Questions To Ask About The Curriculum, Or, Spotting A Scam Part 2

It came up in a post on spotting scams that sometimes “scam schools” don’t even care what their teachers teach (or even know what they should teach) – they just want students to enroll and pay. So asking questions might give you some insight as to whether or not a potential school is on the ball. As with the other questions to ask at an interview, I don’t mean to imply there is one correct answer to all of these, or that a school that can’t answer some of them is necessarily bad. But an academic director should be able to give some reasonable answer to these…and just the fact that you ask them may tip them off that you’re not the best person to take advantage of and try to trick.

Also check out Guy Courchesne’s post with other resources for spotting a scam. [It is also Guy Courchesne who found this perfect picture which I have appropriated!]

  • Do the students follow a book? Which one? [Keep in mind that while setting your own curriculum may sound interesting and challenging, and perhaps even less work, for a new teacher and one without a lot of support it would probably soon become difficult – I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a sign of a “scam school”, but in my experience it is pretty rare for a new teacher to have this responsibility.]
  • How many hours do they have to finish the book? Is that in real hours or teaching hours of 45 minutes each?
  • Is there a test at the end of the term? What is on the test (ie grammar and vocabulary only, or are skills like reading, writing, listening and speaking assessed too)?
  • Do the students receive grades or marks? What makes up these marks (attendance, class participation, homework completion, the test only)? How much discretion does the teacher have?
  • Do students need a certain grade or mark to proceed to the next level? What happens if the student doesn’t make that mark?
  • What supplementary material is available at the school? Is there a teachers’ room?
  • What functional language is covered in a given (e.g. pre-intermediate) level? [Not that there is some universal good answer to this, but an academic director should have some idea, not only what functional language is, but also which specific areas are covered – making recommendations/giving advice, shopping, making travel arrangements on the phone, agreeing and disagreeing].