TEFL Watchdog Sites

watchdog1.jpgThere are a couple of online sites devoted to identifying – for lack of a more precise word – bad employers. One example is TEFL Watch (and note that as of January 2007, there is also a Good Vibes Lounge dedicated to mentioning schools with good employee reviews). Given the lack of regulation in an industry as international and as populated by foreigners as TEFL, perhaps this type of site is just what is needed.

Of course people going to a foreign country need to be cautious – sometimes a bad situation, while not necessarily exonerating a bad employer, can be rather directly attributed to a lack of investigation on the employee’s part.

But I do believe there are employers who take advantage of foreign teachers again and again. This is possible because, first of all, people don’t know what’s standard in other countries and second, are often just not in a position to “claim their rights”. There are many ways to prepare yourself, like knowing which questions to ask or reading up on some thoughts on job posts, but good luck figuring out in country employee protection laws if you are in any country without a massive foreign teacher population (such as Korea – and ironically, though the information is probably more widely available on Korea than elsewhere, my impression is that this is one of the places where teachers are most concerned about having a bad experience). Many people aren’t aware of these kinds of laws in their own country either.

If there is in fact some problem, the process of figuring out what to do and how to do it is often so lengthy (or seems to be) that many either give up and quit or put up with it.

The existence of watchdog sites in my mind is also connected to the potential for abuse. I have no doubt that there are some truly despicable schools and employers in the world, but assessing comments of individual teachers submitted by email would be a large and difficult task – one I would personally have no idea how to do.
To be fair, I don’t regularly check in with these sites and certainly don’t mean to imply I know how they decide how to assess comments.

All this said, this concern about abuse exists for any regulatory board – certainly it’s not the same, but the Better Business Bureau exists in the US and generally serves a good purpose. Should one complaint against a school from a random teacher be taken to mean a school or employer is bad? Perhaps not, but if there are multiple similar complaints over time, that may mean something.