El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Archive for the ‘las escuelas patitos’ Category

Wall Street Instituto Obituary…R.I.P.

with 2 comments

Mixed news from Wall Street this week–not the financial  center in NYC, but the patito franchise in Mexico: Wall Street Institute. This place has always offered one of the most lame educational programs in town. They have always had nice locations but looks can be deceiving, apparently. Word on the “street” is that they went out-of-business–dropping faster than the Dow Jones in October. That is the good news–the bad news is that, reportedly, they hadn’t paid the poor saps that worked there for over a month and a half.  Now the teachers are out of work and undoubtedly out of luck as far as ever seeing any back pay. Any students unlucky enough to be paid in full will, at best, not be cheated by WSI any more. (Although, much like the real Wall Street, I suspect the owners managed to skip out with a suitcase full of cash. The proverbial rats deserting a sinking ship.)

I admit I feel sorry for the people that got ripped off (both students and staff) but really from what I could tell they didn’t have very many actual live teachers there. Toward the end their big plan was to just have rows of computers in fancy little cubicles. Whenever an unfortunate victim, I mean student, would come in, someone at the front desk (probably being paid even less than a teacher, and as it turns out, probably not being paid at all) would just hand them a CD and direct them to a computer. In educational jargon it is referred to as the “Don’t bug us, just go over there and try to teach yourself English” method. Very classy and 99.9% guaranteed to be useless.

On the other hand I have no sympathy for the company or the franchise owners. In my opinion, it couldn’t of have happened to a more deserving bunch of jerks. Really it was that inevitable, perfect storm of stupidity and greed, or as we English majors like to say: ignorance and avarice. The place was all “show and no go”–I’m not sure that phrase fits here, it’s an old “hot-rodders” expression….Anyway, I’ll end with an expression that I believe comes from those wacky Brits; “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” This is one case where I hope “Wall Street” doesn’t make a recovery!

Written by El Fomentador

April 12, 2009 at 6:28 am

Ingles Muy Rapido, Sin el Esfuerzo: Welcome to “Quit Learning”, Patito of the Month

with 2 comments

You know, el Fomentador was prepared to take a year off from complaining about English education in Mexico. By now it should be clear that I don’t like seeing desperate people being ripped off by corrupt businesses and institutions–but enough about Wall Street and the US Congress! (That is supposed to be kind of a joke, ja,ja.) But seriously, I was walking home from a friend’s house and came across a brochure from the new kid in town, which I like to call: the “Quit Learning” school of English. This joke is just the latest patito to crawl out of the duck pond.

I found the brochure (really it was like a twelve page magazine, I’ve seen thinner copies of Time Magazine, Latin American edition),  printed in full color on glossy paper, right where I should have expected–trampled underfoot by the edge of a vacant lot. Oh, I have a lot to say about this outfit, but I was ready to start taking it easy, ready to write about things that don’t get me angry. I was ready to give the patito business a pass until the country can get control of internal security. But there it was, half covered in dirt, a few holes poked in the cover by countless footsteps crushing it against the small rocks in the litter-filled lot. It’s like it was waiting for me to walk by, as if it was calling out to me: “Hey, there is a new school here with one of the dumbest concepts ever.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

January 21, 2009 at 5:54 am

“Star trek” Languages Inc.

leave a comment »

You know, after visiting hundreds of really bad schools of English in half a dozen cities in Mexico, I thought I had seen it all. What a fool I was. Tonight as I was walking past our local branch of the https://i2.wp.com/blogs.amctv.com/scifi-scanner/2star_trek_csg_031.jpgUniversity of Bugtussle (well, it actually has absolutely no connection with any university in Bugtussle, they just use the name “Bugtussle” because, well, I guess they use it because it sounds better than calling it the “University of Screw You”. This outfit has several buildings downtown and they are making money hand over fist by, frankly, cheating every poor SOB that walks through the door expecting a useful education. The main thing that students learn at this place is that there is no end to the number of ways that scam artists will try to steal your money.                 https://i2.wp.com/www.freeimageslive.com/galleries/buildings/london/pics/bigben01958.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

November 13, 2008 at 6:54 am

Secretary of Education, Teachers Union and Normalistas Leave Students Out of the Equation

leave a comment »

The ongoing battle between the Mexican Secretary of Public Education, the national teachers union and the Normal School teachers is nothing new. The built-in deficits in the public education system have been evident for generations. The new initiative “Alliance for Quality in Education” is just the latest in a line of half-hearted, politically-motivated reform proposals to come down the pike.

