Consumer Alerts and Advice

 The best advice may be free, it may come from the people doing the job that you want to do. Maybe you can find someone that is proud of what they do and takes an interest in recommending the training and skills to do that job. Work with someone you respect, someone you can trust, someone that has your best interests as the goal. Sometimes it takes several individuals, each with a specialty to help you achieve your initial training requirements, start your profession and facilitate on the job skills and training.

Consumer Alert and Advice - how to avoid problems, stay away from bad schools, bad situations and keep control of your money and studies. Think before you sign that contract to study ESL.

The year 2022 will be the in-person re-start for many schools in Canada. Many schools have been closed and are out of business. Some schools have been sold and under new manaagement. There are many new post-pandemic problems to watch out for.

Some schools lost all or most of their teachers. Several older experienced teachers have retired stating the health risks are too high. Students should ask who is teaching and what are their qualifications.

The Canada real estate prices have shot up almost 50% over the last 2 years - rents for schools has also shot up and this means all school tuition costs are very expensive compared to 2 years ago.

Most English School marketing programs are designed to sell international students on the wonders of foreign travel and benefits of learning English in a foreign country. In a post-pandemic world take a second look to evaluate risk and benefits.

The rich fancy glossy English school brochures are expensive. International students should realize they are paying for them. Many students do not realize that 30 to 50% of their tuition money goes into marketing programs and the agent presenting the wonderful story. Some agents add service fees to an already large commission. This commission does not go to the ESL school, or teachers, or books or add any value to the student's education.

Refund policies controlled by agents are dangerous and should not be entered into. How can an agent 3000 miles away be aware of a problem school? Schools cannot know everything agents say to ESL students 3000 miles away. Bad schools use this agreement to blame agents for incorrect information. Bad agents use the agreement to blame the school for incorrect information. Both situations create the same result. An ESL student who paid for a bad or non-existing service with no chance of refund. Work with an agent that has representation in the city you wish to study.

For students from Asia, Africa and South America the out-of-pocket hourly costs of ESL instruction in North America can be 100% to 600% more expensive than ESL classes at home.

To do a quick calculation add the cost of flight & homestay & tuition, expenses for a month then divide by the average hours in class for a month.

$ 1500 + $ 1,000 + $ 1,500 + $ 1,000 = $ 5,000 divide by 100 hours = $50. per hour of class.
If ESL costs are $10 per hour at home then in this example costs are up 500%.

In North America ESL language training is offered by public and private schools. Unfortunately private ESL schools can hire "unaccredited TESL" graduates that are not qualified to teach in any North American public schools. Some private ESL schools have hired untrained and unqualified family, friends, relatives or neighbors to teach unsuspecting international students.

The Minister of Education from China was complaining that China would no longer allow student visas for Chinese students to attend British Colombia unregistered, uninspected, unqualified schools. We were told unofficially that of the worst 30 schools in BC: 10 were owned by Chinese nationals and 10 by Korean nationals.

The statement "Canadian school" is now meaningless. Students must now look for "Canadian ownership", and "Canadian management", and "Canadian certified teachers", and "Canadian curriculum, programs, books and operations" and membership in Canadian associations and how many years of operation in Canada.

Be careful, do not waste time, money and opportunity in your choice of ESL school. Be sure to review the ESL in Canada student information pages in the sidebar before spending a lot of money.

Of the 414 Universities, Colleges, ESL schools that we have files on we have discovered only two complete frauds (one operating out of Korea), and 30 unscrupulous operators. We rate schools: 10% as superior, 50% as average, 30% below average and 10% very poor.

To Report problems with your school, agent, homestay please E-Mail to:

Can your Agent honestly help you!

Prospective students should investigate the agent and agency before giving them any money.

There are honest, hard working and professional agents who have visited the Canada schools, universities, colleges that they represent, have professional educators on staff, post actual student testimonials and continue to offer good advice based on years of experience. Students who work with professional agents and consultants actually save the most money and time going to the right school the first time.


In Canada, USA, UK and many other countries anyone can use the title education agent, counselor or consultant without any prior training, education, certification or registration. This is a completely un-regulated industry with no standards and no policing associations. The internet is full of "agent complaints" from students, teachers, schools, homestay and service industries.

Many students and their parents will sit across the desk from a convicted criminal in a fancy suit, expensive looking office, who is using a false name, a new business agency name which sounds like an established agency, and is falsely representing his agency contracts and licenses from schools, universities and institutes.

Eliminating the obvious frauds is not that difficult. Prospective customers should ask to see personal ID, business registrations, business licenses and references from the schools they represent and references from previous students.

Prospective customers should ask to see what education or training or experience qualifications the agent has. Did they finish high school? college? university? Did they study abroad? Have they ever traveled overseas? to that school? been to that homestay? Why are they recommending that school?

Many times the local discount agents describe all schools as the same and then try to place students based on discounts. Any school advantages of professional programs, curricula, teachers, or systems are completely lost using price only discount agents. I have seen many agent whiteboards with the "price du jour" - just like the fish market. Some of these prices were falsely high then "discounted" to make the price appear better.

