Scams in The World of ESL

Ever since I started reading and writing about ESL on the net, which hasn’t been that long by the way, it never ceases to amaze me at just how gullible people can be. I apologize to some extent for this line of arrogance, but to quote a favourite cartoon character, ‘I have had all I can stand, I cant stands no more!’ I am referring to the volume of reported ESL job scams posted on the internet , or worse, the volumes of people who fall victim to them. 

First, let’s be honest, the ESL industry is an open market. It’s international and cross cultural and there is no regulation, never has been, and most likely never will be. Bad bosses, bad schools, bad recruiters, and just plain scammers have used this market to their advantage past and present because it’s easy to do so. What appears to be going on presently in China had its heyday in Korea and Taiwan 20 years ago and the Middle-east saw it in the 80’s. 

Now don’t get me wrong thinking I’m on some disting rant about the evils of China or ESL itself. No, it’s more a question concerning intelligence levels of people who get involved in ESL in the first place. Sometimes I really wonder if this is a Darwinian experiment by some extraterrestrial force. I truly find it ironic that requirements outlined by nations seeking foreigners to visit their shores to educate their burgeoning young fail to include street smarts. 

In retrospect, this is quite the opposite. The world of teaching English as a second language can be incredibly fun, intriguing, educational, and rewarding. It allows for many freedoms other jobs don’t and there are a lot of good people in the industry. There are also good schools and good recruiters and an abundance of information out there regarding bad positions, or outright scams. Interestingly there’s very little information about bad, ignorant, or irresponsible teachers. Funny. 

So what’s amiss here? Maybe there’s something wrong with the channels of information. Every time I sit to work on eslpanda, I have the privilege of learning about a new scam like some recruiter who is trying to steal money from teachers and students. Just take a quick look at the blog on and you’ll get the point. A truly sad post on tells about a woman who 2 years ago gave a person in Nigeria 15 grand for visa assistance. What’s worse, the job was in China. Now I feel for this person, but $15,000? I understand why she would want to remain anonymous. 

I actually used to enjoy getting emails of that sort. You know, the ones from Malaysia, Indonesia or Africa. They all started with “Dear Sir” and went on to explain that some person with your last name just passed away leaving $7.5 million U.S. dollars  unclaimed in the Burundi Bank of Batswana.  I used to drag those out; “Oh, yes, here’s my bank account. Oh, I’m sorry, that account is in Brunei.”  Finally when they asked if I thought they were lying, I would reply, “Yes. I think you’re a lying bucket of fluid excrement being squeezed out of an elephant’s arse.” 

Alright, consider me crass with the poor woman who lost half her savings, or the other innocent victims of these heinous crimes. What I am not is born yesterday and neither is the ESL industry. It has been rolling along for many decades in it’s present form and will continue to do so for some time. This translates into unregulated with very little to no protection for those getting involved which means you have to know more than just smiling kindly while practicing “How are you? I’m fine thank you, and you?” for your wonderful class of students. Yet for some reason, people refuse to accept the reality that it’s a playground for dishonest people. 

Here’s a suggestion. We could ask the growing deluge of teacher TESL centers to spend a little time teaching new recruits how to avoid being ripped off. They could include it in the lesson planning phase of the program, or maybe while doing a lesson on how to teach absolute adjectives. Like, don’t be an absolute moron. To be honest, I think this is better than teachers in China trying to organize a union. Maybe these people need to be reminded that it didn’t work in Japan in the early 90’s, nor did it work in Korea in the early 2000’s. Whoever on earth thinks it’s going to work in China should have their floppy disk reformatted. 

Perhaps the ESL websites could do more, like running full-page warnings in the local English newspapers, but for some reason I don’t think that would work either. So I shall offer my final piece of advice to those reading this article of muck and mire in the ESL market place. If you’re new to this line of work, consider going through one of the large companies; EF English First, Wall Street, ICN in Japan, ILA in S.E. Asia or any of the other big franchised style English centers. Ok, so it’s not as exotic as the wonderful little Mom and Pop shop in the middle of nowhere Ville, but it has its merits; like them paying you instead of you paying them, steady hours, housing, as well as someone you can talk with. You’ll have some peace of mind for your first year until you learn the industry. 

I’m betting this might not exactly be the advice people are looking to hear. I can hear it now. This guy is just out to promote the big franchises. Actually, I’m out to prevent some naive green-hand from experiencing a painful lesson. There are other choices available, like trusting the recruiter with no Facebook or LinkedIn page and an email address that ends in However, if you were the one those kids in the school yard who licked the steel fence in -20 degree winter weather upon a dare only to end up screaming in pain as the homeroom teacher poured boiling water over it to set you free, learn to accept the pain or maybe reconsider the application process altogether.

Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2017 9:19 AM by eslpanda
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