Sunday, 12 August 2007

TEFL Jobs in Spain: An Investigation

I spent almost a year of my life teaching English and Italian in Madrid, Spain. Although I enjoyed teaching, the experience opened my eyes to the various ways in which an individual can be exploited in a capitalist society. Indeed, I started learning about socialism's role to build a better world during the time I spent in Spain. This will be shown more clearly when I start transferring my diary pages to this blog.

The content of the following paragraphs is unlikely to go down very well with the many people who are currently earning thousands of Euros by promoting language teaching in Spain as a highly comfortable job. Before I go any further, I would like to highlight the fact that there are a handful of individuals who manage to find employment within a highly recognised school or within a Church school, but these are the exceptions - surely not the rule! Furthermore, the people who find the really comfortable, stable jobs are almost always citizens/residents of the European Union and have acquired a university degree in teaching or in a language. Having said this, let us now focus our attention on the hundreds of individuals who flock to Spain every year, especially from the US, to obtain a TEFL certificate after completing an extremely intensive 4-week course.

Before embarking on my relatively brief career in language teaching, I attended one of the TEFL courses in Madrid. I completed the course and achieved a Distinction. I started working shortly afterwards, but the conditions I encountered were totally unexpected. During the time I spent teaching, I befriended some other individuals who were also apparently hoping to settle down in Spain as teachers. This helped me a great deal to realise that teaching English in Spain was rarely a dream job. I continued to discover the shocking working conditions experienced by various teachers when I was employed by a TEFL centre which attracted several students every year. I remember reading the application forms of so many people, particularly from the US, who nurtured very high hopes of finding good teaching jobs in Spain. As a person who had gone to Spain prior to Malta's becoming a member of the EU, I knew what it felt like to try to find a decent job as an illegal immigrant. It was surely not a pleasant experience! Most of the US citizens who were longing to teach in Spain either underestimated such difficulties or were deceived by the TEFL centre's standard email reply which stated that most language schools in Madrid would employ an English teacher regardless of whether one had an EU passport or not. This was a huge lie and an encouragement to contribute to the black market economy in Spain!

In the past, many language schools might have not made a fuss about employing non-EU citizens as English teachers. Yet, when I was there (in 2003 and 2004), the number of schools which accepted non-EU citizens as teachers was quite small. The problems I faced when trying to find a job with one or more language schools before Malta became a member of the EU were often echoed by various US citizens after completing the TEFL course. I can still clearly remember various US TEFL graduates showing up at the training centre a few weeks after graduation saying that most of the schools that had received the CV/resume' were not interested in non-EU citizens. The few schools that accepted non-EU citizens normally offered very few teaching hours; surely not enough to earn a living wage.

Before I delve into the wages issue, I would like to mention another technique utilised by some people to deceive non-EU citizens into thinking that one's passport has little bearing on the ability to find a decent teaching job. The individuals cashing in the hundreds of Euros paid by the many naive non-EU TEFL students frequently said that they could help those people to obtain legal advice in order to obtain a work permit. This "legal advice" only consisted of referring the non-EU citizens to a lawyer they knew, knowing full well that the chances of getting a permit were extremely small.

There was a US guy in my course who got in touch with a school shortly after completing the TEFL course. As a native speaker, the school was interested in employing this guy. The school was not interested in fooling people around and it applied for a work permit. After NINE months of waiting, during which one is not allowed to work, the application was denied. This person informed my employers at the TEFL centre where I worked about the permit rejection; during future presentations to the students who attended the courses, my employers often mentioned the fact that a language school could apply for a work permit should they be really interested in a particular teacher; they never told the poor souls that the only case we knew about ended up with a rejection letter!!! To this day, I wonder how many US citizens ended up returning to their home country after coming to terms with the fact that working as an illegal immigrant was not really a desirable pathway to living happily in a beautiful country like Spain.

