It’s official: English Teaching is a Mickey Mouse Job

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Disney English schools are not new, but I’ve refrained from commenting about them until now. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s hardly breaking news that TEFL is a Mickey Mouse endeavour for the most part.

Today, however, I stumbled across an article worth discussing over at SFGate (Now, SFGate, by the way, turns out to be part of the San Francisco Chronicle’s stable of online properties; not, rather disappointingly, a portal where I fully anticipated finding Richard Dean Anderson swashbuckling his way from page to page, looking perturbed-yet-handsomely-in-control by some kind of parallax anomoly in the space-time continuum vortex calibration field about to wreak untold havoc upon some innocent pre-Bronze Age culture… or some such. Alas.)

Anyway, Disney English is apparently doing a roaring trade if you’re to believe the PR that this “news” story is based on.

The article states that “Disney charges between 3,000 yuan and 12,000 yuan for the programs”. That’s not chump change in China. Okay, it doesn’t say how many classes are involved. Maybe it’s good value over a long period of time. The lessons are twice-weekly according to the article, but it doesn’t say for how many weeks. Whatever the case, it’s still not pocket money.

This, I thought, was an interesting reversal of roles:

Classes typically last 45 minutes and are taught by a native English-speaking “trainer” — certified in teaching English as a foreign language to children — and a Chinese- speaking assistant.

It did make me wonder what type of training the “trainers” receive. It could be perfectly legitimate, of course. Or it could be done by one of those, ahem, Mickey Mouse 21-day learn to teach English by the beach type providers. If I were a betting man…

mickey mouse tattoo

It’s clearly a good thing to be motivating the kids by getting them to play games with a PURPOSE (i.e. save the princess from the fire-breathing dragon or whatever) although I’m not convinced that vocab such as “defeat”, “defend” and “celebrate” are particularly high-frequency items that children need to know.

Here’s another link to the article

Do you know anything about these schools or have any first-hand experience with them? What do you think? Could they be a long-term winner? Leave a comment below…


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2 Responses to “It’s official: English Teaching is a Mickey Mouse Job”

  1. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    It's a really great idea, assuming that the program is hiring quality workers.

    This says loads about where China is going economically. I hope the West can keep up!

    (Also, it's nitpicky I know, but Chronical -> Chronicle)

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    •  Leslie says:

      Yeah, lots and lots of pundits agonising over China's short-term future and whether they're going to stumble.

      We all know the likely long-term outcome, of course; provided the Middle Kingdom can avoid the same mistakes their "economic-miracle" predecessors, Japan and Korea, both made, spiralling their respective economies into mired and lengthy recessions.

      China also looks on nervously at the US dollar and the massive cache of foreign currency equity they've got sitting there.

      Anyway, I don't want to turn this into a discussion of China's economic position, especially… (a) coz I'm far, far from an expert on the matter and (b) this post is about…

      "M-I-C… K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!"

      Dang, what's Deng done? Mao’d be spittin’ not-french-fries!


      Re: Chronicle… Thanks. Good to have a proofreader around here. And a healthy degree of pedantry is always welcome! :smile:

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Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Unidentified collocations exiting your mouth. Danger, danger! You have 20 seconds to comply…

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Here’s an interesting development in the “I didn’t think it could get more absurd” world of TEFL:

Robots to Replace English Teachers in Korean Kindergartens

Korea is planning to introduce small robots named Engkey into all its kindergartens by 2013.

One of the developers of the Engkey robots spouted off this piece of carefully-penned PR magic perfect for sound-bites and blockquote callouts (which, uh, seems to have worked with my taking the bait beautifully! :wink: )…

“We do not intend to substitute real teachers with robots,” he said. “Rather it is important for us to develop robot systems that provide satisfiable assistance to teachers.”

And, y’know what? He’s absolutely right. They’re not planning to get rid of real teachers. Just the Assistant Language Teachers!

So, basically, here’s what it really means:

Robots like EngKey can also serve as valuable portals for telepresence. In that capacity it allows Korea to hire English speakers around the world to teach in their classrooms at a fraction of the price of traditional instructors who are shipped into the country.

This quote from Singularity Hub

Replacing human tape recorders with non-human human tape recorders.

What a winner. Much more humane for everyone involved, frankly.

I’ve said many times that EPIK and JET are an absolutely stupendous waste of money for their respective taxpayers whilever those in charge maintain the farce that they’re English language programs.

If people (who? The Ministry of Education folks, I guess???) admitted that JET and EPIK are much, much better treated as cultural exchange programs, where the foreigners are encouraged to learn Korean or Japanese as much as the local students are encouraged to learn English thereby better facilitating actual communication between the two parties and where there is a more genuine motivation to learn about each others’ culture — rather than trying to stuff language down their throats and tacking on a bit of intercultural malarkey… then the money wouldn’t be wasted on human tape recorders.

Here’s a good point from a professor of robotics:

“It may be better to have a telepresence robot from a highly skilled teacher than to have just an average teacher in the classroom”

See, them eggheads be smart’n’stuff. Why has it taken 20 years for the education dunces to see that?

And for really killer insight from the very same brainiac robotics prof, read the last two paragraphs of the CNN article. Insightful commentary about our craft.

Thoughts? Leave a comment below…


P.S. For the sci-fi nerds… apologies for mixing two robot references together in the headline of this blog post! :razz:

Credit: I am indebted to Jerry Harmer for bringing this story to my attention via Twitter.

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3 Responses to “Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Unidentified collocations exiting your mouth. Danger, danger! You have 20 seconds to comply…”

  1. Paul H Litvac Paul H Litvac says:

    CD/DVD players,language labs and alike;why not robots?

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  2. John John says:

    In the 1970s and 80s there were many experts predicting that TV was going to be able to replace teachers (I guess you can argue that for some kids it did).

    I think robots would probably be more interactive then computers - but having someone to interact with in the flesh will be more effective for a long time to come.

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  3. jon jon says:

    What a bunch of shite. Anyone who has taught korean kids knows that classroom management and discipline is a big factor because so many korean kids are sopiled mama boys. Kids will likely continue speaking korean while punching the robot and trying to dong chim it.

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