My Cool Class: A game-changer in ESL teaching?
December 21st, 2021 / Teaching
It’s been a tough year for ESL tutors. Coronavirus has closed academies around the world, robbing ESL teachers of opportunities overseas opportunities. Meanwhile in China, the new ban on companies that profit from teaching school curriculum subjects, has decimated its enormous online young-learner ESL market overnight.
The second factor has arguably had the biggest impact for ESL tutors. At its height VIPKID (it claimed) had 100,000 teachers on its books. The likes of GoGo Kid, DaDa English, Landi English and Whales employed thousands more. The total loss of jobs is unknown, but a conservative estimate would put that at 150,000 people. In any other industry this loss of employment would make headlines, but online tutors are independent contractors. The end of one sole trader’s enterprise isn’t news even if it is felt 150,000 times over.
Exploitation rife on ESL platforms
To add salt to the wound, the Chinese start-ups were some of the best-paying in the industry; as much as $25 an hour. Those now looking around for another company will find that pay is invariably dismal. And there is no safety to be found in working for a larger company either. In fact, they seem to be the most exploitative with hourly rates at Berlitz at 7 euros, at Lingoda $8-13 and at Education First $12 for a tutor based in Atlanta.
Education First, incidentally, is wholly owned by Bertil Hult whose net worth was estimated by Forbes in 2015 to be around 4.5 billion. The media lauds people like Hult for their business prowess, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that if you pay minimum wage rates to people offering a high-value service (which requires a college education) you’re going to make money. And a lot of it.
ESL teaching both on and off-line is a wonderful job: fun, rewarding and infused with travel and the immersion of different cultures. However, tutors (particularly online) are at continual risk of exploitation from unscrupulous companies, not just in the form of low wages, but in ruthless cancelation policies or just blatant fraud.
My Cool Class: The new teacher revolution?
So, what can tutors do about this? Well out of the ashes of 2021 something truly revolutionary may have arisen: the platform My Cool Class. My Cool Class is not a for-profit company, instead it is a teacher cooperative, owned by teachers for teachers. You can teach most subjects there, not just ESL. If you are accepted, you enter into a membership program where your money goes to buy shares in the company. There are different levels of membership and you have a greater say in how the company is run depending on how many shares you buy. Teachers also get to chat to each other and vote on any proposed changes. You set your rates with 19% taken by the platform to contribute to its marketing and admin.
They started in July 2021 and have already onboarded one thousand teachers. Only time will tell if it takes off. I hope it does, for if teachers prove that they can go it alone without the need of an exploitive middleman, it will hopefully affect change throughout the industry.
Good luck My Cool Class, the ESL world is watching. I’m going to be enrolling in some classes myself in 2022 because for this idea to take off it is going to need our community’s support, not just as tutors but as students too.
Viva la revolution! #teacherrevolt #solidarity