TEFL Teachers – Caledonian School and Broken Promises

Caledonian School © Ricky Yates

Caledonian School © Ricky Yates

Longstanding readers of my blog will remember that, back in May, I wrote about Karen and Anna, two American TEFL teachers from my congregation who were forced to leave the country because of the failure of their employer, the Caledonian School, to obtain work permits and visas for them. The original posts entitled ‘More Problems with Czech Bureaucracy’ and “Update on my previous post ‘More Problems with Czech Bureaucracy'”, can be found by clicking on these titles.

I gained a certain amount of notoriety because of these posts and as a result, received an invitation to meet with Monika Kubátová, the Executive Director of the Caledonian School, so she could explain to me all that they were doing to try and resolve the issues I had blogged about. This meeting took place on Thursday 21st May. I wrote a further blog post after the meeting in which I recounted what I was told by the Executive Director as well as expressing my own personal opinion regarding what and why all this had happened. Entitled ‘Discovering the Power of Blogging!!!’ it can also be found by clicking on the title.

In that third blog post, I famously said that I believed that “Caledonian have now got an agreed framework for visas with the Foreign Police that should work in the future” but I qualified my remark with the well known saying that “the proof of the pudding will be in the eating’. Sadly, all the assurances given to me by Monika Kubátová have proved worthless – the pudding has left a very foul taste.

Anna flew from Prague to Croatia and spent some time on the beach before travelling on to the capital Zagreb. Here, being outside the Schengen area, she reapplied for her work permit and visa at the Czech Embassy before travelling on to Bosnia, Montenegro and then Turkey. She is currently working as an au pair in Istanbul until the end of September.

Karen returned home to the USA and spent sometime with her daughters. Slightly later than Anna, she reapplied for her work permit and visa at the Czech Consulate in Chicago.

Whilst we were ourselves on holiday in Croatia in July, we received an email from Anna saying that she had heard that day from Caledonian School that her second visa application had been denied. There was no great clarity as to why this should be other than some vague reference to overstaying her original 90 day tourist visa. Then on 19th August, Karen finally heard that her second visa application had also been denied. You can read her own brave blog post, written a week later  ‘The Czech government denied my visa’ by clicking on this title.

To say I’m angry would be putting it mildly. I feel so annoyed that a combination of incompetence by the Caledonian School and bloody-mindedness by the Czech Foreign Police, has completely messed up the lives of both these ladies. Karen in particular, has let her house, disposed of many of her possessions, in order to live and work in the Czech Republic for a number of years. She did all of this based on promises given to her by the Caledonian School which they have totally failed to fulfil.

I am also angry because I have effectively been made to look a like a fool. The reason I was asked to meet with Monika Kubátová back in May was because my first two blog posts were being found by prospective TEFL students and had begun to generate bad publicity for Caledonian School. By posting a third time, in part regurgitating what I was told by Monika Kubátová at my meeting with her, that bad publicity was counteracted. Yet what I was told – yes promised by her, has proved to be without foundation.

When I heard about Anna’s second visa application being refused, I wrote to Monika Kubátová to ask why all her reassurances had proved worthless. It took nearly three weeks, together with a reminder email, before I got a reply. The blame was inevitably put on the Czech Foreign Police. “The system is changing before our eyes“ was the lame excuse which was a wording effectively copied and pasted from an email reply I received from Caledonian back in April,  when I first raised the matter.

At this point in time, poor Karen and Anna do not know what they can do. Both of them have belongings still sitting in Prague but cannot ascertain whether they can return, purely as tourists, to collect them. If they fly into Prague airport, will they be admitted?

In the meantime, I offer the following advice to any English-speaking, non-EU citizen who is thinking of  coming to Prague to teach English as a foreign language. By all means plan to come – despite the economic downturn there is still a considerable demand from business people and others, who want to learn or improve their English. But don’t come to Prague on a tourist visa to undertake a TEFL teacher training course at one of the language schools here. Instead, take a TEFL course in your own home country, USA, Canada, Australia etc.

Once you have a TEFL teaching qualification, apply to work for one of the schools here. Once you have a job offer, then apply for a work permit and visa whilst still in your own home country and don’t try and travel here to work until it has been granted. Caledonian and and the other language schools will not like me saying this because they make good money from people paying for their TEFL teacher training courses. Not all students pass and, even some who do, decide not to stay on and teach. And that is where the various schools make quite a bit of money. They don’t just make money from providing English language classes.

At the present time and from my recent experience, I would not trust any promises made by Caledonian or other language schools about coming here to train as a TEFL teacher on a tourist visa and “we’ll help you get a work permit and permanent visa once you are here”. Let the experience of Karen and Anna be a salutory lesson.