Brushing aside the work permit problems, the real life of several TEFL teachers in Spain reveals other facets that show the shocking level of exploitation exhibited by many TEFL teacher-training centres and language schools. I remember that many students were coming to Spain with the hope of living a relatively tranquil life and earning a decent wage. Countless TEFL graduates were hoping that shortly after completing the course, they could find a pleasant school which would offer them a contract with a fixed salary, decent working conditions, and a living wage. Based on my experience and that of many other language teachers I met in Madrid, finding a job that offered such characteristics was tantamount to looking for a gold mine.

When it comes to salaries, it is extremely hard to find a TEFL job which offers a fixed salary. This is mainly because some schools will only offer a few teaching hours per week and if a student drops out of a course or cancels a lesson, the salary will obviously be affected. No language school ever provided a mechanism to protect the teachers when faced with such situations. I remember that there were times when I was earning less than what many baby sitters were apparently earning on a monthly basis in Madrid!

The salaries tended to vary from one school to another. Some offered a shocking € 7.00 per hour while others were paying € 15.00 per hour. Most lessons normally lasted 1.5 hours. There was always the option of giving private lessons. I had a few private students and I used to charge € 15.00 per hour; the problem with such students is that unless you manage to get them to pay in advance for a course of lessons, you might end up with very little money once a student drops out or prefers to switch to a cheaper teacher.

Some of the people running the language schools in Madrid might tell prospective teachers that one could work for more than 20 hours per week. Although this is theoretically possible, very few teachers I knew worked for so many hours on a weekly basis. This is due to a number of reasons. First, one has to prepare the lessons. Second, most language schools will require their teachers to travel all over the city to give a lesson in one company and then move to another place to give another lesson. Apart from the fact that certain schools do not take transport expenses into consideration when calculating a teacher's salary, the travelling from one end of the capital to another is usually extremely tiring. One should not omit the fact that due to the working hours of most students, lessons are typically held either at 8AM, at 2PM, or at 6PM. There were many times when I used to return home at 09:30PM, feeling cold and starving after many hours of not being able to eat properly due to the travelling! Of course, the language school administrators and the people organising the TEFL courses do not usually care about the effect of all that travelling on the teachers because they are enjoying their comfortable jobs and the huge sums of money rolling into their pockets to buy their next expensive car!

When you end up working in a country as an illegal immigrant with an almost constantly varying salary, it is quite hard to be able to build a healthy social life. When I started understanding the news on Spanish TV, I sometimes came across features during which a trade union representative would talk about the need to legalise the thousands of illegal immigrants in Spain so that they could live decent lives like all the other Spanish/EU citizens living in the country. Unfortunately, I never read or watched any feature about the sad plight of the many illegal TEFL teachers in Spain!

When a person is working illegally, it becomes extremely difficult to negotiate better working conditions with one's employer. An employer will often try to sweeten the fact that there is no contract to protect the employee by saying that they are paying teachers higher salaries since they are not deducting any taxes from the monthly income. This might be acceptable to those teachers who are only in Spain for a few months, but I doubt that those individuals who move to the country with the hope of settling down there greet such news very enthusiastically.

Compared to other European countries, Spain is not terribly expensive. The cost of living is not particularly high. Having said this, a living wage is still necessary to cover one's survival expenses. Most teachers rent a room in a shared apartment since renting an entire apartment is virtually impossible to do with the average teacher's salary. When I was living in Madrid, the rent for a room in an apartment inhabited by other people varied between € 250 and € 300 per month. One then has to include the transport expenses, food and drink, and the bills. Until a teacher manages to have enough teaching hours to, at least, break even, it is highly recommended that a teacher has some money saved up for emergency situations.

One thing which many language schools and TEFL centres will not usually say unless asked is that there are times during the year when one's teaching hours - no matter how many they may be - can be reduced to zero at the flick of a wrist. This normally happens during July and August when many Spanish language students go abroad or decide to interrupt their courses for a holiday. Unfortunately, the teacher's landlord and his/her stomach does not take a holiday; one must still pay the monthly rent and eat in order to survive, but this could become pretty hard when you are not receiving ANY money for two months!!!