Of course the idea of “reform” usually rings hollow when it is tossed around by politicos anywhere in the world. Protectors of the status quo aren’t interested in change that threatens to rock the boat. (For an example, just compare John McCains campaign speeches with his voting record for the last thirty years).

As I have said before, I like teachers. They are good people usually working under poor conditions. Those working in the worst conditions, rural districts and poor, urban neighborhoods, are often the first to be forgotten by petty bureaucrats.
Read the rest of this entry »

The “Harming-them All” School of English

leave a comment »

Another name-brand franchise patito. True-to-form, this one’s tucked into a junky-looking building on a side street across from a shopping center parking lot. Its cheap, back-lit sign is the only light on the block. The narrow one-way street in front serves mainly as a short-cut for harried commuters trying to skirt the afternoon traffic that piles up across el centro. https://i2.wp.com/katiejeffreys.com/ducky/ducky30.jpg

Yes, more than just another crummy, store-front patito, “Harming-them All” really lives up to its pseudonym. Of course the foundation of any patito is built on reams of useless, outrageously over-priced material. This place doesn’t even bother to have their crap printed anymore–it’s all just photo-copied (of course it is still over-priced).

“Harming-them All” is a real triple-threat: They throw poorly-prepared (and even more poorly-paid) “teachers” into classes of up to 30 students and then make certain that any student that can pay is passed up to the next level–whether or not they actually learned anything. The idea is that they don’t want the students to learn too much so they can keep them hanging on and hook them into the full course.

It works something like this: 18 levels–18 months. The students have to buy new material at different levels throughout the course. You can be bi-lingual in one and a half years. And if you’re not they will just “tweak” your test scores and present you with a certificate of completion that is pretty much worthless anyway. “Thank-you very much for giving us your hard-earned cash, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

September 3, 2008 at 8:31 pm

The “BUM”ingham School of English

leave a comment »

This outfit has all of the markings of the classic franchise patito. Stuck into an, otherwise empty, ugly concrete and plate glass, two-story office building off a busy, cluttered street on the edge of one of the growing manufacturing cities along the industrial corridor of the Mexican Bajio it is the epitome of the penchant of the patitos for merging incompetent English instruction with shamelessly predatory business practices.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Rubber_duckies_So_many_ducks.jpg

So, of course, I went there to talk to them about working. I should add that this was nearly two years ago when I was still, as a German friend here says, an “innocent American.” At the time all I really wanted was access to an office and a classroom. I wanted to teach advanced courses in writing and speaking in English. “BUM”ingham already has it’s own “system”. The material (supplied by the franchise seller) is incredibly poor, even by the low standards of the “edu-business”. Of course, all new, bad material is required at each new “level” and is outrageously over-priced.

The “principal” offered me a job that morning, at $30 pesos an hour, (less than three dollars). I guess I couldn’t help but chuckle, and he said, right away, ok, $50 pesos per hour (less than five dollars). I started to say, well, that’s not really what I want to do…and he interrupted me to say, “It’s not much money, but you don’t have to do anything. I asked what he meant and he said the students just write in their workbooks (mostly those inane fill-in-the-blank exercises; I’ll be honest, I have trouble knowing what answer they want sometimes!) and the teacher is only there to answer questions (I’m assuming they would answer the questions in Spanish because, true-to-form, no one there spoke English, not the receptionist, not the owner, the principal (just barely), and certainly not the students.
Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Signs of a Patito

with one comment

Oh, I know, it may be considered kind of a cheap hook; the whole “top-ten” list thing. But a friend suggested it and I thought it might provide a little relief, while providing some clues on what to look for in las escuelas patitos de ingles in Mexico. I admit I have a list of ten, but I am going to add them over a few days. I am hoping that people will add their own ideas and we can see what people are finding out there.

The Top-Ten Signs That You May Be Attending A Patito In Mexico

Number 10. Although the school is in Mexico, it is named after a dead U.S. President. (Or a statesman, or scientist, or the Queen of England, for God’s sake!)

Number 9. They offer “certificates” in 14 different languages, including Swahili, but only have three teachers. And they only speak Spanish.

Number 8. Employee dress code includes clause requiring teachers to use deodorant, comb their hair and change their underwear everyday. (And the code needs to stipulate that doesn’t mean to just exchange your underwear with someone else.)

