Unable to sleep, I spent some time reading through British teachers' blogs last night and was reminded of just what dire straits some areas of education in the UK are in. Two in particular stood out, for different reasons. One, a blog dedicated to exposing the worse side of the ESL profession in the UK, gave details of the worst job it had seen advertised this year, while the other documented the travails of a highly dedicated teacher who has finally resigned and decided to quit the profession.
The job the blog felt was the worst was for a summer teaching job, with 20 fifty-minute lessons, plus no less than 40 hours of supervision over a six-day week for £225 per week, which works out at £3.75 an hour, which is well under the minimum hourly rate. While the owners of the institution might claim that this was more than made up for by the fact that teachers would get accommodation and meals, it is impossible to say that this is a fair salary for graduates with a teaching qualification CTEFLA), which is the minimum standard required but the advert. I will be going back to the UK in the summer, where I will be teaching, but in a totally different sort of place and for an hourly rate that is many times higher, though I won't be working so many hours, nor will I have a six-day week. If people are paying such disgracefully low wages, then there is definitely something very wrong with the bottom end of the ESL market in the UK. It is very sad to see teaching reduced to a sweatshop environment in this way. What quality of supervision will these students get, and just where is the teacher supposed to fit preparation, marking, evaluations, etc, into their week? I suppose that's what Sunday is for.
Excessive workloads are so much a part of education nowadays; in schools and colleges the bureaucratic burden has reached surreal levels. Shortly before I left the UK, huge swathes of extra paperwork were heading towards ESOL, wafted from on high by a pitiless administrative machinery that seems oblivious to its duty of care to teachers and students and merely obsessed with absolving itself of any legal claims through forcing people to complete a Kafkaësque paper trail. The following is a teacher's description of a marking system:
The language part of the coursework is divided into Reading and Writing. These are known as En2 (reading) and En 3(Writing). Don't ask me why. I can't think straight without a government acronym. Take two En2 grades - Shakespeare and Pre 1914 Prose. These are grades out of 54. Average them. Now you have the En2 grade that goes into the sub total box.
Take four En3 grades. These are ultimately two grades out of 27 (which is half of 54), or four grades, out of 18, 9, 18 and 9, respectively. These are the writing grades for Media and for Original (aka creative) Writing.
You can get away with marking them on the old schema, out of 54, then halving it: but your students get higher grades if you do it properly, out of 18 and 9, then translate the same grade out of 27.
I haven't the wit or the patience to explain the mathematical reason for this, but it's true.
The mark out of 18 is for content, and the mark out of 9 for style. So stop knocking people down because they spelt 'their' and 'they're' wrongly. This is the twenty first century.
The form asks you to record the marks out of 18, out of 9, out of 27, twice, and then again a total out of 54. This is because bureaucrats hate you.
The important thing to remember is: do not mark out of 54, and do not average them. Suddenly, the En 3 (Writing) total is acquired by adding the two marks out of 27, and not averaging them.
The overall Language grade, interestingly, nay, thrillingly, is out of 108.
You get it by adding En2 to En3. No, no, no, not by averaging them. Why would you think that?
So, in summary, the process for finding the Language grade: mark out of 54, 54, average, store, discard; 18, 9, transliterate same to 27, store, discard; 18, 9, transliterate this next to 27, then look for all assimilated 27s and add; add the averaged 54 to the sum of the 27s, to get the final 108.
You've now done one third of it. Excited?
Unfortunately, it does appear that government and businesses are hell-bent on squeezing the life out of education in many areas. Sadly, reading through many of the blogs, I came across a circle of people in systems that were crushing the life out of them. So many were dedicated and wanted to teach and teach well, yet they are handed such marking systems and expected to deal with them, to add them on to an already bloated amount of paperwork. A government that when it was first elected in 1997 said that its first three priorities were education seems only to have a deaf ear to the very people it expects to deliver its courses, while elsewhere businesses chase profits to the exclusion of any concept of quality, offering considerably less per hour than McDonald's were paying a year ago (the latest update I could find on their wage scale). People sneer about McJobs, yet there are worse supposed professions earning less, and teachers in the state system struggling to breast the wronging tide of paper spewing out of the system. There is much good in the British education system, but at its worst, it is disheartening.