The AVSE TESOL (Ninja Teacher) Course: An Honest Review

I’ve been considering doing this one for a while.

I, like many other teachers in Saigon, completed my TESOL course at the Australia-Vietnam School of English in Gò Vấp district (aka ‘the Ninja Teacher course’). I didn’t go through Ninja Teacher, who are a company who hook you up with this course, but lots of my friends did. Before I arrived I tried to find as many reviews of AVSE as I could and I noticed- as did many other people I’ve met since then- that the reviews were suspiciously positive. Every single person was hailing AVSE as the gold standard of TESOL providers and thanking them for the experience of a lifetime. It seemed… odd.

Usually, even the best products and companies get negative reviews and often it isn’t even their own fault. Nothing in life is ever perfect and there is always at least one disgruntled and overly sensitive keyboard warrior ready to slam something, or someone, online. So AVSE’s perfect five star record on sites like teflcoursereview.com isn’t an accident. I’ve since discovered that Peter Goudge, the founder and director of AVSE, encourages students to give good reviews in exchange for a glowing reference and has found a way to remove the negative ones. I would not go as far as to call this a scam or a lie, but what this process does do is prevent reviewers from giving each other helpful advice and a realistic idea of what to expect.

I’m not here to criticise AVSE. I’m glad I went with them and have a lot of good things to say. However, I think it might be helpful to provide an honest, rather than sycophantic, view of the course and provide information that I wish I’d known before I started.

Teaching Quality

There are a few TESOL instructors at AVSE now that it’s grown so much, so what I’m saying may not apply to all of them. I was taught by David Chalker, and he was great. He has a lot of teaching experience in various fields and has been in Vietnam for a long time, so he really knew his stuff. He was able to answer all of the hundreds of questions we asked him every day (and some people in my class did not know when to stop) and gave us so much useful information, as well as setting our expectations for post-AVSE life in Vietnam.

Course Content

As you’d hope, the course teaches you a lot about teaching. You must complete seven teaching practices: one hour of teaching your peers, one hour of teaching real students and then five more two-hour lessons, some of which take place in AVSE and some at other schools nearby (AVSE arrange and pay for your transport to these schools). You also have to complete a 1500-word essay on the subject of motivation, one simple course design and provide your formal lesson plans for your seven teaching practices. It’s a fair bit of work, especially in the last week when everyone’s scrambling to finish it, but there is still plenty of time for socialising.

Accomodation

AVSE/Ninja Teacher promise you ‘western-standard accommodation’ for the during of the course. What even is ‘western-standard’ accommodation? Is that a standard that even exists? (Answer: no.)

The course accommodation is divided into several houses and hotels; some are better than others, but none are luxury and all are liveable. If you really hate where you’re staying, then you can ask to move. Most of them are Vietnamese-style buildings (tall and narrow) and the furniture in my hotel was quite old. The beds are hard Vietnamese beds, not the soft, springy ones preferred in the west.

Getting Settled In

AVSE are great for helping you get settled in Vietnam and setting your expectations for post-course life. They offer guidance on seemingly small things, such as how to cross the road (actually quite terrifying when you first get here), how to get a sim card and how not to get scammed by a taxi. David explained lots of things that seemed baffling about Vietnam, such as the law that every hotel has to keep your passport, why it’s rude to touch someone on the head and why spitting is so socially acceptable here. AVSE really helped me to settle in and start to understand the culture here, for which I am very grateful.

AVSE also create your teaching CV for you and help you to make it as effective as possible and set up interviews with schools. The job guarantee is a little bit fishy, which I’ll get to later, but they do give you some help.

The Extras

AVSE offers a lot of extras, such as airport pick-up, Vietnamese lessons and bicycle or motorbike hire. The airport pick-up is $25, which I was happy to pay as it saved some hassle, but you could easily sort a taxi or an Uber to the school and probably save a few dollars if you wanted. I wouldn’t recommend hiring a bicycle in Gò Vấp district because the traffic there is the worst in the city, but that’s a matter of personal choice. As for a motorbike, the fee $100 for a month. It would be cheaper, but perhaps less convenient, to organise your own hire from a local company; $50-70/month, depending on the bike. I paid for the Vietnamese lessons and regretted it, partly because they were usually scheduled on weekends, when I either had teaching practices or wanted to go and do fun things with my new friends. I also discovered that the Vietnamese lessons you can find through Facebook are a lot better value for money and that many of the bigger language centres offer free ones.

The Guaranteed Job

One of AVSE and Ninja Teacher’s biggest selling points is the guaranteed job. They’re not lying to you- if speak English, you WILL find a job out here. What they DON’T tell you is that the guaranteed job within two weeks accounts for $500 of what you’re paying for the course. (I know this because one of my friends requested a fee breakdown from Peter Goudge and showed me.) This is the same fee as an agency providing the same service would charge. They also don’t tell you that unless you badger them, they’re not THAT fussed about getting you a job. I had to remind the office via email a few times, which wasn’t the end of the world, but after I didn’t get the first job I interviewed for, they weren’t that proactive in finding me a second interview. Sure, I could have pestered them some more, but I decided it would be more effective just to look by myself, and I found employment fairly quickly.

Employment is very easy to come by for English teachers out here, so don’t choose AVSE for the job guarantee alone. They do set most people up with at least one interview and might help you change jobs later down the line; a friend of mine emailed them a few months later asking them to find her a second job and they came through. I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, but I also think they should be a little more transparent about what people are paying for; had I known that $500 of my hard-earned money was going towards a guaranteed job within fourteen days, I certainly would have hounded them a little more.