With no employment contract in force, there is no provision that teachers get paid during their students' holidays. Furthermore, if a teacher fails to give a lesson due to injury or illness, the typical language school in Madrid does not offer any sick leave payment scheme. You contract an illness which leaves you bedridden for a week...that means an entire week without earning any money! Tough, huh? The same applies to any vacation time that you might request; any time you take off means lost income. And did you think that the average TEFL teaching job in Spain was going to give you the stability, the income, and the time to be comfortable and be able to enjoy your life there?

It is often said that teachers can never prosper because the salaries that they earn in most countries tend to be on the lower end. Well, the teachers who work in government or church schools usually earn a salary which covers their survival expenses, have sick leave, are paid when their students are on holiday, and have many other rights. Why are most TEFL teachers in Spain treated very differently? Is it because they do not have a university degree in teaching? Or is it because they are easy targets to exploit?

I do not think that I would be exaggerating when I say that there are still many people who are currently working illegally as TEFL teachers in Spain. Several of these individuals might have been doing so for a number of years. It is so sad to realise that hardly anyone is struggling to improve the plight of such human beings. The fact that the Spanish government continues to make it so hard for countless individuals to have the same rights as any other Spanish/EU citizen working in Spain encourages various language/TEFL centres to earn thousands of Euros by toying around with the lives of the many non-EU citizens who go to Spain to live and work there legally. I doubt that there is any non-EU person working as a language teacher in Spain who enjoys being treated as a second-class citizen!!!

There is a huge need for more awareness about the shocking working conditions of countless TEFL teachers in Spain. It is essential for the people who want to stop the terrible exploitation of several teachers to unite. By working together, it will be possible to put more pressure on the Spanish authorities with the hope that many things could be done to help those teachers live comfortably in Spain and to prevent the various language/TEFL centres from making profits by indulging in illegal activities.


Susan said...

I did my stint as an illegal TESOL teacher in Spain in the late 90s. Though it was a wonderful experience, I really didn't get to enjoy the country in a way I would have liked simply based on the money. Like your post mentions, vacations, time off, scheduled closures of your academy, and the like all mean no salary. Christmas and Semana Santa are hard to look forward to when you realise that you will be at least 25-50% short of the funds necessary to pay your rent.

As for why it continues, I think a lot of it is simply economics. The cowboy schools charge an affordable price for most Spaniards but in doing so, can't really pay a well-seasoned teacher the salary they would need. As an MEd TESOL holder, my years of experience and degree are worthless there. I suppose most schools rely on the idea that the backpacking teacher will pass through, hoping to earn some 'euros'...and enjoy the Spanish lifestyle. This cuts many ways: As long as there's a demand for low cost English courses, there are cowboy schools. As long as there are cowboy schools, there will be backpackers looking for 10 months of work. As long as the government doesn't regulate these academias, the cycle continues.

David Cuschieri said...

Thank you very much for your comments! I believe that the negative aspects related to TEFL jobs should be stated upfront so that people do not make huge sacrifices to go to Spain in search of a decent job only to end up being exploited by the companies who employ them. To me, the TEFL job issue is a fairly scandalous one! I really hope that more people can work together to prevent further exploitation in this area!

Susan said...

Fair point-I think that even the fact that you must 'show up' in Spain in order to land most jobs should tip people off. Ever since leaving Spain, I've always worked in overseas contracts in which my airfare was arranged, housing was set up, etc. That doesn't mean I wasn't exploited, though. At least in Spain, there's nothing that ties those teachers to the contracts-you get up, go to another academy, and let the process continue. Imagine taking a contract in a country that requires your employer to provide a leaving card before you fly out? Or having your passport held for "administrative purposes" so that you don't have it when you want it. Or being given a visa and not being able to read what your title really is, thereby allowing your employer to get more hours of work from you by bending the labour laws of the country. There are many ESL contracts around the world that exploit teachers to a much more serious degree.

There are just way too many people willing to work in Spain for low pay and no legal status. As long as they exist (and no law truly prevents them from finding work), I'm afraid the problem continues.

David Cuschieri said...

