Sunday, September 20, 2009

Greek EFL/ESL in crisis

The school year has started once again here in Greece and once again I am getting back into the swing of things a far as teaching is concerned. I have started lessons with new students and as is often the case I have been appalled by what they have been put through in the name of EFL/ESL.

Case in point being a pair of teens who were forced to get through 10, yes 10 exam practice books as a way of preparing for their B2 level exams. No other material was provided and these poor guys had to wade through hundreds of pages of test items. No wonder they were wary about continuing their foreign language education with me. I quickly assured them they would not be doing anything as dry and soulless as this.

With the growth in number of ESOL examinations recognised by the Greek state the response of the the private language sector (where the bulk of language teaching takes place) is to turn intermediate level classes into little more than exam pratice lessons which do little more than repeat the format of whatever examinations are being taken. There is very little principled teaching of skills, functions, syntax, phonetics or anything else that might effectively help a person attain proficiency in English.

All that matters is that students do an endless list of exercises that may come up in the examinations they are going to take. Of course this scatter gun approach is time consuming, expensive and extremely ineffective. However, by the time that becomes apparent, the frontisteria (Greek private schools), publishing companies and exam providers have all made handsome profits out of hapless parents and robbed students of hundreds, if not thousands of hours of their youth.

Personally, this is a good thing, as cynical as it may seem as the latest generation of parents have come to realise the huge scam being committed and have started to look or alternative teaching opportunities and so come to me looking for something different. On the other hand schools have responded to this crisis by cutting cost and reducing the quality of the education offered even further. Low wages, chronic job insecurity and dubious contracts mean that teaching English in Greece has become a McJob where the youngest and cheapest are favoured and anyone with experience or qualifications are deemed a waste of money.


dorapap said...

tell me about it!!! I can't understand how naive can parents be sometimes!!

Daniel said...

Thanks for the Greek perspective, Teacher Dude. Your post makes me wonder if experience and qualifications mean anything anywhere.

Teachers are in a strange place in society. They make a huge difference, but thinking about how they are employed hasn't changed since the 18th Century when itinerant school masters roamed around looking for positions at schools and then moving on. The kids were schooled when there was a teacher, and not when there wasn't.

Now students' academic ability is measured with standardized tests, and their scores sometimes fail to meet expectations, so instead of making real improvements, administrators seek the lowest common denominator, cut programs, hire the cheapest available people, pay them the lowest legal minimum, and insist that they are the experts and know what needs to be done.

Parents don't stick up for their kids, and accept what they get just like they do with food in the supermarket.

The result is that I do my best, build successful programs, and keep my bags packed.


b2b and b2c said...

Thanks for the Greek perspective, Teacher Dude. Your post makes me wonder if experience and qualifications mean anything anywhere.again thanks...... :)