The Area

Gò Vấp district is not a central district in Ho Chi Minh City. In fact, it takes around 40 mins to get from the AVSE campus into district one. It’s a poor and grimy district with terrible traffic and constant noise. It’s not pretty. However, it’s cheap and there are some fun things to do there; mainly the 3000 dong beer bar. There is some great local street food and a few lovely coffee shops dotted about. There’s also a great spa called La Spa, which is a short ride from the school, where you can enjoy a two-hour massage for $14. It’s an overwhelming part of an overwhelming city, but in the end it grew on me and although I wouldn’t move back there now, I’m quite glad that that’s where I started out.

 

 

So that’s my honest review of the AVSE/Ninja Teacher TESOL course. What are your thoughts? I’d be interested to hear from others who have completed the course, and welcome questions for those considering doing so!

8 Comments

  1. February 6, 2018 / 8:59 am

    Your post is very timely! I was just talking to my boyfriend about the Ninja Teacher program, it did indeed sound too good to be true, but we didn’t find any “honest reviews” for the program. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Would you mind if I post a link to this article in the comments section on their Youtube video? I feel like others would benefit from an honest review, but I don’t know if you want your review to be shared in that way.

    • February 7, 2018 / 1:29 pm

      Hey Julie! I’m so happy to hear that. I wouldn’t mind at all if you posted it on their comment section, go ahead! Thanks girl <3

  2. Bryce
    May 2, 2018 / 7:29 pm

    Hey Hannah, I am also AVSE almuni (lol), and I agree 200% with this entire article. You didn’t pull punches but you were very fair in your criticism. I was quite pissed, and that is an already severely lacking term for how I truly feel, when I found out my $500 was essentially for the guarantee. The folly in my assumption was that, like many, I was led to believe it was merely course materials, course fee and accomodation included in the price of the entire package.

    I may seem a little sour but the whole package is sells way too high over what it actually offers. Personally, it is not my place nor duty to dissuade people but my experience was a 5/10 just due to lack of transparency. That’s all.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • hannahstephenson1994@hotmail.co.uk
      May 4, 2018 / 6:40 am

      Hey Bryce, thank you for your kind comments!

      Yes, the fact they charge so much for the guarantee is a bit of a joke; especially since getting a job out here is so easy. I’d recommend that all potential Ninja Teacher/AVSE students ask for a cost breakdown for sure- I wish I had!

      How did you feel about the accommodation and the Go Vap area?

    • July 25, 2018 / 4:59 am

      Bryce, it’s Peter here from AVSE. I am responding to your post not to argue the point, but to simply state a fact. Whoever told you the employment component of what my school offers is costed at a set figure got it wrong. It isn’t. If you’d like to tell me who gave you the wrong information, I’d be happy to speak with them and set them straight. Equally, if you’d like to contact me personally, I’d be happy to meet or speak with you about this issue further. In the meantime, note my more detailed response elsewhere in this blog.

  3. July 25, 2018 / 4:48 am

    Hey HOWFARILLPHO, my name is Peter. I am one of the people named in your review.

    I can see you have made a genuine attempt to provide an even-handed account of your experience at my school. This is commendable. Just as your review is clearly in good faith, so are my points below seeking to correct the record in three areas.

    Firstly, you stated: “…….. the founder and director of AVSE, encourages students to give good reviews in exchange for a glowing reference and has found a way to remove the negative ones.” It is correct to say that I encourage students to provide reviews. This is standard business practice. It is incorrect to say there are exchange and removal processes in place.

    Secondly, you stated: “As for a motorbike, the fee $100 for a month. It would be cheaper, but perhaps less convenient, to organise your own hire from a local company; $50-70/month, depending on the bike.” You will see via the link below the fee to hire a motorbike from AVSE is US $50.00 a month, which is cheaper than most providers in Vietnam and at the very bottom end of the range you specified as being the market price. We do ask people to pay a refundable deposit of US $100.00, which again, is cheaper than most providers in Vietnam. Here is the relevant link to the AVSE website: http://avse.edu.vn/enrolment/optional-extras/

    Thirdly, you stated: “…….the guaranteed job within two weeks accounts for $500 of what you’re paying for the course. (I know this because one of my friends requested a fee breakdown………)”. This statement is incorrect. I accept it’s possible that you and your friend have misinterpreted what’s written in a private email. You will see on the AVSE website that we reserve the right to make commercial decisions from time to time (like any business), but at no time will anyone pay more than the advertised fee (http://avse.edu.vn/enrolment/service-agreement/). Our goal here is to make the course accessible to people who might otherwise miss out for any number of reasons. We look at requests for a discount (and make offers) on an individual basis. It may well be that your friend was offered a discount, but it would not have been because we have a hard and fast rule that ’employment’ is costed at a set figure.

    Once again, thank you for taking the time to post a balanced review. We certainly don’t get it right all the time, but we do try very hard to meet expectations. If you would like to discuss how AVSE can do better moving forward, I’d be pleased to meet with you personally (or via SKYPE). I can be contacted via the following email address: peter@avse.edu.vn

  4. Martha Gilligan
    September 10, 2018 / 8:12 am

    Hi!

    Was considering going through Ninja teacher/AVSE but am swayed by your review. Would you recommend a better way to go about gaining a TEFL here?

    • hannahstephenson1994@hotmail.co.uk
      September 10, 2018 / 1:57 pm

      Hi Martha!

      The course was definitely the right option for me so I wouldn’t tell anybody not to do it. It helped me settle in well. I don’t really know of any other TEFL providers in Vietnam well enough to recommend them but I’m sure there are some good ones around! Perhaps doing on at home might be cheaper since you wouldn’t have the accommodation fee but again, I don’t know a lot about it. So sorry I can’t be more helpful!

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