As promised here are the next three signs your school may be a patito. You know, I could use some help here; as you may have noticed I am not really a comedy writer. The sad thing is all of these have some truth to them. The dress code thing, for example, I wrote to the company asking if it wasn’t a little embarrassing, no response, go figure!

Number 7. No one at the school actually speaks English, including the owner.

Number 6. “Textbooks” are all photo copies of stolen material.

Number 5. Patito franchise owner defends $30 pesos per hour (with no guarantee of number of hours) as a “competitive” salary and brags about the “benefits package” that includes a 10% discount at some fly-by-night optical company. (Oh, he wishes everyone “Bueno Suerte” as he drives of in his new Mercedes.) Here is a guy that really cares about the future of education in Mexico, (as long as he can make a buck off of it.) Ok, I’m being sarcastic, does that count as humor?

Stay tuned, and add some of your own sarcastic remarks. Luego
Read the rest of this entry »

Las Escuelas Normales en Mexico, Official Patitos?

leave a comment »


One-hundred years ago the state university in my home-town was called a State Normal School. It’s purpose was to train teachers that would supply schools in small towns across the region with well-trained teachers. It worked. Today the school is a part of the University system but it still provides teachers for thousands of public schools in hundreds of communities, large and small, across the country. Those teachers and their professors are justifiably proud of the contribution they have made to the education of tens of thousands of students. Students that have gone on to become teachers, administrators, researchers, community and business leaders.

Eighty years ago a series of Normal schools was established in Mexico. Their purpose was the same: to provide teachers for the schools that were slowly being established in rural areas. In my opinion, it hasn’t worked. For example, in the southern State of Guerrero, there is a shortage of more than one-thousand teachers in the rural schools. The truth is no one wants to teach in rural areas. There is very little infrastructure, limited resources and a general underlying sense that an adequate education is of no use to people living in the countryside. (The old: “Education is necessary, but the masses aren’t ready for it.”) The answer to the teacher shortage has been to provide instruction via video. That might work as a stop gap measure but it cannot and does not replace classroom teachers.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

March 26, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Las Escuelas Patitos

with 2 comments

https://i0.wp.com/www.saynotocrack.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/duck.gif In Spanish, “patitos” means “little ducks”, in the vernacular in Latin America it means “phony”. So, for example, there is the reference to a “Patito Republic”, a nation under the rule of the military or a dictator that attempts to be seen as a modern Republic. A friend explained it to me once as being similar to the “Acme” brand name in the old Road Runner cartoons. Every time the coyote would open a crate with a rocket sled or jet-powered roller skates it would be marked as coming from Acme Corporation. Although there are companies called Acme, and in fact, there is a brand of household bleach called “los Patitos” my friend explained that it is not a brand name that inspires confidence. It is a joke in Mexico.

Las escuelas patitos translates as “the schools of the little ducks” but it refers to the “phony” low-quality private schools that have appeared all around the big urban centers of Mexico. They have them in the States, too. There, they are designed to steal people’s student loan money, leaving them with a big debt and a generally, as well as, a genuinely, worthless education. Here, they just steal the money right out of your (or your parent’s) pockets. It is all part of what has become known as the “Edu-business”.

It is my opinion that these “phony” schools are a cruel joke, not only on their students but on the state of education in Mexico. These schemes come in different subjects, for example, computer schools are all over the place now. Beauty schools, tourism, cooking and auto repair training are also examples. But the ones I am most familiar with are “las escuelas patitos” of English. I’ll be honest, it is embarrassing to see these “schools” proliferating while the country’s educational establishment simply watches from the sidelines. I call them the burger king schools, because if you have enough money you can either buy a restaurant franchise or an English school franchise. (And you don’t even need to speak English yourself!)

My experience has been that every Mexican in the big industrial cities knows about las escuelas patitos, but no one ever talks about them! It took me six months to figure out what was going on. I don’t doubt that some of the founders of these schools began with the purest of intentions–to provide quality instruction to students of English that simply can’t get what they need from a public university system mired in a bureaucracy that is, frankly, designed to not work. As the multi-national manufacturers became established in Mexico, language schools became a fast buck bonanza for the unscrupulous. Competition increased with schools popping up on every other block. Increasingly low-quality programs drove down the level of instruction and the expectations of both teachers and students. Businesses shopped around for the lowest price. Schools became businesses. Education became a victim. In the mean time the patitos continue to cheat their students, abuse their teachers and suck resources away from legitimate educational opportunity.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

February 18, 2008 at 10:45 pm