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Thursday, November 01, 2007

TEFL International

Complete ignorance is no excuse. A rap over the knuckles for Inspector McHammered of the Lard. Many thanks to Lozza for alerting the Inspector. Both ELT World and TEFL Watch cover this story in greater depth. The postings are preserved for posterity here just in case they get pulled or are bullied off the web. They are edited in parts as some of the allegations are a bit close to the bone. This story clearly needs a transparent and full response from Bruce at Tefl International as the allegations are very serious.
Courtesy of Tefl Watch..........
Firstly, I believe TEFL International markets their teaching English as a second / foreign language courses in a dishonest way. For example, in their advertisements, the Oregon Institute of Overseas Education is shown to have made what appears to me to be a special agreement with TEFL International. That sounds very interesting indeed. A quick visit to the OIEE website shows that they have an impressive array of international experiences and internships available, that is until one digs a bit deeper. I discovered that many of the experiences centered around TEFL International TEFL courses.

At this page , I discovered that it is claimed that the OIEE is a US non-profit organization. I decided that I would check out the online search facilities and see if it was registered in Oregon. I didn’t find a listing for it at the Secrettary of State’s website. I discovered this tidbit “TEFL International teacher training is validated by Oregon Institute of International Education” at .

So just who owns the Oregon Institute of International Education? A whois shows a company in India (not Oregon??) and it’s hosted on the same server that hosts TEFL International. A little more searching and we get this address, 38/53-55 Moo 1, Klaeng, Muang, Rayong 21160, THAILAND from . Now, how many of you think that TEFL International owns the Oregon Institute of International Education?

This begs the question, why would TEFL International need to invent an institute that they own and then say that the organization that they own is connected to themselves and has endorsed them? Is self validation a good thing? Is this very transparent?

Honesty isn’t about one issue in my book. To think that a course provider is dishonest, I think one needs a bit more proof. I didn’t have to look far to see more issues. One example is TEFL International’s implied(at least as I think when I read it) claim of connection to the University of Washington. Ok, maybe they don’t come out and claim it, but I can’t help but think they are claiming it when I take a look at a website of TEFL International’s and see the University of Washington name. I can in fact remember back when I heard that TEFL International students could apply for credit at the U of W. Not so, at least according to reports I have seen from people claiming to work at the University of Washington. If TEFL International was not connected with the University of Washington and they made claim to the contrary, would that be dishonest? I can’t tell you, but I’m sure you can answer it in your own mind.

TEFL International is an Oregon Non-Profit Corporation. They are organized as a Public Benefit non-profit company. Some doubt the claim, but I have verified it. TEFL International is required to file Charity Reports with the Oregon government as well. I checked out the website and the last time one was filed was back in 2005. I think they are a bit late in their filings, but I am not sure. One thing that has struck me though is the number of complaints I have heard that the owner and CEO of TEFL International is misappropriating funds. As a non-profit public benefit corporation, it’s my understanding that they need to look out for the public benefit and shouldn’t benefit their directors. I am curious what kind of oversight the Oregon government is giving to a company that is registered in their state.

I saw their 2005 report and it was interesting, revenue of less than $800,000. That means about 500 students at $1500 a pop. I find that hard to believe. They give courses in so many locations, I feel very sure the number is higher than that. What about the people who go for the 6 month internships? It seems like the number they are quoting is on the low side. But maybe I am wrong. I wonder what it would take to audit the books of TEFL International? Since it is a public benefit corporation, are the books open for the public to look at? If they are submitting false reports to the state of Oregon, is that honest?

In the next part, we will look more at the business practices of TEFL International, including the treatment of teachers and trainees. We will investigate more the ramifications of taking a course at TEFL International. We will attempt to answer the big what if question, what happens if a course provider goes out of business. The only disclaimer I give you is that all of the above is opinion and you are encouraged to check out the opinion I gave for yourself and see what you come up with.

Most of the comments in support of TEFL International seem to be focused on the quality of the course in Ban Phe and its trainer. Nothing in its induction should be construed as a statement on the quality of their TEFL course, instead its a focus on their business practices as we see it. The business practices seem to me to be downright dirty at best.

“Nemesis” and “Andy”, the two administrators of TEFLWatch, have been involved in a merry go round of emails with Bruce V, the head of TEFL International. At issue is the part I of this series, it was an opinion piece and well labeled as such. From what I understand in the emails he has been sending, it seems that he doesn’t want people to state their opinions. This begs the question, why does the owner and CEO of TEFL International not want people state their opinion?

Bruce V also admitted in email to contacting the boss of our admin Nemesis. Nemesis feels as though the contact occurred before he was asked to leave from the school, Bruce claims it was after Nemesis was asked to leave from the school. Either way, how did Bruce know what school Nemesis worked at? How did Bruce V know Nemesis’ full name? Very few people knew Nemesis’ personal information, just the admin of and the admin of In fact, Nemesis received a personal message from LDMA, the admin of saying that Bruce V knew the personal information of Nemesis and was looking for him. Either way, they claim not to have divulged the information, but it all just sounds creepy to me. I have a creepy feeling about Bruce V.

