I don't like posting negative reviews. Just like most people, I want to share positive news and experiences. But there's a dark problem in the TEFL/TESOL world that's not getting the attention it should and which is costing students lots of money and wasted time. I completed the ITA TEFL program with flying colors after an extended chat with their intake specialists about whether I would be a decent candidate for TEFL abroad. It was very uncomfortable having the conversation with them about race and age, but I'd done my research before and learned both from other TEFL instructors and from reading journal articles that there is gender, race, appearance, and age discrimination widely all over the world in the TEFL industry. I didn't want to invest over $1000 in schooling (after having spent tens of thousands on university education) if I wasn't going to be able to overcome discriminatory practices. ITA's staff was cooly encouraging, pointing out they had "many" successful graduates like me. I'd heard something similar from the administration where I did my graduate training and that didn't pan out, so I was nervous but decided to take the plunge.
The first problem I encountered was in the teaching material. It was dated and had the feel of a program from the 80's (graphics, layout...). And there were frequent errors throughout the material. And while I understand students need to practice to master concepts, the assignments felt like just busywork, with little rigor or actual teaching (from staff to us). Still, I completed the program with the praise of the teaching staff. Offered a chance to do a module on early childhood teaching, I couldn't bring myself to engage any more of the dated, dry learning modules so declined.
I had difficulty finding a community teaching practicum. Many of the contacts ITA provided were either dead or, when I contacted program managers, they told me they'd never heard of ITA. Finally, I arranged something awkward that satisfied (but really shouldn't have) the practicum requirements and I finished the program.
It took me over a year to get a job (China). Of course, I wanted a job with a decent enough pay for me to both survive AND keep paying my student loan bills back home. But despite my multiple degrees and lots of teaching experience in the US, I found nowhere was interested in me. I have an electronic folder full of over 200 different resumes and cover letters for many different types of teaching opportunities. I applied in Latin America, Europe, The Middle East, North Africa, and throughout Asia. Places that initially required JUST a resume contacted me the same day they got my resume to set up a Skype interview which I took very seriously, researching the company and their target audience and even renting a professional office space (day office), dressing professionally, and preparing a mock lesson. Invariably, within seconds of the interviews starting, these companies were visibly disappointed with who I am. I never heard back from any of them, though I kept (and continue) seeing their ads for instructors. I can't adequately express how demoralizing and humiliating that is.
Then there were the other ads that requested "a recent photo" or "your passport photo page." I even hired a resume company to help me craft my resume (a service ITA offers but I wanted a professional company to help me maximize my chances at getting a decent-pay job so went with a highly reviewed company that offers EFL resume help). After applying to literally hundreds of positions in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Laos... I was offered a position in the Middle East for less than half what other younger and inexperienced graduates were being offered with a company that had horrible Glassdoor reviews, including many employees' complaints about unethical treatment, contract abrogations, and payment failures. I finally got an offer from a company in Shanghai. The pay, for such an expensive city, was low, but I was just relieved to have found a job.
I accepted the Shanghai offer for one year but decided to return to the US. The management of the Shanghai company was abusive to all staff--Chinese and foreign, relying on screaming, humiliation, and other forms of abuse "to keep people in line," the words of the program director there. And they required instructors to falsify legal documents students were using to apply to US colleges. I felt very uncomfortable doing this so didn't renew my contract.
While I was in China, I applied to hundreds of teaching positions throughout the world. And until recently, I've done the same since returning home. I've even applied to teach in countries with unstable, even dangerous political situations. The evidence is irrefutable. If you're older (over 35, 40) and, I hate writing this, of African descent, especially if you're male (preference in Asia for female teachers), no matter how much experience, how many degrees, and what certification you have, you aren't likely to be a desirable candidate. Worse, because the job market for college graduates in the West is so abysmal that many graduates seek TEFL certificates simply to qualify for full-time work elsewhere while they wait for better opportunities back home, the market has been flooded with TEFL certificate graduates, both driving down salaries generally and making employers far more selective. Again, if you're the wrong type of teacher, many schools and companies have so many other candidates to choose from that you are likely to be out of luck.
I spent over $1000 for a TEFL certificate that's now worthless simply because of who I am. Never mind my experience teaching in public schools. This is a HUGE problem for the minority of TEFL certificate seekers who share my demographic. You can do the online search yourself for both popular recountings of these experiences and scholastic publications corroborating what I've shared here. TEFL certificate granting institutions should assume the ethical responsibility of having informed, frank discussions with students BEFORE we shell out money for knowledge we may never get to use due to widespread discrimination.