I mentioned a week or two ago that our small department was once again under threat of being taken over by a private education provider. It appears that this is not going to happen in the coming academic year at least, which gives us a little breathing space. The privateers will be running a couple of foundation courses, though, one of which is the English for Art and Design Course that I mentioned here. Uncharitable as this may sound, I do hope it's an unmitigated flop.
I have not heard any good news about private providers. They pay teachers very considerably less than university rates and require them to teach to a rigid timetable: if it's 14.00 hours on the 25th of October, you know you'll be on page 30 of the course materials booklet. This means there is severely limited scope for creativity, or for the kind of leading from behind and following the mood and direction of the class that I think is one of the chief rewards of teaching intelligent adults. Only one teacher of my acquaintance actually liked being told exactly what to do in this way. She worked for a franchise in Greece that had schools all over the country and had hit upon the cookie-cutter lesson approach as the only way of dealing with the fact that many teachers of English in Greece are clueless about ELT methodology and need to be regimented in this manner. I had taught Ruth on two training courses and knew that the ability to combine planning and principled improvising was one she never developed. Are the private providers adopting the same approach in anticipation of their having to employ less able or experienced teachers?
I sat talking with Professor Jiaying Wang the other day, she who had been so helpful when I had a bit of a meltdown back in February. She hasn't heard much good news about private providers either. She said that the kids who've been yanked through these courses enter their departments in October still very hazy as to how to gut a book, write a summary, construct an essay or offer a well-worded excuse for lateness. It then falls to the lecturers to start filling the gaps, which is a huge waste of time.
If anyone who reads this has more positive things to say about private providers, or feels I have misrepresented them, do leave me a comment and put me straight.
At the building where I work, we've had the builders in since March. This means the lift has been out of commission and there's been nerve-frazzling racket from hammers and power-drills. Students have complained. The din has been toned down during lesson time and classes have been moved elsewhere whenever possible, but the whole business is a damn nuisance and has pissed everybody off. At a time of cuts and staff reduction, when even the very paperclips of your filing cabinet are all numbered, this is the reason for the building work. No further comment.