Students are also increasingly aware that most of the larger agencies are promoting their own schools located in Canada, USA, Australia, and New Zealand. Many Canadian ESL schools do not know that they are competing with "foreign agency owned" ESL schools. The foreign agencies have the market presence in the local markets and simply place the students into schools where they have an ownership interest. The MBA's call this vertical integration. The mega agencies would rather make 40 to 50% than the regular commission of 10 to 25%. When the 50% is transferred internationally the "Canadian Schools" run at a loss and do not pay taxes. The "Mega Agencies" located internationally pay from 3.5% to 15% income taxes.

There are some "marketing organizations" taking advantage of the education agents by offering an overhyped or overpriced accreditation. Some of these "organizations" offer their certificate to agents after they complete an open book 80 question test and of course pay them $350 and ongoing annual fees etc etc. Maybe the certificate looks pretty.

Fraudwatch Alert in Canada

We have conducted several tours of ESL schools in the Toronto area. Our fieldwork to collect information for the webpage directory has uncovered 2 frauds, several misrepresentations and some bad situations.

Our ESL student volunteers have uncovered two situations we can only describe.

FRAUD # 1.

In the first case several advertisements outlined courses, programs, and facilities allegedly offered by an ESL school. Investigation of these claims uncovered multiple discrepancies. This school claims 8 to 10 classrooms in a modern office building; however, a computer school occupies the location quoted. An angry computer school manager said "TOTAL MISREPRESENTATION" when informed of the presentation. He said the ESL school didn't have a classroom and no contract exists with them.

Their advertisement widely distributed, offered TESL teacher training. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, Registration Branch of the Private Vocational Schools, they are not registered. According to a compliance department officer of the same branch, they are in violation of Regulation 939 of the Private Vocational Schools Act, and upon investigation may be subject to prosecution. To verify these facts the information is public, and available at the Ministry offices call 416-314-4820 for compliance, and call 416-314-0500 for registration.

A phone inquiry by our potential Middle East ESL student "FRED", to the ESL school produced elaborate claims. We quote parts of their statements; " our school has operated over five years, we have trained lots of middle east, Asian, and South American students, our school is the biggest and best ESL school in Toronto." Two sources (homestay director and only teacher)confirmed that in fact the operation is less than 3 months, one part time teacher and two students.

These criminals have registered several ESL school names, and will promise anything to get money from ESL students. We understand they are trying to get ESL teachers to teach for free, and are trying to buy an old company to be able to "claim" their school has operated for years.

FRAUD # 2.

The ESL school has an elaborate Website, advertising a modern building, and nice pictures. Their bank account for forwarding money will accept deposit money. The telephone, and fax in Toronto does not work; and no school (that we can find) at the advertised location.

If you were defrauded as a result of a phone call the toll free Phonebusters hotline is 1-888-495-8501. This investigative service is run by the Ontario Provincial Police and specializes in telemarketing fraud. If you were defrauded in person in Toronto go to the Criminal Investigation Bureau, 52 Division, Metropolitan Toronto Police, or call 416-808-2222.


Blacklisting Schools, Homestays, Agents in Canada

ESL in Canada will not recommend or work with blacklisted schools. These are schools which cheat students, homestay providers, service providers, staff, teachers, suppliers or agents.

ESL in Canada will not work with or recommend blacklisted homestays. These are homestays which cheat students, do not provide contracted accommodation or meals or abuse students.

ESL in Canada will not work with blacklisted agents that promise cash jobs, promise student visas for people who intend to work, place students in illegal accommodation, inflate or discount tuition fees.

List of problems that force us to not recommend this school under the current management:

  • advertised and hired a full time teacher then after 2 weeks told the teacher they are only a sub paid them as a sub. The teacher complained (illegal labor practices) The teacher was told that they were not qualified and would disqualify their Capls application. Both excuses were incorrect. The school then went out and hired a two-day-teach-&-travel TESL certificate holder which has no status with Capls. This will probably go to court.
  • The school had 42 students and 3 teachers so forced all students into 2 electives, 2 Toefl classes and 1 film studies. The problem is the advanced business students and ISY students were contractually promised business classes and special diplomas upon completion yet school would not offer the necessary electives.
  • The school advertises coop placements to students yet continually cannot provide positions and refuses to refund. Agents from Turkey, Korea and Switzerland have all stated school misrepresented the program to them and the students.
  • The school advertises Cambridge preparation classes, a survey (performed by one of the students who failed) of the last 9 Cambridge students contacted found that all had failed the test. He found lots of student complaints about no preparation, no marking of homework, no books, mixing non Cambridge students with no interest in the class, classes conducted in coffee shops. When questioned about all the failures the school Academic director stated it was the student's fault and some students should not have written the test as they were not prepared.
  • To shut up one complaining student the school hired him to be a greeter and paid him cash under the table, then the school management told him that he was in the wrong for working and stop complaining.
  • The school advertises a computer lab, call classes etc. etc. The computers were hacked by a student with backdoor installed. The student hacked other students work and destroyed files. The students complained about computers being locked out by passwords but management didn't do anything. One student took matters into his own hands -- a big fight occurred with chairs being thrown and people cut. The school hushed up everything and would not compensate students for damages.

Please note that we do not list the perpetrators of fraud, theft and misrepresentation by name. Lawsuits even frivolous lawsuits are expensive. Some of these guys are dangerous. There is no benefit to throwing gasoline onto a burning fire. We have been advised to simply not recommend bad schools without getting into too many reasons.

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