Go anywhere by Metro in Prague these days and you will no doubt see countless numbers of posters on every escalator advertising giant language schools around the city. They're hard not to miss, what with their grinning models, funky fonts and eye-catching slogans purporting to offer professional services and top-quality teachers.
So how did these behemoths of the industry get to the position they're in today? And how good a service can you actually expect from these schools? The incredible profits they rake in are mostly thanks to the way they treat their staff, and the type of teacher they choose to employ.
Many of these schools employ upwards of 200 teachers, most of whom are employed on part-time contracts and paid barely a fraction of what the school makes. In the world of English language teaching, Prague is arguably one of the most difficult places to work, as English teachers typically have to work for several schools, pay a third of their salary in tax and travel all around the city just to make a barely-liveable sum.
Naturally, most English teachers with good qualifications and experience tend to look for work elsewhere, either in the easy-going coastal cities of the Iberian peninsula or further afield in East Asia, where the demand for English is growing at a phenomenal rate, and where the salaries allow teachers to live a more comfortable lifestyle.
It is therefore the case that a great number of teachers in Prague are either completely unqualified or at best, simply inexperienced, living and working here for meagre pay until they can get enough experience under their belt to find work in a more welcoming climate. By contrast, one only has to go next door to Germany and see the high standards that schools in the big cities require there, which typically include a CELTA or equivalent teaching certificate and at least two years of experience.
The quality of English teachers in Prague is therefore one of the lowest in Europe, in part because of the ever-growing demand, meaning any native English speaker can walk through the door of a language school and leave with a job. While this may be good for British and Irish people looking to spend some time soaking up the wonderful culture (and beer) of Prague, it is not so good for companies and individuals looking for a competent English teacher to help them improve. Some schools do not seem to realise that a British passport does not make one an English teacher.