9 comments to TEFL Teachers – Caledonian School and Broken Promises

  • Ricky I cannot say for one minute that I am surprised (sad as that is). Many so called language schools promise the earth then fail to deliver. Visa regulations for various “developing” countries are also frequently changing.

    Your advice towards the end of the post is sound. Home country qualifications perhaps obtained at a main stream college or university are much better than SOME of the so called TEFL certificates offered by third party organisations.

    In the UK (where I have experience) I would recommend anyone thinking of teaching who has no previous experience i.e. no actual teaching qualifications, studying for PGCE ( a two year part time course) then taking a TEFL course.

    Taking short cuts can leave a person sadly ending up like the example you give. Incidentally a lot of so called teachers are partly to blame for this since TEFL is often seen by them as a passport to a paid holiday -it is not, teaching is a vocation.

    Here in Thailand for example, a university degree + TEFL is required although many providers of TEFL courses and indeed job providers in the gray sector do not mention this. Result- many illegally employed teachers who risk deportation.

    You are quite right to bring this to the attention of your readers some of whom may well be somewhat naive when it comes to the dark world of TEFL teaching/courses.

  • Ricky, you have given very good advice and reached a great conclusion from this whole episode. I agree that it is not in the teacher’s interest to come to C.R. on a tourist visa with an assurance by a school that a work visa will be forthcoming. It turned out to be in the school’s interest to bring people in for the certificate but not to have too many of them stay once they have it. My school handled that by promising everyone a guaranteed job after they took the course, but gee, oops, visa denied. The only American who got it on the first round was the one who intended to go home in six months. The only American who got it on the second round was the one dating a staff member. Lastly, far from being a fool, to have someone stand up for Anna and I as ably as you did makes you a hero in our book. Thank you.

  • Ricky

    Mike – Thank you for your comment and the sane advice it contains.

    Karen – I knew about the one American who got her visa from the first round. She also badgered about her work permit and visa right from the start & didn’t rely on the School’s promises. As for the one from the second round, I’ll let the information you give speak for itself!

    As for your last comment, all I can say is “Thank you – you’re very kind!”

  • Yes, Ricky, what you say in your conclusion is right – and Mike’s views also. The international TEFL scene is famously exploitative, by and large. It’s important to remember at all times that these schools are businesses, as opposed to strictly educational establishments. And would-be teachers must get an internationally-recognised post-grad qualification (eg CELTA or Trinity) before applying. A decent, reputable school will organise the necessary paperwork for the newly-recruited teacher – and some will even help with accommodation, flights, etc (after all, it’s good business practice to keep the teachers happy).
    Finally, tourist visas are just that – they’re not flexible arrangements, allowing people to trawl for prospects. If you want/need a work/permanent visa or work permit, then that’s what you are supposed to apply for in the first place. Them’s the rules; I don’t make ’em!

  • I am sorry to see this side of TEFL because it should have been a great way for an average person to make a living in a foreign country. Working as a secretary or a mother in the States doesn’t help when living overseas and learning a new language. I’m impressed with Anna’s trip through the eastern countries and I hope the experience was incredible for her. If nothing else, they found a good friend in YOU.

  • Ricky

    Minnie – I endorse every thing you say. In particular, if you are going to another country to work, you need a work permit and visa not just a tourist visa. This is where I believe Caledonian let Karen & Anna down by telling them to come as tourists and ‘we’ll sort out work permits etc later’.

    Bev – Thanks for your comment. Ironically, we’ve just heard from Anna that she is flying into Prague this weekend to collect her belonging that are still here. I just hope she is allowed in as a ‘tourist’. We’re planning to meet up. I think her trip has been quite an eyeopener for her, coming as she does, from a fairly sheltered background in middle America. I’ll know more after we’ve met up again.

  • I’m shocked and surprised because of what I read. I don’t know how will I survive if I am in their situation. For months now, a friend of mine has been planning to go to Prague to teach English. I guess, it will be better if I’ll let her read about this.

  • […] we also met up with Anna, a former member of my Prague Chaplaincy congregation about whom I’ve blogged previously. She is now teaching in Istanbul and we were able to reunite her with a suitcase and another bag […]

  • […] Unfortunately, along with another American young lady called Anna, Karen was forced to leave the Czech Republic at the end of April 2009 because of the total incompetence of the Caledonian School in helping both young ladies obtain work permits and residence visas. A second visa application, via the Czech consulate in Chicago, was also unsuccessful. Full details of what happened can be found in my earlier post entitled TEFL Teachers – Caledonian School and Broken Promises. […]