The English Teacher Training College and its associated Bilingual Classroom Initiative (ABCi) is a not-for-profit Austrian College with a dual mission: Firstly, as a college, to provide a practical education in teacher training for student teachers from the English-speaking world based solely on the candidate's academic merit. Secondly, as a charity outreach, to promote language learning, cultural exchange and foster understanding between English-speaking countries and Austria by bringing hundreds of teachers from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, America, Canada, Northern Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia into Austrian classrooms to reach every child with a free English project by the year 2020.
Founded by Frank Carle, Ben Stone and Jakob Gfrerer in 2011, the College has partnered together with Austrian students, teachers and directors to promote English culture, language and sport in state schools, while providing subsidized teacher training courses for aspiring teachers. The college’s ABCi initiative will reach all the children in Austria with a free English project by the year 2020 while providing high quality education for teachers regardless of the candidate’s ability to pay for it.
Over the past half a decade, our college’s initiative has worked with 198,805 Austrian children and is in process of working with another half a million in the next five years while providing a scholarship to study teaching english as a foreign language to over 750 students from across the English-speaking world in cutting edge teaching methodologies like task-based learning (TBL) and communicative language teaching (CLT).
What makes us special?
Co-founder and College President Frank Carle was recently asked the simple question: "What makes us special?"
As young TEFL teachers in Europe, Frank Carle and Ben Stone experienced first-hand the flaws of the EFL sector. State institutions often used teaching methods that focused on grammar, writing and reading, while neglecting communication, speaking and listening. Moreover, the private sector was exploitative of young EFL teachers. There was a distinct lack of structure or support available and the EFL teachers were often treated like "cannon fodder". The need for reform and opportunity for innovation was clear.
Frank Carle recalls how they came to see a real urgency in removing the profit motive from the education of young people:
“What we found in the private sector was depressing: hours were scattered and subject to change. Pay was hourly, not including prep-time, or was simply cash in an unmarked envelope – and it could be withheld if you displeased the boss. Health and social benefits were not provided, legally questionable freelance contracts were signed, promised visas and work permits never materialized. Support, training and continued professional development were non-existent. In short: businesspeople were running schools where they charged children and their parents as much as possible while paying their staff of native speakers as little as possible, often with mixed results for the young learner. Indeed, they actually discouraged young people from developing as a teacher, because they know that as soon as you did, you'd leave and get a better job. That’s when we knew that we needed to found a college to stop young people (both pupils and student teachers) from being exploited for financial gain.
Our aim is to arm young teachers with the certifications, training, practice and knowledge to put themselves in a better bargaining position for their first TEFL job. We provide a supportive environment and guided introduction that unfortunately was previously missing in this sector. We work with Alumni and employers to only recommend reputable employers to our graduates in order to save them the trouble of learning the hard way like my generation did. We want to give teachers the opportunity to help children really learn.”
Ben Stone, Co-founder and Academic Director, was recently pulled out of a classroom and asked for his take on what makes the College's course offerings such a unique experience. A great team of hardworking staff at the college work hard to ensure that all of our student teachers have a rewarding experience here in Austria: the combination of a TEFL teacher training course, teaching placement in state schools and travel throughout the Alpine region that the college offers as part of our teaching placements is truly unique – Ben Stone is convinced you’ll find that there is nothing else quite like it in Europe.
1. What do you believe are the greatest challenges and opportunities for educational systems today, and what is the College’s role in a greater context?
"The TEFL sector has been dogged by profit-making companies and politicians with short-term goals based on money and personal ambition. Education in schools should be purely about what is best for the learner. I see the College’s role as bringing different organisations together so that we can help improve the quality of education by assisting both learners and teachers."
2. What kind of support do you provide for College students today that you wish you had had?
"The opportunity to teach and reflect on their teaching through a variety of observations. Through observing more experienced teachers, observing peers, being observed by more experienced teachers and observing themselves through video, observation becomes very commonplace and isn’t this big scary event that it usually is on training courses."
3. What is the best feedback you have had so far about the College?
"This is a pre-service teaching certificate on steroids! Student teachers finish their time at the College better prepared for the realities of teaching than any other course I have seen."
4. What are the main qualities you want in an applicant (new member of staff or aspiring teacher)?
"Commitment and flexibility. Teaching is a hands-on profession involving people, not equipment. Things change, learners change, circumstances change. I want people who understand this and can quickly react to situations to make the best out of them."
5. How would you like each student to describe their time at the College after they graduated?
"Life-changing. It is a chance for young people to see the world and have a positive impact on the lives of children through education."