An Interview with Jane Ryder - Head of Teacher Training, France
No one knows English language teaching and the French education sector like Jane Ryder. Head of teacher training and owner of teacher training centres in Lyon, Brittany and Strasbourg, Jane talks to us about the changing face of ELT in France, careers, and the five-week CELTA.
Changes in ELT in France
I've been involved in the education sector in France for a long time. Teacher development and improving the status of English Language teachers through training and qualifications is a passion of mine, and even since our school in Strasbourg opened in 2010, there have been big changes.
It's much harder these days in France, for example, to teach English without proper qualifications, as it should be, and many language schools and institutions will no longer accept teachers without a CELTA or equivalent.
The types of people who are training to be teachers is also much more varied these days. A growing professionalism is attracting often older career-changing applicants. It can be a rewarding and varied career. There are opportunities to travel and become familiar with different cultures, or to specialise: many who have already worked in business often choose Business English for example.
Indeed that's one of the reasons many people choose to train with us in Strasbourg: the economy in the area is doing well and a number of companies do business in English.
So, are job prospects in France good for CELTA-trained teachers at the moment?
There are many language schools operating in the Strasbourg area and they service the industrial sector which is large here in the Alsace. The CCI is also an employer of new language teachers fresh out of CELTA. We are also very close to the important cities of Karlsruhe, Freibourg and Stuttgart in Germany. We have forged many links with our German colleagues through joint initiatives on training and teachers associations. Many of us work for both French and German employers and the cultural contrast is very enriching.
The west of France, Normandy and Brittany, are good areas to look for work as well as there's a distinct lack of qualified teachers in these rural areas. In Lyon there are a variety of employers in the higher education sector who need English teachers, and they are always particularly interested in those who have a previous professional background in commerce or industry.
Your new training centre in Brittany is offering a five-week CELTA - why? And have you seen an improvement in pass rates with the extra week?
Often, a five-week CELTA is worth considering.
There are trainees who have a developed ability to adapt their behaviour in a classroom following feedback, who can follow new academic ideas easily, who have prior teaching experience in English, and who can work very long hours and still perform well. All these candidates can do the intensive four week course easily, and even gain a very good grade.
I would say that the majority of candidates however do not fall into that category. Unsure about their knowledge of grammar, unsure about the accuracy of their English, unsure whether they've really understood all the new concepts being presented to them in this new academic discipline of applied linguistics, this is a very normal CELTA candidate. Added to this, many people underestimate the extra stress that comes with being assessed when teaching, when you're tired, when you're anxious.
We sat down and worked out that on a four-week CELTA course a candidate has three weekends to do all the extra work required : writing their assignments and preparing their lessons ; that's six days. We then worked out that by adding an extra week to a course, and limiting it to four working days a week instead of five, a candidate has 12 days in total to do their extra work. That's twice as much.
And yes, there has been a 100% pass rate on our slow-CELTA in Brest in Brittany. Feedback from graduates has been extremely positive.
Why did you choose Brittany and Lyon as your new training locations?
In Brittany, we looked for a partner who had the vision and the capacity to run five-week courses and found them in Brest, at the CCI. Added to this the incredible beauty and quality of the language centre they run down on the water's front we think this is a guaranteed recipe for success. Actually, the course is attracting applicants interested in Celtic culture. We hope to promote a liaison between different Celtic languages - Breton, Welsh, and Scottish and Irish Gaelic - and are working with the Breton language school nearby to do this.
Lyon is France's third largest city. It's central and you can be in Spain, Switzerland or Italy by road in only a few hours. Prices, including accommodation, are cheaper than in Paris. The same applies to Strasbourg. They are both vibrant cities, with lots of culture and history.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
At the teacher training centres in Brittany, Lyon and Strasbourg we're growing. We've taken on new CELTA and Delta trainers to meet the growing demand for professionalisation in English Language Training in France. The sector is shaping up and language schools are being forced to look for better qualified teachers. We believe that in the end this is in the interest of our profession.