English Language Schools are in the midst of a crisis. They presently find it difficult, if not impossible, to source qualified teachers.
The situation can be put down to two factors. Many qualified English language teachers left the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unstable and unreliable working conditions found in many schools precipitated a mass exodus.
The ‘Times Of Malta’ recently reported that students with an A-Level in English were being offered free TEFL courses as ESL schools struggled to find qualified tutors. The reason for the shortage among the younger workforce was clear: “Some moved to mainstream schools or office jobs, where they were guaranteed regular hours, while others sought higher earning roles in the gaming industry”.
This statement from a Language School Director of Studies echoes our own concerns and paints the stark reality of a sector in upheaval.
The UPE is the only union that has representation in English language schools. The Union has highlighted in the past that precarious working conditions as well as zero contracts would lead eventually to the collapse of this sector. Malta is on the cusp of losing one of its major tourist revenues. And the finger has to pointed at the language school providers who have shown and still show unacceptable greed.
We can only hope that common sense and long-term vision will prevail. After two difficult years and a steady recovery this summer, the industry leaders should make a self-conscious decision to review their strategy when it comes to the workforce and working conditions. An increase in salaries and improved working contracts to retain qualified teachers are priorities in sustaining the sector. After all, thanks to the teaching staff, Malta’s tourism industry has benefitted substantially over the years. It is time that this is financially recognised.