I would not really say that "There are just way too many people willing to work in Spain for low pay and no legal status." Based on my experience in Spain dealing with countless US citizens who went to Madrid to teach English, very few expected to end up being paid a pittance in return for lousy working conditions. Of course, once they were in the country, most simply decided to give the teaching project a shot with the hope that a proper job might be waiting round the corner. After all, once a person has spent a considerable amount of money to obtain a TEFL certificate to work in Spain, it would not be so easy to go back to one's passport country without having been able to earn some money and work experience.

I can imagine that there are other places in the world where TEFL jobs are linked with even worse conditions than the ones I described in my post. By shedding more light on how many individuals are earning huge amounts of money every year by exploiting their employees, I really hope that some justice can finally be done!

The more I investigate the issue of TEFL jobs in various parts of the world, the more disgusted I feel when I see how the greed for profit is the main cause of the exploitation suffered by countless individuals.

jeanluc said...

excellent comments. I have a very close American friend who just arrived in Velencia with a TEFL 120-hour Certification, but is now faced with having to find a place to teach and live. Hopefully, her BA degree, professional exp, adaptability, and TEFL Cert. will help her find a job by January as is the best time to find work after the holidays.

What do you think?

David Cuschieri said...


Your friend seems to have some assets that would facilitate her search for a teaching job. Having said this, it is always important to make a distinction between finding a job and finding a DECENT one! Working one's ass off for a few Euros which can only cover some of the many expenses that an English teacher in Spain would normally incur cannot be regarded as a fair deal!

Edward Fredericks said...

U.S. citizens must communicate with each other regarding this issue!
I'm thrilled that I found your blog and Thank you very much for taking the time to write this. I agree with you 100%. I wish I had found it months before I actually moved to Spain, or 3 years before I moved to the E.U. for that matter. lol
I'm originally from the U.S., moved to Paris, France in "04" and moved to Barcelona, Spain this past October. I agree, living as an "illegal immigrant" from the U.S. is challenging.
Even as a legal resident of France for 3 years, I was NOT able to obtain full work status.
France makes it deliberately challenging for U.S. citizens. If you come from Africa, Asia or Latin America, you will be eligible for government assistance including "full work status!"

I just completed a TEFL program in Prague. It was a great experience, BUT americans should NOT do this course and plan to live off of a TEFL job in the E.U. The E.U. is overtly afraid of people coming from the U.S. and working, even though they DO NEED skilled labor. E.I. The Blue Card. (google it!)

I think Americans with M.A.s in education and lots of experience, will do well in western Europe as professors.

I have talked to many E.U. citizens who have often referred to it being just as difficult obtaining work status in the U.S. for them as it is for us in the E.U. as U.S. citizens. This couldn't be FURTHER from the truth!

Anonymous said...

hi...your post sounds nearly identical to my job in Germany. I work legally in Germany as an English teacher as well as a communication consultant. In general, working solo is a big risk because people tend not to pay, even if it is 100% legitimate. And working for a school is barely going to cover basic expenses, let alone provide for any kind of comfortable lifestyle. Owning a car or house is impossible, even though I usually earn my employers over 10,000 Euro per month. In order to comply with German law, one must work in at least 2 schools. Much of my day disappears in my attempt to get from one gig to the next. And you live in constant fear of illness or other people's holidays. I know several veteran teachers, one with 20 years experience, who had to beg for food handouts after Christmas took 2 weeks salary away. All this and I have an M.A. as well as my EFL certificate. And don't even mention the constant fear of illness.

I'd have to say that the problem in my eyes is more socialism than capitalism. The problem here is that there are government restrictions on competition that force trainers to work for a big school which leads to exploitation. If trainers had more choice and could, say, open their own school without a 25,000 Euro down payment (German law), many smaller schools could get started, leading to a better service. Now, the only people who work the job mostly provide terrible services because they are paid peanuts. So people with any skill leave very quickly, or they get married and look for a "real" job. Europe's anti-competition laws make exploitation assured. (It was the same in Eastern Europe.) For a balanced approach, look for the book "Cowboy Capitalism" by Olaf Gersemann.

Germany, as well as most other European countries, need to open up to the new reality. They are not having kids, so they need foreign work. Not just manual labor, but in all areas. But their citizens are so "us vs. them" about any foreigners, including other E.U. citizens, that it makes working there unpleasant. Most Germans I come into contact with (I try to not let it happen) hate the idea of non-Germans reaping any kind of benefit from their country.

