March 2008, Volume 2
Vol 2 Index
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TESOL Certificates. Teaching or Deceiving the EFL/ESL Teaching Profession
The TESOL certificate industry has never had so many people, companies and on-line entities offering TESOL courses than is currently being seen. Many are run by persons who are deceiving the purchaser. A few are run by legitimate companies who are advancing the cause of the TESOL profession. No satisfactory regulation exists to stop the fraud being carried by those who make fast money from unsuspecting victims. It is unlikely that regulation will ever be enacted that will cover this fraud and deception, for the market is spread over the four corners of the globe and is often Internet based. Where the company has a licensed office, there is no form of authority to independently check that the operators or teachers are qualified to teach the TESOL course. The mooted introduction of the ITAA will radically change that anomaly and put many unscrupulous operators out of business.
Key words: TESOL Certificates. evaluating TESOL courses, false and misleading information, courses unfit for the purpose
Recently, the new President of South Korea, Lee Myung Bak, mentioned that teachers in his country should be TESOL qualified before they could teach English to Korean students. Within a month over 7 fraudulent operators had set up TESOL courses in South Korea. The worst example of the fraud was carried out by a Canadian company CIE, who ran a TESOL course in Pusan, where a Polish citizen passing as a native English speaker ran the course. A fictitious Dr. Cotton, who boasts a PhD from a university that des not exist, was coming to deliver to special lectures. Over 112 Koreans enrolled. One student, a PhD student from Columbia University said, “The course was poorly run, the teachers knew almost nothing about teaching English, were ill prepared, and the senior lecture was a cheat. I asked for my money back but they refused. I quit the course and lost a lot of money. I feel very bitter about the English language.”
TESOL courses in Korea can be set up by companies – yet fall outside the domain of the Education Act in Korea that requires English schools to be licensed by the Office of Education. A second course that had been running out of a foreign language university in Pusan claimed affiliation with 3 Universities in the USA who would grant credit for the course work done. None of the Universities in the USA were aware of this TESOL course. The course cost over U.S. $3,000. A graduate student noted that she learnt nothing from the two lecturers who were “...unqualified…” and her Certificate has not been accepted by any school to whom she applied.
These are but a few examples of TESOL courses set up by unscrupulous persons cashing in on an unregulated industry. Over 26 TESOL courses counted in China also failed to show any evidence of registration from any licensing authority. May (2008) notes the basics problems in Korea,
There are significant systemic problems in the Korean hagwon system, not least unqualified owner/managers and poor teaching, which may render it unstable over time (Bauman 2006), but at least currently these institutions are the major venue for language learning.
With poor controls in place to control the private ‘hogwan’ industry, there is little likelihood there will be any controls to dampen the spread of fraudulent TESOL courses in Korea over the foreseeable future.
Over 330 course were counted recently (2007)1. There are, in fact, so many Certificates to choose from, that any employer can simply not ever know if the Certificate comes from a credible source, or has been purchased for $40.00 over the Internet as is often the case. Many TESOL on-line courses are run by Russians operating out of Russia with elaborate web sites. The genuine courses, of which there are few, are hidden deeply amongst the vast field. It should be noted that there are a vast number of on-line universities who have no physical location apart from the web that offer Masters in TESOL for varying prices. The owners of these sites, (again one can trace such a false operation to CIE in Canada) hide themselves in complex sets of websites that are accredited by other (university) websites owned by the same person.
Attendance courses dot the globe. Reputable courses are to be found in the UK, Prague and Spain. Some universities run TESOL Certificate courses. These are above reproach and are expertly administered. Many TESOL courses are run in Thailand. When examining the legal structure of the companies running these courses, one can often find a non Thai (with Thai wife) running the company. One will also find the qualifications of the Director to not include any educational TESOL background. Some courses in Thailand have been accredited with attracting a large pedophile population who enter the teaching profession through these courses (see Sydney Morning Herald, May 2007.) An approach made to one course in Thailand via its on-line live service responded as such:-
Question: - Is your course accredited by any one.
Operator. Yes, every country accepts it.
Question. Who accepts it? Can you say?
Operator. All the schools and education people.
