Stories abounded not long ago about TEFL being recession proof, and it being one of the few industries that could withstand the financial depression found in many countries. It’s hard to get a perspective on it on a global scale even now as we are still effectively in something of a financial crisis. But it’s interesting to see how the TEFL industry is changing.
Who has been hit?
The issue of the affect of the financial crisis on TEFL is tied up with exchange rates. I guess I’m less interested in big numbers and the repercussions on organizations than I am in the affect it has on the teachers. For many people working as language teachers in another country, their salary may be devalued by the exchange rates, particularly for those who have to send money home, or who are trying to save money.
ESL Daily carried a series of articles on this matter in a series gloomily titled ‘Economic Woes’. One of the more interesting findings was a summary of which countries have been hit hardest by the financial trouble. It identified Brazil and South Korea as being seriously affected in terms of economy and exchange rates.
Meanwhile, teachers sending money home from Japan have benefited from an exchange rate in their favour. The article also stated that “China’s Yuan has experienced a huge increase…The demand for English teachers is huge and growing on a daily basis, and the extra jump in currency value makes it that much more appealing”.
News from Thailand
The EL Gazette (Electronic Edition) carried an article this month entitled Thai Language Schools Suffer as Recession Bites. The report showed how two ELT companies in Thailand have either had to close or reduce their budgets as a result of the recession.
The global recession, then, has had several impacts on TEFL:
- Fluctuating exchange rates have altered the worth of teacher’s salaries
- Education budgets have decreased in some cases from governments, schools, and personal spending
- The number of people taking TEFL certificates has increased (as a result of a tight job situation)
- Some language schools and private ELT institutions have been forced to close
The situation is perhaps not as bleak as some have painted it, but I think it’s quite clear that TEFL isn’t the last financial haven in a world recession either. I’d be interested to hear some personal experiences of teachers in different countries if anyone wants to comment!