Anonymous said...

I'm a US citizen with a CELTA cert. and wish I had know about the legality of the ELT field in Europe before I took the course. Even though I expressed my desire to teach in Europe before signing up, I was never told about the restrictions. If you have a desire to live and work in Europe, do research FIRST!! Don't take their word for it, all programs are a business, and want as many students as possible. If you have a particular location you would like work, make sure you can actually be employed there if you don't want to take the illegal route and the restrictions that comes along with it.

Edward Fredericks said...

This is Edward. I received this from a friend. If you've seen it or signed it already, sorry for the repeat.

Take care.


Hello all,

As some of you know I may be departing very soon.  Please do me a favor and take a minute to sign this electronic petition that will help Americans teach legally in the European Union, I also thank you to forward it to all of your contacts, thank you very much.


Anonymous said...

I'm a graduated teacher from Argentina but I want to move to Spain because half my family is there. I'm doing my 'papers' in order to be considered a legal citizen. However, I don't know if I'll be able to work as a teacher...everybody says that institutes only employ native speakers or Spanish teachers...Is it a good idea to do the CELTA course although I already have a degree?

Señorita Cariño said...

I'm legal and I still get treated like an illegal immigrant. It seems that the better my Spanish becomes, the more chances I have for finding more humane work. I'm mad as hell about it too. How can these guys keep getting away with it? And what would the students do if they found out? The Spaniards are truly lovely and caring people, and have been extremely kind to me. I'm having a great time in this country and loving everything about the culture and the people. My only problem is that my boss is a Fat Bastard who tries to use his "hugeness" to intimidate the young foreign women he has working for him into working terrible shifts, working when they're ill. He even likes to tell us all sorts of sick stuff about his sex life, complain about his wife...He thinks he can get away with it because we can't get a better job elsewhere. Makes me so maaaaaad!!!

jeanluc said...


I worked in Valencia for about a year and learned that it is probably one of the most hospitable places. Where are you teaching?

Señorita Cariño said...

I'm in Montgat, near Barcelona. My boss is a fat slave driving bastard. Don't work for him! If you want to keep your sanity...

jeanluc said...

teach until I have at least 5,000 Euros in my pocket for rainy weather.

A fat (bastard) Spaniard - that would be a sight to behold.

When is your contract up?

jeanluc said...

Oops, appears the first part of my post was clipped...I won't return to Spain to teach until I have 5,000 brass coins in my pocket - each being worth 100 euros.

I have dual American and EU citizenship, so while O worked at the two top school franchises in Spain, my ddescritionary time was spent looking for things to do that were free and thankfully, in Valencia, they are plentiful. Many outdoor week-long festivals and concerts. Heck, we saw The Cure at no cost. Oh, and they have nightly fireworks shows that would rival any other city in the world, including the Chinese Olympics finale. ;)

Señorita Cariño said...

He's not Spanish. He's American. I repeat: The Spaniards are ALL lovely people and have been very kind to me. I have no problems with the Spanish. I have no problems with the Americans either, but I don't enjoy working 14 hour days for 6 hours pay, with 5 hours break in between. It's shithouse.

My biggest problem is finishing late then starting again early, plus all the negative crap he rants on about if you can't run out the door fast enough as soon as your class is finished.

Let's maintain a modicum of professionalism, PLEASE, I don't need to know about either my bosses messed up private life nor his sexual fantasies etcetera. Blech.

David Cuschieri said...

Senorita Carino and Jean Luc: Thanks a lot for your comments! :)

Considering how popular teaching English as a foreign language seems to be, it is quite sad to note how many people become aware of certain issues only once they have paid a great deal of money to move to another country. Sad, but true.

Over the past few years, I have realised that many people who opt for what initially appears to be an ultra-comfortable life as a teacher in some exotic part of the world tend to be university graduates. I am a university graduate, but I graduated in an area where it is virtually impossible to find a decent job unless one obtains a doctorate (Psychology). When I read about the possibility of living in another country and earning money teaching, it looked great. Sadly, my rational brain was eclipsed by the excitement of settling down in a beautiful country like Spain. The day-to-day reality of trying to make ends meet as a TEFL teacher struck home only a few weeks after I graduated as a teacher.

