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Minimum wage?

August 27, 2007

Hello again,

It’s always a controversial issue, isn’t it? I’m talking about teachers’ pay. I must admit I was shocked when the English Language Gazette published an article earlier this summer saying...

...that five major UK language school chains were to be investigated by government compliance officers for possible breaches of minimum wage legislation. Apparently the Gazette found evidence of breaches during a survey of terms and conditions for residential summer school teachers. The minimum wage in the UK is currently £5.35 an hour. The Gazette quoted Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, ‘Qualified English language teachers are being badly exploited and receiving pay that would shame even the worst burger bars. There is a need for greater regulation of language course providers.’

I know there enormous variations in rates of pay but I had rather smugly assumed that in the UK British Council accredited schools would be offering a fair rate. And what should that be? Surely more than the minimum wage, as that, as Sally Hunt points out merely puts teachers on a par with waiting staff or cleaners.

Yet at least in the UK as in most EU countries, there is a minimum wage. What sort of exploitation do teachers face in parts of the world where no such protection exists? Of course a sort of free-market regulation does exist. Teachers are free to turn down jobs that offer derisory salaries. Unfortunately because of the lure of foreign travel, many are willing to accept poor conditions as the price to pay for the opportunities they have in other respects.

I think it is a sad reflection on our culture that teaching is so undervalued. A recent comment by a British university lecturer concerned the appalling standards of grammar and spelling among British students; in fact, he commented that Asian students often performed much better. English language teachers specialising as they do in grammar would appear to be more effective than those in the state school system teaching native speakers. But even teachers working in state schools receive relatively low salaries. Teaching is such a fundamental pillar of our society yet, alas, appears to place no value on them.

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  1. R.Marques Says:

    What our ESL industry needs is an association
    with a teachers union. This would be ideal
    in establishing standards,certification, wages,etc. This way employers would have to
    present a benchmark for ESL, instuctors. Education must be respected, & not neglected!
    ESL Plus Inc.

  1. joseph mc loughlin Says:

    Undervalued and underpaid!!.. I agree that teachers are open to exploitation,and that wages are not as high as in other professions,but my personal opinion is that the majority of teachers did not undertake this career for financial reasons.We as teachers know that we will have the responsibility of educating children and that we will work long hours and in some cases bad conditions,we may have very little resources,and possibly work in a school or college in the U.K. or abroad where we will also work many extra,unpaid hours preparing lessons.Therefore,because of our dedication we are vulnerable to employers who wish to exploit us,and although I have heard many complaints from other teachers about low pay,I can't think of any who have left the job for this reason alone.
    I spent most of my career teaching in U.K.and often felt undervalued and underpaid ,however now teaching English in Spain,where salaries and conditions are so much better.(also very little interference from government)and I am much more valued and fulfilled.

  1. joan kosich Says:

    That is the problem with teachers...willing to work for low wages with altruistic attitudes of I,m doing this for the good of society for kids to heck with the wage. I don't hear doctors,engineers, or other professionals saying this. I have a Masters in ESL and paid dearly for my education. I quit teaching 10 years ago because of low wages even though I was teaching at a community college. Yes, they do exploit us because we let them. We work hard and should get fair pay and benefits like other professionals. I agree with a union for teachers, but teachers are on the whole pretty nice people willing to work their brains out for less than other people are. I taught for 17 years, got 32 dollars an hour for 20 hours a week (14 weeks of unpaid holiday and summer break time) and was spending 2 hours additional time per class hour doing prep,testing, and homework correction. I figured I was making about 10 dollars an hour with a Masters degree! Talk about exploitation! And don't knock waitressing. They make good money and provide a good service.
    I now have a part-time business and waitress two days a week. I make between 20 to 30 dollars an hour depending on business volume. I get paid by the hour---not paid for one hour doing 2 extra unpaid hours. I enjoyed teaching but got tired of the exploitation and lack of support from my community college. You can be sure they worry about money---usually the students come first because they pay the tuition, even if they were in the sometimes in the wrong. So I decided to move on.

  1. Yianna Says:

    This unfortunately is a serious worldwide problem. I'm currently teaching in China, compared to some we are well paid... but some local friends were shocked when the "pay" subject was breached. They had expected to hear that we were on double, what we are earning....???? When you stop to think we only get paid for the actual teaching hours... then yes we are all VERY under paid. I teach 30.5hrs p/wk + at least 1hr minimum per class prep... what about all those hours researching suitable materials....All of these extra hours are unpaid... So do I do a slap dash job by not preparing for classes or do I give up having a life in order to dedicate my life to my students????? This is of course only answerable by each of us individually.... The Chinese respect & honour their teachers... why can't the rest of the world do the same?

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