Questions to ask at the IATEFL 2017 Conference


Here are a few questions which those going to Glasgow might like to ask IATEFL bosses and a few sponsors.


To the Coordinators of existing SIGs and the other Trustees:

  1. Why did you turn down the application by Nicola Prentis and Paul Walsh to set up a Teachers As Workers SIG?
  2. How do you reconcile supporting NNESTs in their fight for equality with your refusal to allow members to form the Teachers As Workers SIG?
  3. Under what circumstances will you reconsider their request?


To those at the New Oriental (Platinum Sponsor) stand:

  1.  Is it true that the biggest single income stream for your company is from exam cramming courses?
  2. Did employees of your company steal SAT exams and help students to cheat in exams, as Reuters reported?
  3. Did employees of your company help to write fraudulent college application essays and teacher recommendations, and falsify a high school transcript, as Reuters reported?
  4. What comments do you have on criticisms made about the Beijing New Oriental Foreign Language School on the TEFL Blacklist website?


To those at the telc – language tests (Platinum Sponsor) stand

  1. Can you define reification?
  2. What is the relationship between the can do statements in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and communicative competence?
  3. At what level can a learner “follow complex lines of argument on a topic which is reasonably familiar”? What counts as (a) following; (b) a complex line of argument; (c) a topic which is reasonably familiar?


To those at the British Council (Gold Sponsor) stand:

  1. The British Council is a charity tasked with representing UK education services, and yet it also competes with them by offering English language teaching, exam provision and teacher training itself. It has often been accused of keeping valuable commercial information to itself; its staff are exhorted to act ever more commercially; it holds a one-third share in the International English Language Testing System; it competes with an unfair advantage to train teachers for overseas governments. Don’t such activities conflict with the council’s role in supporting other providers?
  2. Are you aware of how much other language schools abroad resent the priveledged position that British Council centres enjoy? For example, is it fair that the British Council’s not-for-profit status means it is exempt from corporation tax in many countries, unlike its competitors?
  3. Your Education UK website offers advice to international students looking to study in the UK. While your own services are paraded all over the web site, other schools and colleges have to pay to be on the lists you provide, the ones with the biggest marketing budget getting the best positioning. Is this fair?
  4. Why is there no pension plan for ordinary teachers, only for the upper echelons of British Council staff?


To those at the Pearson (Silver Sponsor) stand

  1.  What theory or explanation of language learning informs the Global Scale of English (GSE)?
  2. The nearly 2,000 can do statements that form the backbone of the GSE are based entirely on the intuitions of teachers: no empirical data have been gathered from learners’ experiences. How do you justify this?
  3. How do you respond to the criticism that the GSE is an example of what Glenn Fulcher calls “Frankenstein scales”, which don’t relate to any specific communicative context, or give a good description of any particular communicative language ability?

8 thoughts on “Questions to ask at the IATEFL 2017 Conference

  1. Why is IATEFL participating in the CELTA to PAUPER pipeline – the crappy jobs economy of the ELT Ponzi scheme? And they can’t throw a few pennies – of members’ money – to a few hard-working teachers who want to improve things for ALL teachers?

    According to information about this years’ IATEFL Jobs Fair, employers pay £1600+VAT for Package A, which includes a “3m X 2m space with 1.8m table and 4 chairs”, with conference badges, CV collection, and “Use of the dedicated interview booths to interview candidates; assistance with scheduling.”

    You couldn’t make this stuff up: “The IATEFL Jobs Fair staff will work closely with each recruiter to schedule a convenient time to interview candidates.”

    This conference is about profit, not people.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I quite agree, Paul. It would be interesting to see who pays what and who is paid what for participating in this conference, supposedly devoted to enhancing teachers’ professional lives. They’ve even taken the trouble to produce a “Conference justification document” in 24 languages to help persuade teachers’ managers to cough up the money needed to attend.


  2. I have only recently heard of the GSE (is it a new thing?). I’m just curious how you know this statement is correct: “The nearly 2,000 can do statements that form the backbone of the GSE are based entirely on the intuitions of teachers: no empirical data have been gathered from learners’ experiences. How do you justify this?” Where are they claiming the levels come from?


      1. They go to some pains to explain how they collected, and then used the data they collected from teachers. What they don’t do is justify basing all their can do statements on the intuitions of teachers.


  3. Well Geoff, there’s a lot of people on social media who aren’t happy with this post. That’s how I came across it. I think it’s one of your best and most accessible posts: some great, clear-cut questions here to ask the people at the conference. You’ve researched this well – there’s things going on in ELT which I didn’t know about. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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