Question. It is not accepted in Hong Kong by the Ministry of manpower – so how can you say every country accepts your certificate.
Operator: (no answer –shuts down connection)
Question. … and are your teachers qualified to teach TESOL as it is very expensive
Operator. They are all highly qualified
Question. what qualifications do they have?
Operator. Masters and PhDs
Question. Oh – yet read from a chap who did the course only one teacher was qualified and the rest were all there less than a year, some who had never taught English
Operator (breaks Connection)
Question. Is this TESOL operation legal?
Question. Can I talk to the Director and ask the companies tax code number
Operator (breaks connection)
Authority to Accredit TESOL Courses
It has become clear to academics across the Globe that action needs to be taken and taken urgently. But how can one police a global enterprise when cross jurisdictional problems arise. The answer is simply that there can not be any effective legal control not any effective legal protection granted to those who do or wish to do a TESOL certificate.
The TESOL Code of ethics (Volume 1, TESOL Law Journal) was and is the clear starting place for an industry to start regulating itself. The Code of Ethics, while dormant for two years, has been gathering quite considerable attention. Dickey (2006) noted,
A generation ago Sockett (1990, p. 243) argued that a code of ethics was "something to be hammered out as professionalism develops… as we discover what best practice is…". While we might have agreed with his argument then, time has passed and we seem no nearer a set of standards than we were then. Clearly it is time for an attempt to be made.”
A large group of academics from over 60 countries have recently discussed measured to regulate the TESOL Certificate industry. This is, clearly, the first step in the application of the TESOL Code of ethics. During the coming year the Authority, with backing over 27 governments will be established. Clear standards will be applied. Those who offer a certificate will be asked by the Authority to submit to examination.
Those that pass the 5 stage examination will receive the Authority Seal, whilst those who do not submit, or who fail the physical examination, will have their company placed on-line and a the Education authorities of over 78 countries will receive regular updates as to which certificate is approved, and which is denied.
Clearly this move will meet with protests from the Certificates who should not be operating, while those who run course will receive the Authorities on-going assistance ad support.
The following breaches of criminal law may be associated with some TESOL Certificates operators:-
a) false and misleading information
b) deceiving consumers
c) falsely listing affiliations and qualifications of staff, teachers and owners
Defenses are available – should anyone ever to try to sue the TESOL Company- that is highly unlikely in the case of Internet based courses, whilst the cost of the attendance course usually falls within the small claim and is not worth pursuing when the company can fall back on the time honored defence that the student was “..no good…” (ANC, Korea)
The proposed authority note they will be established with legal authority, and clear guidelines (WASC). It is hoped the establishment of this authority will give the Code of Ethics for the TESOL profession the shot in the arm that is so importantly needs.
Until the Authority is established, the advice for those seeking to do a TESOL Certificate would be:
(a) do not do an on line course unless it is part of a full program (on and offline)
(b) check if an independent Board supports the TESOL certificate
(c) check if the course is run from an actual school or college with students who attend that school – that would indicate a high degree of safety
(d) demand to know the qualifications of the teacher and proof of same
(e) ask about the money back policy
(f) if the course is in Thailand thoroughly check the companies bona fides and
speak to students who have done the course and used the certificate to get
gainful employment (in other countries such as Japan, Korea)
(g) Only use companies who have 10 years or more history
(h) Caveat Emptor
1. www.efl-law.com TESOL certificates.
2. ANC. A private school that deceives Korean students into joining them based on false promises they will become air line stewardess. Some airlines (Singapore Airlines, Emirates Air) use this agency. Korean students's are raising legal issues about Fraud of ANC and the complicity of the airlines
Collingsworth, T.P. (1982). Applying Negligence Doctrine to the Teaching Profession, 11 J. Law & Education 479
Dickey, R. (2006). Assessing Ethical Standards for EFL Teaching Professionalism.
TESOL Law Journal Vol.1. Retrieved January 2008.
Frank, T. (2003). Celebration Educational malpractice suit. Retrieved December 2005 from http://www.overlawyered.com/archives/000604.html
Lockhart, S.L. (1995) Educational Malpractice: A Pathfinder. Legal Research Guides 23. New York: Hein
TESOL Code of Ethics (2006) TESOL Volume 1.
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