Edit: More truth has come to light and this needs to be corrected slightly. Bruce did not contact Nemesis’ current school at the time, he contacted a previous school and Bruce claims it was AFTER Nemesis had left Thailand. Bruce did not have some personal information that he was thought to have had. LDMA, for his own reasons, relayed to Nemesis that Bruce had information, including Nemesis’ real name, Ajarn Forum nick, and current school. There are still some questions left, but not for Bruce, rather for the owner of Ajarn Forum.

This is not a witch hunt against TEFL International, it is a genuine warning against what we feel to be creepy business practices by the supposed largest provider of TEFL Courses in the world.

TEFL International not only trains teachers, but has work programs. One project currently being run is their Thai Special Project. They train teachers for a month and then farm them out to schools. After a few months they give them a TEFL certificate. It sounds like a good deal, but the devil is in the details.

I talked to one member of the project in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. He recounted how he was picked up in the airport with a group of other trainees. The van brought to pick them up was woefully too small, as if no one even knew how many trainees were expected. Trainees didn’t receive a month of intense training, instead they received a few days of training and were sent to work at schools. Trainees felt disappointed at the management of the program that they paid good money for. Bruce V promised to make it right, but some trainees felt he was holding the TEFL certificates hostage. Teachers put in a woefully inadequate program would be out their money and time..and have no TEFL certificate if they quit or get fired because they tell the truth.

There are also allegations that TEFL International and Bruce V has outstanding salary obligations that they have failed to meet. One teacher claims to have been waiting since February for his salary when it is alleged that Bruce V bought out an agency and then abruptly ended the contracts early so he could avoid paying summer salary.

Now, granted Bruce V has claimed that TEFL International is not related to TIEC, the agency bought out. They just happen to be owned by the same man, Bruce V. According to what I was able to see, it looks like Special Program Trainees are being placed at schools that TIEC has contracts with. If TIEC is totally unrelated to TEFL International, then is TEFL International, a US non-profit, getting paid properly by supplying workers to TIEC? Is Bruce V getting personal benefit from TEFL International? Is there a conflict of interest?

My father always told me that when a company is failing to pay wages due, is delivering a sub-standard product, and skirting the law, you had better stand clear of that company. I’ll let you be the judge whether or not this applies to TEFL International.

So what does this all mean to current and former trainees? Well, if TEFL International folded, there is no external accreditation of the TI TEFL course and therefore the value of the certificate would be unknown, unlike Trinity and CELTA TEFL courses that still maintain their value even after a course provider closes down. I guess only time will tell.

And finally courtesy of ELT World....

TEFLWatch has been reporting on this story for awhile, but it needs to get out to a larger audience. I'll just give the facts.

1) TEFL International bought out an agency that supplies teachers in Thailand. He took over them in January. He had teachers on contract through the end of March and the end of April. At the end of January, all teachers were paid. At the end of February, Bruce ordered his right hand man in Songkhla Thailand, to cancel the work permit and visas for ALL of the teachers. He paid most, but not all of the teachers their salaries for February. Sine March and April are vacations(but covered as paid in the contract), he told the teachers that they were laid off and he wouldn't pay them for March and April.

2) One teacher, who was the only foreigner teacher at his school, didn't get his salary for February. He was paid for January, but not February. They gave him a run around and then he came to TEFLWatch. Bruce has said that he won't pay this teacher until this teacher removes all of his postings about TEFL International.

3) During the firing of teachers in February. Bruce's right hand man, under direction from Bruce, tried to get one particular teacher arrested on trumped up charges of XXXXXXXXXXXXX (censored until some solid proof arrives by your noble sleuth).

4) In May, after the vacation, he had replaced the teachers with trainees who were paying to take his course. He also had the teachers open account where he was a signatory on the accounts so that he would have access to their bank accounts at all times.

5) Bruce's right hand man realized that he was duped by Bruce into doing some very evil things and he has repented and is trying to help teachers affected by TEFL International.

Bruce of TEFL International has written off both #1 and #2 cash flow problems that weren't his fault. I'm sorry, I don't accept that. If you don't wages to your teachers, I don't care if you have cash flow problems or not, you are a bad employer.

The worst thing of all is that Bruce is now trying to get the teacher mentioned in #2 jailed. See, in civilized countries, truth is an absolute defense of libel and slander charges. Not so in thailand. Now, TEFL International is trying to jail this teacher. I have no doubt he'll be successful in that since it's obvious that negative things were said about the company, but it's the truth. Of course, in Thai courts, the truth matters little.

The only chance to stop this largesse of TEFL international is to spread the word. Bruce controls ESL Cafe and most other major tefl sites through his advertising budget. I'm asking that we spread this word. If they do jail this teachers, I want it every newspaper. I want it know that TEFL International jailed a teacher because that teacher complained that they didn't their salary.

Now, Bruce is going to find out about this thread. He'll come here and talk a lot about how much he is a victim of vicious lies. He'll go on and on about that. I've seen it myself. Unfortunately, he's admitted to not paying his teachers what they are due. That's hardly the actions of a victim.

Keep this in mind. His money has silenced more threads on ESL cafe than anyone else. He has cheated teachers out of their due salary. He is trying to jail a teacher.

What do you think? Victim or victimizer?

Well I never! is there any truth in the above litany of alleged sins?


Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Pamplona, Spain

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