resource library and developing new resources.
 Weekly quality register check to ensure UKBA regulations are followed by teachers ( task shared with Senior Teachers)
 Working together with Senior Teachers to support new and existing teachers in the staffroom as well as in the classroom
 Conducting buzz and formal observations and assisting in teacher inductions
 Revising Spin syllabi
 Helping to identify teacher needs and developing workshops in these areas
 Participating in CPD sessions and Meetings

So you'll be teaching AT LEAST 26 hours?! What is the limit - 40? As well as team leading, doing cover, and adding resources, etc, etc...!!

This HAS to be a real dogshit job, working for the shittiest EFL outfit in the world!!

Aalina Christ said...

Getting a TEFL job or Teaching English as a Foreign Language can be very rewarding and thousands of teachers have proven that you can travel the world and earn a living while doing it.

Anonymous said...

They have just opened a new one in Eastbourne. As if the town weren`t cursed enough!

Anonymous said...

Was the DoS at EF Oxford Steve 6-chins Wheeler? A little bird tells me that he now masquerades as a Principal(!!) at some Delboy outfit in Lahndun, whose owner is a twat in a bow-tie from the Emerald Isle..... my mate was deputy DoS at aforesaid charade before getting the boot for being competent. Another one to avoid like the plague....

The TEFL Tradesman said...

"Getting the boot for being competent", eh? Please tell us more - I'm very intrigued!

Anonymous said...

Apparently the ADoS at the outfit in the Smole was more concerned with ensuring that the students were put in classes at the right level and that they had a well-organized weekly timetable, rather than sucking up to the 6 Chins and his idiotic owner, who were only interested in conning the poor punters and refused to stick to agreed class numbers- recipe for disaster, but when the ADoS stood up to them, he was given the choice of demotion or the Spanish Archer, and rightly opted for the latter. Not sure how the place is coping now, but my own experiences with EF lead me to believe that the Oirish outfit will soon be up shit creek without a paddle...