Even though I sometimes had free mornings when I could catch up with other things, there was virtually no time to pursue some course to better myself academically. Let us say that I wanted to grow as a teacher. Considering that I often used to be working during the times that evening classes were offered, it was impossible for me to sign up for such a course. I can still clearly remember one of my Spanish students telling me that even though teaching might have been fun for me, I should try to focus on a career.

Perhaps living as a TEFL teacher is an ideal option for people who do not care much about marriage, having children, and earning a beefy salary. Yet, if you have gone to university because you see yourself as a very capable person, working as a teacher with very little time and money to further your education could lead to a great deal of frustration.

And if life could be rough for a TEFL teacher in Spain, it could be much harder in Latin America. When I went to El Salvador, the first job I had was as a TEFL teacher. After a few days working there, I was offered 600 US dollars a month, but I had to work from 8am until 8pm from Monday to Friday, and from 8am to 1pm on Saturdays!!! To make matters worse, the school obliged its male teachers to wear a shirt and a tie; this was insane in a country where the daily temperature is frequently over 30 degrees celcius!!! So much for working in an exotic corner of the world!

Had I accepted to work as a TEFL teacher in El Salvador, I would have been spending most of my waking hours away from home and with virtually no time to do anything except work! Once at home, I would probably have been so exhausted that I would not have had the energy to do anything other than fall asleep in bed!

I strongly believe that since setting up a language school is a relatively low-cost venture, there are several people out there who want to make a quick buck by employing those poor souls who see life as a TEFL teacher as a way out from chronic unemployment or from underemployment in some miserable job after graduating in an area where jobs are not so easy to find. One way to end such exploitation is to team up with other TEFL teachers who share a similar predicament and to form a union that struggles to improve the rights of such teachers. A union would also help to put an end to the horrible exploitation that is suffered by countless TEFL teachers.

Señorita Cariño said...

Funny you should mention that, Red. Here is the non-union "association" for teachers in Barcelona. I'm a Special Member, which means I have a profile on the website. I also spend some time rounding up poor lost TEFL souls and herding them along to our gatherings where they can at least build relationship with other teachers and share their worries and frustrations. The idea is that it is like a support group for foreigners in Barcelona, but mostly those that are teaching. I'm the one with the cunning pseudonymn of Karyn:

I would invite anyone reading this blog who is in the area to come along...


Señorita Cariño said...

Foreign Language Teachers Union in Catalunya, Spain (Barcelona)

Many language teachers seem to be under the impression (from their Cowboy Capitalist employers no doubt), that here in Spain they have no rights.

A little bit of investigation into the matter turned up not one, but SIX unions for the protection of workers rights in this sector. I decided to join this one:

Of course within 4 days of joining the union, I was fired from my previous position on the grounds that my character is incompatible with that of the direction of the company. Nice guy. That won’t stop me though. I’m glad not to be working for a dodgy school anymore and look forward to a better job with a more law-abiding director.

Bruno said...

Bottom line,
a huge amount (by no means not all, but the number is scarily high) of TEFL schools in Spain are experts in tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Way too often I've seen what every single TEFL teacher (whether EU or non-EU) in Spain has seen: what should be your legal contribution dodged by the employer and used to supplement your own wages.

So not only are you not offered a living wage over the summer. These peopel are also insuring that any potential dole money (which the Spanish state would provide) would be a pittance, given that your Social Security contributions were stripped to the bare minimum.

Now, they say Spain is going through a massive crisis. They say the government is in dire need of funds. They say they need to crack down on tax dodgers.

I cannot believe nobody in government has ever thought of finally cracking down of the ongoing dodgy practices of TEFL schools in Spain.

And don't buy the crap that your school owner (Spanish, English or American or otherwise, it doesnt matter) will give you about them poor souls not making enough money in the summer. It's bollocks. Take a look at their homes, second homes, fast cars and second cars. YOu worked your ass off for them to be able to afford all that.

