TESOL Convention 2015: ‘The employment issues committee – building the bridge to better employment’


One of the most interactive and interesting sessions that I attended during this year TESOL Convention focused on employment issues and problems in English language teaching. As you can imagine from some of my previous posts (e.g. ‘The TEFL blame game’) and my work with TEFL Equity Advocates, I’m quite concerned about working conditions and worker rights in our industry. Unlike IATEFL, TESOL has tried to address the concerns and problems English teachers face and has developed an Advocacy Action Centre, which you can read more about here. They also issued several position statements, opposing native speaker favouritism, among other things. So I was quite interested to see what issues would be brought up during the session.

First, we were divided into groups depending on our teaching context. I was in the EFL group together with two teachers from Japan, one from Oman and one recruiter mostly working in the Arabian peninsula. The other groups included ESL, K to 12 and those teaching in US or Canadian universities.

Each group first discussed the issues that they would like TESOL to do more advocacy on. Then we reported the points raised by each group to the others. Below I made a list of all the points that the different groups raised.

  • corporatisation trend, subcontracting to outside companies
  • task force looking at pay structure, work load, etc.
  • high tuition but low salary for teachers
  • accreditation (K to 12)
  • high stakes test hurt collaboration between teachers (K to 12)
  • high overturn
  • labour laws and traditions in different countries
  • short-term contracts
  • PhD required more and more to teach English (Japan)
  • age discrimination
  • NEST favouritism
  • being a NS treated as a qualification
  • TESOL and affiliates should do more advocacy

Apart from those, I’d personally add:

  • difficult to have foreign teaching qualifications accredited and recognised to teach in the public sector
  • often CELTA treated as more important than a BA or MA degree in English (especially if it’s from a non-English speaking country)
  • observations used as a controlling tool rather than for professional development

I will be very interested to see whether any of these points will be actually taken up by TESOL, or let alone lead to some concrete changes. Having said that, it still feels really nice that we can openly discuss and express our concerns and that TESOL takes time to organise sessions like these and listen to our little rants 🙂

What are your biggest concerns about employment and workers’ rights as an English teacher?

2015-03-26 12.25.07

4 thoughts on “TESOL Convention 2015: ‘The employment issues committee – building the bridge to better employment’

  1. I’ve been so positively surprised with TESOL. The more I learn about it, the more I respect this organization.
    I also can’t understand why a four-week course is considered to be more important than a BA, let alone an MA! I think it’s a great course that really gives teachers practical tools to work in the classroom, but that’s what it is, an initial qualification, can’t be compared with years at university.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Thiago. At least they’re trying to do something about work rights and discrimination in ELT.
      I guess the appeal of CELTA is it’s practicality and length, as you said. However, I can’t think of any other profession where a four week course makes you a professional. There should be a lot more emphasis on post CELTA professional development, which I think should be compulsory.

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