Why online school reviews matter to ESL Teachers

| 3 min read

So maybe you’re an ESL teacher looking for your first job. You’ve finished your certification and trainings and now, you’re ready to apply. Or maybe you’re a teacher looking for opportunities in other schools. You look at several job postings online. You realize it’s harder than you thought because the majority of the job ads are not posted directly by the school. A lot course their recruitment through agencies or individual headhunters who work for a commission. You sort out the spammy-looking posts and got your top ads. Then, what’s next? Research the school and try to find as much information before you accept any offer. Soon enough, you’ll be reading online reviews.

The thing about reviews is that despite the anonymity of online reviewers or even simply us not knowing these people in any way, we still read them. Why? Because it’s the closest information we can get to have an idea of what kind of environment you are going to deal with for the next few months.

How relevant are online school reviews nowadays?

With the increase in demand to learn ESL in different countries (China topping the list), an active community of ESL teachers has grown online over the years. News of scamming and unfair treatments of teachers in foreign countries has been known and these reviews, in a way, is the community’s action to watch out for their fellow teachers.

Reviews online exist to share an assessment of schools that aims to reach a wider audience. ESL school reviews provide information that is much more than just evaluating the school or sharing of a teacher’s experience. With the overwhelming data the internet has, we would probably be disappointed to research a certain school and not find anything. But yes, until now, not all schools employing ESL teachers have their own websites or are even listed online. Especially with China topping the demand, we know that this country does not have the same internet universe that the rest of the world is enjoying. Also, English language schools running on physical locations still comprise a big percentage of ESL schools although online platforms are increasing in number year by year as well.

Sites with school reviews are an invaluable source of information. If we look at people’s account of their experiences, there are various things we can get from them. The usual would be about management and salary issues. Some give us other details like the school’s previous name (maybe they changed their branding), or the school’s actual address (maybe their address is not pinned on the map online), its location’s surrounding area, the treatment of teachers/students, and even something about the school’s curriculum. All this data provides a glimpse of the school’s culture and teaching environment. As jobseekers, it’s only normal for teachers to research schools that they are looking to teach at especially if you’re flying in from another country for the job.

Are online reviews reliable?

As with everything, we should take things with a grain of salt. The internet is full of information and the fake ones are just camouflaging among authentic sentiments. We should be discerning of what we read because anybody can say anything. While this is not to discredit online reviews, we should also remember that a gruntled employee will most likely be leaving reviews more than a satisfied employee. After all, we expect things to be normal and in a normal setup, there is no “policy” requiring teachers to leave reviews anywhere. A review is most likely to be given by someone who experiences something out of the ordinary, whether it be the worst or the most satisfactory experience. However, if a school garnered a lot of either positive or negative reviews, then this may be a first sign you’d like to consider about the kind of school that they are.

Basically, we cannot really be sure of the credibility of the reviewers for most websites. But with some human intervention, a website’s process to moderate content (not change the details of the reviews) should help lessen fake reviews on their site.

What makes a good online review?

For ESL schools, a good online review makes the readers have a feel of the reviewer’s overall experience. It has details that makes the reader understand why you are feeling a certain way. It points out things that support your general stand. It is neither racist nor suggest any hint of it. It also notes areas where the school is good at and what can be improved on. Consider that reviews are not only meant for other ESL teachers but for the school’s management as well. The more aware they are of the issues involving them, the more we hope they take positive action for the betterment of ESL industry.

Where can you find online reviews?

By all means, refrain from looking at the reviews on the school’s own website for obvious reasons -- marketing. Here are several places online where you can scout for reviews.

  1. School listing sites

    Listing sites are more organized when it comes to school information and reviews. For example, here at ESL List, schools can be easily searched in the site and reviews for the same school are consolidated under 1 listing. We also do regular check-ups for duplicate listings. Each review has specific categories that you rate with stars as well as an area to express your experience in detail. The site is maintained so users can expect improved functionalities and added features later.

  2. Forum sites

    Quora and Reddit are the most popular forum sites. Lots of teachers are members of these sites. The downside of having your reviews in forums is that it can be buried in the deeper pages and hard to search for. One school could also come in different names (spellings, spaces) and part of different threads.

  3. Facebook groups

    Facebook has a big community of people from all over the world. For some extent, it’s easier to check reviews here based on the poster’s profile and activities. But like forum sites, earlier posts tend to get buried in the group making it hard to search for them.

  4. Job listing sites

    For bigger and more popular ESL companies, you can check job listing sites like Glassdoor.

  5. Blogs

    Some teachers also maintain blogs and usually write their experiences there. Others create blogs dedicated to reviewing ESL companies although usually they are focused on online platforms where they would try to apply and assess the application process and benefits once you get in.

In conclusion, one review should not be the sole basis of your decision. Read a few more and read some written in the past if there is. Were the reviews sharing similar sentiments? Was there a change in the feel of reviews from before? See if you can cross-reference the school with other sites. Let these reviews serve as a reference to keep in mind but not to dictate what you decide without considering other factors.

Do you have any school reviews to share? We’d like to hear them here.