19 February 2008

Answer this; "Eparkeia" for CPE holders

Dear Yannis,
I am a school owner, English teacher, holder of BA degree, an ex South-African residing in Limnos for the past sixteen years( an ardent reader of your column too.)
Would you be so kind as to shed some light on the' eparkeia' issue? Has all talk of banning this blatant unfairness fallen through?
Isn't it about time the relevant Greek ministries reconsidered priorities as to what truly constitutes proper teaching qualifications, or are they content with the fact that any individual in the possession of a meager Proficiency certificate qualifies as a fully trained teacher. Where is the ELT field in this country heading?
Suddenly, a new wave of beginner teachers, come school owners, some of who I might add can hardly string a sentence together ,are now conveniently stifling the market, in which most prospective client-parents are completely unaware of the difference between a Proficiency-holder school owner,(more often than not, lacking in basic knowledge, let alone teaching skills),as opposed to a university graduate whose qualifications are based on years of in-depth analysis on classics, literary criticism, poetry, not to mention teacher training and seminars.
My question is-how much longer are we expected to tolerate this arrogant high-handedness on behalf of the 'know-it-alls'? Can we hope for some sanity in this matter?
Your insight and opinion will be greatly appreciated. Many thanks,
Eleftheria Borou..

Dear Ms Borou,

Many thanks for your e-mail. The issue you are addressing in your e-mail has been a burning issue for many ELT professionals and especially school owners for many years, even from the time I was a student at a frontisterio. I can understand your frustration and the frustration of the hundreds of alumni of corresponding schools throughout the world as well as the Greek universities. However, to be in a position to analyse this issue in depth, we have to see to what extent your statement, shared by a major part of Greek ELT, represents reality in legal and institutional terms.
The State is legally, institutionally and constitutionally responsible of accrediting and recognizing teaching qualifications and teachers within the official educational system and the official school network in all educational levels. However, frontisteria have never been legally or institutionally recognized as schools. What would define the role of frontisteria in a rather wide sense of the term is “foreign language training / coaching centres”. The State is legally and institutionally happy to grand the permit of ownership and operation of such centres to both university degree and eparkeia holders. Besides “trainees” in these “training centres” do not obtain a national certificate or baccalaureate or “apolytirio” of national/state value, so as for the legality of the status of these centres and the people who work in it to be questioned.
We all understand that the “eparkeia” was institutionalized a few decades ago to solve the problem of the lack of qualified English teachers, but it was also an agreed term between the Greek government and the respective universities/accrediting bodies, in order for their product to become more appealing, along with the “recognition” of their certificates in other areas of the State sector.
However, it is pretty obvious that this institutionalization solely concerned the private training sector and more specifically the frontisteria. The State, as an employer, never recognized “eparkeia” holders as “qualified language teachers” for itself and this is pretty significant. When the first frontisteria started to appear in the Greek market the Greek State introduced what it judged to be the minimum criteria for teaching and running a frontisterio in the private sector. In this way, the State provided a solution to existing problems, i.e. a lack of specialists, foreseen unemployment, external relations with international bodies and so on. It was then that a new industry was born and associations of representatives started to appear that should have formed more specific criteria, something that never happened, however. You see, in a society always driven by the State and the dream of being employed by it, no one saw the opportunity given by it to create and run a separate private sector alongside the State sector, in full legality.
The situation with frontisteria and their raison d’être has been a problematic one for almost a decade now. However, one would have to admit that you can find incompetent and untrained teachers among university graduates as well. While I am glad to sense the effort, in depth training and self-reflection you have been investing in regarding your profession, we all know that the vast majority of foreign language teachers and frontisterio owners, regardless of their qualifications, have limited themselves and their self-development to “executing” instructions from teachers’ books pages (in the best case scenario). We travel throughout the country just to see people, both university degree and eparkeia holders, who cannot teach or even speak the foreign language they are expected to teach and still legitimately run their frontisteria.
As from the beginning of my professional input I have clearly outlined my objections to the way this whole industry operates, allow me to amplify and transfer your frustration to our readers’ community, through the following questions:
a) With the massive ASEP waves of the last 2 or 3 years and hundreds of teachers joining the State sector, who would work in the frontisteria if it weren’t for the eparkeia holders? Already this academic year has been the worst in terms of recruitment.
b) Who says that a qualified teacher who graduated from university 25 years ago and has only received training in the form of commercial presentations at exhibitions is a better teacher than an eparkeia holder who has regularly been attending further methodology training and self-development courses?
c) If the eparkeia and all the “recognitions” hadn’t been institutionalized, would the Greek public have shown any interest in the frontisteria and would this industry have existed and flourished in the first place?
d) Why have associations and representatives consumed whole decades in trying to get “State recognition” for an association generated certificate, rather than introducing and setting specific professional teaching standards in both the State and private sectors?
e) Why has everybody been bothered with the question of who should be qualified to be a teacher and not with what those qualified teachers do for themselves and their teaching afterwards, both in the private and State sectors?
f) Anywhere else in the world I would never imagine that a teacher does not hold a university degree. However, nowhere in the world is there one foreign language frontisterio per thousand people, providing exactly the same standardized kind of service (along of course with the few thousand private instructors of course). (read “A tale of two parallel worlds” , December 2005 at http://hyphenpedia.blogspot.com)

Personally, the way things are, I feel that any dramatic development regarding the eparkeia would cause more problems than it would solve. I believe that every effort and the money invested in private Greek ELT should concern quality controls in frontisteria currently operating and offering questionable services. Besides, this explains why the State has never recognized frontisteria as schools per se.

Yours faithfully,

Yannis Stergis

No comments: