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In it for the money?


Let’s make fair pay and conditions our performance target, says Melanie Butler

Teachers are the lifeblood of EFL.’ This tweet, emanating from a conference of European language schools, is stating the bloody obvious. Teachers are the lifeblood of any and all forms of education.

But in commercial EFL you’d be hard-pressed to find many people to admit it. In much of the EFL world, as Paul Walsh comments in this issue, schools don’t even see it. He argues that the market model has failed in EFL, leaving teachers facing a future of declining pay and worsening conditions.

Is it time for a social justice model?

In Ireland, the Unions think so. As we report in our news section, a government minister has finally met with them and agreed to help teachers left unpaid and stranded after the closure of their school. Not only that, but the same minister has effectively banned zero hours contracts throughout the country. Good news for teachers, agree the unions, as long as the government enforces it.

‘The British government has also made some inroads on social injustice. Their release of the figures of the gender pay gap in every company in the country with over 250 employees means we can now see how women fare in UK ELT compared to their male colleagues.

As we report in our news feature, there is some good news and some bad news.

The good news is, when it comes to median hourly pay, three out of the five chains who submitted their figures paid women the same, or slightly more than, men.

When it comes to bonus payments though, the picture is reversed. In all but one chain the median bonus payment to men was more than that of women. In one case, men earned twice as much.

Personally, I’ve never had much time for performance-related pay. It didn’t work in my time in publishing. It certainly didn’t work for Lehman brothers. And setting targets for British immigration officers probably contributed to them illegally deporting British nationals. Not to mention 48,000 international students.

As I point out on our comment section, performance pay for teachers leads, according to the research, to very small learning gains for a very high cost. And as Russ Mayne reports, basing pay on student feedback on teachers has even worse results.

It’s not only about the money, it is also about the standard of living. Teachers are staying on in the Czech Republic because they can live well on their meagre salaries, as Declan Carey reports on our EU special. In England, teachers are following the international students north, see the special, in search of friendly people and affordable housing.

And the call from Korea for native speakers in primary schools, on our news section, is likely to attract interest not least because they pay decent money.

Not, as the saying goes, that anyone ever went into EFL for the money.

Except me. In 1975, as a totally unqualified teacher, I earned £13. That’s £105 an hour in today’s money.

I was working in the middle of the Iranian desert, at the time. But these days an unqualified teacher would be hard-pressed to get £13 an hour in the UK.

twitter logo principalMelanie Butler, editor-in-chief