Bruno said...

Just in case my comment above resulted cryptic (I wrote it in a rush), I was referring mainly to the infamous "cash-in-hand" wages that too many of those TEFL schools impose upon their teachers.

So they expect "professionalism", battery teaching, CELTA, a smiling teacher, think-on-your-feet, experience, language expertise and whatnot, but then the remuneration they offer is all but professional.

It's a disgrace and may I also say, too often made possible by too many TEFL teacher passively accepting the most humiliating working conditions.

IF ONLY just three teachers in a school got together and refused to carry on their requests would be met. NO employer would be in a position to find cover on the spot for 75/85 hours (not to mention it would look embarrassingly bad in front of their clients/students).

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing to hear this over again about supposed 'tax avoidance' and social security payments 'stripped'. What many EFL employees complain about is in fact that their employers are not willing to pay double or triple the base social security rate in order that the wage amount on their 'nomina' equals that of their take-home pay as well as offer them 12 month of the year contracts. Employers may be prepared to offer these conditions for staff who are going to be long term residents and can demonstrate that EFL teaching is a career for them. So for those teachers who fit the profile of travelling abroad from country to country for a few years picking up work wherever they can don't expect schools to be so willing to make an investment in you. Many owners of small to medium sized EFL school owners are self employed, the significance of which is unbeknownst to many - very poor public welfare help in case of sickness or injury (to owners!) - until recently an 'autonamo' had to be ill for 15 days in order to claim any benefits: our own social security payments of course will mean that with paying the minimum rate we look forward to a pension of currently about 700 euros a month - the reasoning is that we will be able so sell the business when we retire, but this is pure uncertaintly.

I'd like to refer also to this comment

"Take a look at their homes, second homes, fast cars and second cars. YOu worked your ass off for them to be able to afford all that."

The amount of time, commitment and stress that requires a serious language school is all consuming. I speak for a community of small to medium sized EFL school owners when I say that any financial rewards we have made have required academic achievement and the aquisition of complex managerial public relations skills over many years. We are not people who sit in the office and enjoy cups of coffee while watching exploited slaves supposively do 'work their ass off for you?'

Bruno said...

Anonymous (why is it so difficult to add your name to your message, btw?):

If you decide to start a business then you have to stick to what the law says and stop wailing that "the system is too unfair/expensive" for the poor "wealth creators".

Can you imagine if the whole world functioned like that? If every shop keeper, businessman, worker decided to play card tricks with wages/contributions and whatnot because the world is oh-so-cruel?

Why should your employee pay for the fact that AUTONOMOS didn't get sickpay til recently? Is it their fault?

Lest it slipped your mind, most EFL teachers don't get any sickpay anyway! It's mostly at the discretion of their boss.

It is a well-known fact that in Spain even those EFL teachers who had been made permanent members of staff by law are still not being handed a penny over the summer period. What's the justification for that?

Your excuse that you dock proper contributions only when it comes to backpackers and 'travelling teachers' is a red herring.

It wouldn't matter anyway. A good chunk of EFL teachers are there for at least a good few years, many do it as their career of choice. Very very very few get paid properly like workers in other fields.

I know you obviously have to justify it to yourself. It's human nature. Even thieves remind themselves that they're thieving for x y z reason. That doesn't make it any less crap though.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bruno. The fact that I chose to leave a name or not makes no difference to what I have to say.
If I were to 'stick by what the law says' regarding wage and social security conditions our teachers would not get any sick pay at all until after the 3rd day of being off and then with a medical certificate and then recieving 60% of their nomina. The conditions I personally offer favour the teacher in this respect but what other enterprises do is up to them. You have obviously no idea of the system to make such comments.

What are these 'card tricks' you refer to? This is just uneducated art student rambling.

How does the employee 'pay' as you put it for the poor industrial conditions that self employed business people face in Spain. Should I run at a loss and pay for peoples wages even if I can't offer them employment over a given period? Have you any idea what you are talking about?

And who the FCK are you to suggest that I 'dock proper contributions'? You don't even know anything about me but just for the record to pay a teacher according to the basic rate of SS contributions is not docking anyone of anything.

