"Shenzhen has launched its first training program for foreign teachers, amid complaints that some lack proper qualifications.
Thirtyforeign teachers from public and private schools attended the firstclass of the eight-day TEFL (Teaching English as A Foreign Language) InChina program that started Saturday at the Elite World building inFutian District.
Theprogram, co-sponsored by the China Association for InternationalExchange of Personnel and Shenzhen Administration of Foreign ExpertsAffairs, will introduce teaching skills and Chinese laws to attendees,who each have to pay 4,000 yuan (US$513) for tuition fees and food.
Thelecturers are TEFL master's degree holders selected worldwide.Graduates will receive a TEFL certificate that may help them landteaching jobs in , according to the program's organizers."
That's about it for details, unfortunately.
Well, yes, there are problems with the quality of foreign teachers in China. This is, unfortunately, an undeniable fact. The problems are not as severe as some "professional" types like to pretend, though. I mean, the overwhelming majority of the people I've met who fit the foreign teacher stereotype are businessmen, whereas the overwhelming majority of foreign teachers I've met are decent people. But still, there are problems, and these problems really should be fixed before we go through another South Korea- type scandal.
Now, this is a worthy attempt, and a step in the right direction, but...... 8 days? You think you can churn out a qualified, professional teacher in 8 days?
And besides, I would argue that the problem is less a lack of qualified teachers and has far more to do with the structure of the industry and the insane demand for foreign teachers. I have several reasons for this:
1: We all know that some people have all the paper qualifications they need to be able to do a job, and yet are still thoroughly incompetent. This is a problem in education, too, and a worldwide problem. But a more serious problem is that teaching is one of those jobs that carries a certain amount of authority over vulnerable people, and therefore attracts those who would abuse that authority. No course or institution can screen out 100% of the abusers.
2: The insanely high demand for foreign teachers means that many schools will take any monkey with white skin, or simply any monkey that looks foreign. In big cities like Beijing or Shanghai there are enough foreigners that only those with at least the minimum qualifications can get a job, but in the hinterland..... I've worked with people who had no degree, no high school qualification, even, who weren't native speakers, who....... Generally, they were all decent folk, yes, but out in the hinterland I have met some who really do fit the stereotype. One important step to improving the quality of foreign teachers is for schools and parents to drop their blind and completely irrational insistence on having a foreigner in the classroom and start insisting on taking the best quality they can find.
3: Low wages don't help. The best foreign teachers can pick and choose their jobs, and they will naturally take the best package they are offered. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
4: China is not good at encouraging foreigners to settle down and stay long-term. By long-term I don't necessarily mean life, but certainly more than the one to three years that seems to be the norm for the hinterland, or the five or six years that seems to be the norm for the big cities. This is a problem, because it encourages your backpacker-style teachers. Now, most of them are decent people who put in an honest attempt at the job, but the nature of their stay in China means they will never develop any deep understanding of their job or Chinese education. This lack of understanding makes it harder for them to deliver a quality 'product'.
5: Too many schools, probably the majority, see their foreign teachers as little more than advertising. Window dressing that is put on display whenever there's an opportunity to separate fools from their money. This does not encourage foreign teachers to put much effort into their job. It does encourage foreign teachers to go through the motions, collect their salary, and go down the pub.
Having said all that, I think the course is a good step in the right direction. I note, for example, that it introduces China's laws and regulations to the students. This is good, because I've noticed a lot of foreigners arrive here with very little understanding and a lot of misconceptions about what they can or can't do, or can or can't get away with. But, basically, so long as China is prepared to take any monkey that looks foreign without doing any 'due diligence', pay crap wages, and encourages them to see their time in China as just a cool, exciting interlude between university and the real world, we're going to continue having serious problems in the foreign teacher game.
And at the moment, even in the big cities, it really is just a game.
China really needs to spend a lot more time and effort attracting and retaining (for as long as possible) foreign talent and discouraging all the freaks, weirdos, clowns, monkeys and creeps who prey on easy jobs in schools prepared to look the other way as they get up to no good in a country with lax controls. China also really, desperately needs to put a lot more effort into integrating foreign teachers into the school community, making them a genuine and valued part of the education system and the wider school community. There really is a lot we can offer. Well, there's a lot the good ones among us can offer, given half a chance, and I know many of us would like to make that extra contribution but are discouraged by schools who keep us very much on the outer.
Oh, and just in case anybody reading this is in a position to give me a job where I could develop these ideas, leave a comment, I would love such an opportunity.