Some of the largest employers of EFL teachers are chains of language schools such as AEON, GEOS and NOVA in Japan, and English First, International House, and Berlitz in a number of countries. These chains often offer a lot of jobs and simplify the work search — but is it worth it? What is it really all about?
You may be able to interview at home and arrange a job in advance. You will be dealing with an organization that regularly employs foreigners/native speakers and so probably has at least some structure to facilitate this in place. If the name is well-known you will be able to find out what other people have to say about it more easily; it’s not uncommon for people to find comfort in working for a relatively well-known company.
You may not be able to count on the same standards and conditions everywhere, especially if local schools are franchises, or if there is uniformity it might not be well-applied to the local situation. Some organizations are more like businesses than schools (as are many smaller name language schools), which can put the teacher in an awkward position. Some people do refer to language school chains as “the McDonalds’ of English schools.”
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Putting it in perspective
Sometimes the collective view put forth in various places online is that chains are bad; it is hard to know what to make of these views, even from my more experienced teacher standpoint. I certainly don’t discount the accuracy or truthfulness of the experiences shared by many people, but that just as there is more general information about large, well-known schools or chains, there will also be more negative information. There won’t be 100 (out of 800) frustrated teachers from one independent language school in Prague; there might well be an equivalent proportion, but that information will just not be seen on the same scale.
For more information, google the name of the chain you are interested in, or visit the appropriate country forum at Dave’s ESL CafÃ©. Come back to the TEFL Logue for profiles of some of these organizations in the future.