Friday, September 7, 2018

A Dog's Eye: the rort and the blind eye

Image result for teaching englishShout out to the evening class ELICOS* students at another college, whom I had the pleasure of teaching this week while filling in for their regular teacher. I don't know how long I could have sustained teaching a morning class and an evening class, but I have to say it was fun. So stimulated was I by working with a new group of students (and a much higher level than my class), that each night I struggled to unwind and go to sleep.

Although it wasn't an easy gig, I am grateful for the opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, it reinvigorated me as a teacher. For some time, I have been feeling a little stale at my usual place of employment, and have become increasingly frustrated with my students. The challenge this week presented reminded me why I love teaching. Secondly, of course, is the money. Every little bit helps.

I expected a different kind of student this week in the evening class. I had anticipated much higher proficiency, but I also expected better attendance. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that the evening class students also rock up to class whenever they can, or whenever they feel like it. They also extend the break to suit themselves, and they leave when they are tired or have something better to do.

The attendance policy at this college is clear and matches the national guidelines for the ELICOS program. At my regular place of employment, we also have such an attendance policy. However, we report on progress, not attendance which means that poor attendance only becomes an issue when it results in poor assessment results. Naturally the two are inextricably linked, but if a student only attends half the classes, yet still achieves the minimum pass mark, then there is no problem.

All our students are in Australia on working holiday visas (visa subclass 500). The conditions of this visa state the student is allowed to work for 20 hours each week, but they must attend 20 hours of English classes a week. Would it shock you to learn that none of them do. That's right. Zero percent full attendance.

At the other college where I taught this week, I discovered, despite my hopes and expectation, that they also do nothing about poor attendance. I asked about the roll and if partial attendances were recorded. The answer was no.

Image result for turning a blind eyeSo here we have two colleges who turn a blind eye to students rorting visa subclass 500. Why? Isn't it obvious? They don't want to lose students. I'm told that ELICOS colleges in Sydney and Melbourne are very strict on attendance. Elsewhere it is not the same. Many students change cities, not just for a different experience, but to find more lenient attendance policies. 

Let me be clear: students who consistently fail to attend the required number of hours in class are breaching their visa conditions. Not clear enough? They are breaking the law. What do the colleges who extract exorbitant tuition fees from the students do about this situation? Nothing. Why would they?

If one college were to crackdown on this problem, the students would simply contact their agents and transfer to another college. If all colleges enforced their attendance policy, instead of just writing them and "informing" the students about them in order to satisfy regulators...the entire industry would shrink significantly.

Image result for turning a blind eye

Self interest? Can I hear an "amen"?

*ELICOS = English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students

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