Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

'Academias Fachadas' are degrading the TEFL industry in Spain

Por: | 12 de septiembre de 2014

8548068

There are few who would argue that la crisis hasn’t been the worst thing to hit Spain in the last decade, because it most definitely has. Yet out of the ashes of it all one industry has benefited immensely: TEFL.

Intensive exam courses that can equip young Spaniards with the means to escape their never-ending nightmare have become the cash cows of the trade. Such is the importance now placed on learning English that many reputable and certified academies are having to turn students away due to an insufficient preexisting level with which to tackle the strictly assessed B1 or B2 exams. It happens in the small academy where I teach in Granada on a near daily basis. 

The ‘B1’ (official intermediate-level qualification in English) and the B2 (official upper-intermediate qualification) are certified through several bodies, principally Cambridge Language Assesment and Trinity College London. The B1 tends to carry greater importance than the B2, since it is a mandatory requirement of numerous university courses, mainly those involving primary education.

Unfortunately, high demand has led to an inevitable popping up of shoddy language academies with little to no regard for the sort of integrity that is shown by legitimate competitors. That is to say, students who are more likely to solve the crisis itself than pass the B1 exam are being invited to try their luck, at a knockdown price.

Earlier this year, Andalucía’s official institution for foreign language teaching, ACEIA, announced that it would be taking action on the matter. Based on evidence that showed ACEIA integrated academies were being consistently undercut and the quality of teaching and pass rate in those culpable academies was much lower, ACEIA has presented an information campaign designed to offer consumers all the possible information and mechanisms needed to avoid such cases of blatant but often undetectable fraud. Borja Uruñuela, president of ACEIA, has labeled these centres ‘Academias Fachadas’– a rather fitting description.

There are numerous points suggested in the campaign, but some of the most key principles for consumers to consider are:

  • Whether there is a written and oral level test before a level is determined.
  • Whether the academy is fully licensed and its teachers are properly qualified and native or bilingual English speakers.
  • Whether the academy is insured and associated with a professional body with which consumers may take up issue in case they need to.
  •  Whether there are any hidden costs (textbooks, enrolment fee etc)
  • The existing percentage of students who have passed any official exams studied for at the academy.
  • The standard of resources available at the academy (digitalised classrooms etc).

Here in Granada, one or two academies fitting this ‘academia fachada’ profile had come to our attention, so we did what any self-respecting and industry-interested language school would do: we gave them a ring. Or rather, a Spanish friend of mine, posing as a prospective student, gave them a ring.

The objective was simple: grill whoever answered with a series of hard-hitting questions that addressed several of the key points outlined in ACEIA’s campaign. The first subject, which was offering clases superintensivos at €2.80 an hour, proved unreachable (lamentably), but the other, which, according to its flyer, offered a flat rate of €128 a month for ‘B1, B2 and C1’, yielded some telling results.

In short, a few of the principles did seem to be in place– a level test and native teachers, for instance –but most of our inquiries were met more imperviously than we would have liked. Questions about its teachers’ formal qualifications, pass rates and affiliation with any professional organisations repeatedly rebounded off a wall of ‘I don’t knows’ and ‘The director isn’t available at the moments’.

The €128 per month package (plus a €25 enrolment fee) apparently amounted to four 2-hour long classes per week, so, assuming there are 32 teaching hours in a month, that’s an hourly rate of €4.

Fully licensed, insured and ACEIA associated academies simply cannot afford to come down to that figure, and any unapprised, budget-conscious student will almost certainly plump for the more economical option.

There is, of course, another way of looking at it: some startups, whether legitimate or otherwise, often cannot afford to take the moral high ground, given that their loss will probably be a larger competitor’s gain, and often need to advertise lower fees in order to get a foot on the ladder. Nevertheless, students who are clearly well off the mark– 70% in the case of the B1 –still deserve to be told straight, rather than duped for weeks on end before failing abysmally and having their confidence shattered into a thousand pieces.

But what is the ultimate objective of the campaign? It’s not about closing these academies down– that is as impractical as it is idealistic –it’s about all academies competing on equal terms within the necessary legal framework and offering students honesty and every possible chance of success.

The integrity and guarantee of the absolute highest standards of Spain's TEFL industry depend on it.

 

Follow Josh Taylor on his personal blog and Twitter: @spain4pleasure

Hay 2 Comentarios

I work full time in a private company here in Spain and one of their requirements for a higher position is the fluency in writing and speaking English . A friend of mine advised me to do it online instead of taking a class from a private school which is expensive and my schedule could not fit in. When the vacancy for that position was available, I made it.

SOOOOOO true! I feel the industry needs some regulations, although I know this government well enough to know that if this is brought to their attention, the won't 'regulate' anything, they'll simply add another 20 hoops for us to jump through, and I have no doubt each 'hoop' will equal a few hundred euros missing from my wallet. Something does need to be done though. On a slightly unrelated note, but still quite important: any TEFL Teachers out there ever had to do a CRB or something similar to work with kids? It's like, the Spanish just think that Paedophilia doesn't exist in our countries? I have had 22 employers in Spain in my TEFL career, never has anyone done a background check! Hmmmm....

Los comentarios de esta entrada están cerrados.

Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

El País

EDICIONES EL PAIS, S.L. - Miguel Yuste 40 – 28037 – Madrid [España] | Aviso Legal