"A good chunk of EFL teachers are there for at least a good few years, many do it as their career of choice. Very very very few get paid properly like workers in other fields."

And what research do you find these revealing statistics on? Are you talking about workers in other fields in Spain because if so you must be referring to engineers, IT analysts or upper echelon civil servants. In any country these professions are paid substantially more than EFL teachers. Do you know how much a non specialist government employed general MD gets paid in Spain? Find out. It's a pittance.

Please don't come on with the typical uninformed whinging. If you're not earning enough money to make your life happy then do something to change your circumstances and give us a break with the defenseless exploited slavery bollocks

Jane said...


I've lived and worked in Spain for 8 years now.

I agree with the other posters. Any EFL teacher who's been in Spain for any longer than 6 months knows full well how rife Creative Accounting is in most (by most I mean the greatest vastest majority) English Aceademies in the country.

You are a disgrace. And a bunch of crooks. If you claim that you can't afford to pay people properly just quit the business and do something else. It wasnt prescribed by the doctor.

If a business has to resort to cash-in-hand wages, weird deductions on their payslips, brown envelopes, lower levels of "cotizaciones" as against what would count from actual salaries, then it means it's time to throw in the towel and do something else, possibly more honest.


Bruno said...

"And who the FCK are you to suggest that I 'dock proper contributions'? You don't even know anything about me".

Oh the irony of someone called 'Anonymouse' writing that...!

"but just for the record to pay a teacher according to the basic rate of SS contributions is not docking anyone of anything."

Oh is that so, you self-righteous one?
Let's have a look.
For starters, you dock them of the actual dole money they would be lawfully entitled to at the end of the contract. The lower their SS contribution, the more ridiculous their unemployment benefit.

Second. You ensure that, in case of illness, they'll be entitled to less sick pay (which, again, is calculated according to SS contributions).

Third, when their pension is finally calculated they'll probably look back at their time in sunny Spain, think of you and curse.

David Cuschieri said...

Thanks to every person for their feedback! Having read the comments coming from each side of the debate, I still think that there is an element of deceit when a number of TEFL-training schools advertise their courses. With reference to Spain, I was aware of at least one school which had the guts to say that whoever attended the course managed to find work afterwards! This was clearly a lie; during the time that I spent in Spain, many non-EU citizens were finding it very hard to find enough work to survive, let alone to enjoy living in Spain! During all the time that I spent working as a teacher, I remember that the precariousness in terms of job security, salary, etc. made it virtually impossible for me to make any long-term plans. I could never really take a holiday because I had no paid vacation leave, meaning that if I spent a week travelling in another country, it would have meant a week of not receiving a single Euro! Even if the typical TEFL teacher does not intend to stay in a country like Spain for more than a year or so, every teacher is a human being and every human being should have the same rights.

The owners of various schools might have never experienced such precariousness. And this could make it considerably hard for them to imagine what it feels like to be living alone thousands of miles away from your home trying to scrape a living from day to day. I really doubt that any person who travels to teach expects to end up living almost below the poverty line!

Eric said...

I too have been toying with the idea of going to spain to teach. I am from the US, and being able to speak spanish fluently, i decided spain would be a good place for me. I Just did my interview this morning with the British Language Centre to take a CELTA course In madrid. i've been doing the research the last few months and all i keep hearing is how next to impossible it is for an American to find legal work in spain. Am I crazy for wanting to do this?..or rather, crazy for thinking this could actually work? I dont want to go the Illegal route, and i am not sure that i can find schools willing to go thru the process of getting my legal working papers sorted out. Before the interview, i was quite optimistic about the idea, but when i would ask about whether or not schools would actually take the time to hire a non-EU and process their papers, the interviewer would always stress that many US teachers work for "cash in hand"....this turned me off big time. The more i think about it, the more I feel as though i would be waisting my time and money on something like this. My goal at the end of all this, would be to stay in spain and find work legally, but the country is in the middle of a crisis, and iam not sure if its the ideal place for me.

Sharon said...

Try the MInistry of Education,
and the manual

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