From: The Editors
The Scam of Albania’s Private Schools – Part 1

It is no secret that public schools in Albania suffer from lack of funding, lack of facilities, and issues pertaining to the staff that work there.

As a result of this, those that can afford to do so and foreign nationals that settle in the country, send their children to private schools. But are they really getting a better deal?

After months of investigation into some of Albania’s private education institutions and some English language schools, Exit can reveal a number of scandals and issues that plague the private sector.

We have interviewed past and current staff members, parents of children that have attended the schools, and other ancillary employees. What we found was astonishing– tax evasion, illegal construction, allegations of child abuse, discriminatory hiring practices, lack of labor law protection, and drug use to name but a few.

Wage Disparity

One teacher, working in a school that has more than one location in Albania, explained to us how Albanian counterparts received a significantly lower salary and that this practice is widespread across the industry.

Despite doing the same work and having the same, if not more relevant qualifications than foreign hires, Albanian citizens reportedly receive salaries that are four or five times less. When you factor in benefits such as private healthcare and accommodation, this can increase to as much as eight times the salary, according to the source.

“An Albanian teacher with a masters and a teaching certificate will get around EUR 500 a month, a foreign teacher would get around EUR 2000 a month plus flights, accommodation, healthcare, and other benefits– even if they are less qualified,” our source said.

This practice appears to be common across many of the schools investigated and in most, the level of salary did not reflect the level of experience or quality of education but rather just the nationality.  In another school, a foreign teacher with a TEFL and no degree, earned almost twice as much as an Albanian teacher with a bachelors and a teaching certificate.

Other teachers told us how foreign hires who cohabited with or married Albanians were paid less or had their benefits cut, meaning some resorted to lying in order to protect their income and living situation.

This practice is a clear case of discrimination based on nationality and citizenship, something that is illegal in most countries and at an EU level.

Unqualified Staff

A member of the Exit team, posed as someone interested in working in a number of English-language schools. None of the schools approached asked for any documentation relating to qualifications, only one asked to see a CV, and none asked for references or criminal record checks– as should be a standard when working with children.

One member of staff working at a private school, who claimed to have decades of experience was found to have made it up– no record exists of the books they said they had written, the academic papers they said they authored, the schools they worked at, or the institutions they studied at. This individual was retained in a senior role, despite allegations of harassment towards children and staff.

We were also told that background checks, police conduct checks, and reference checks were not always required, and in some cases staff members had to insist to the Albanian owners that it was necessary to do so. References from previous employers were rarely checked and one source stated that “a school will often give a bad staff member good references, just to get rid of them– they are not worth the paper they are written on.”

In terms of private schools, Exit was made aware of two cases where staff did not have the proper qualifications. Under Albanian law, a secondary school teacher must have a degree in the subject that they are teaching, but by browsing some of the private school websites, you can clearly see that this is not always the case.

Quality of Teaching

One teacher at a well-known private school explained how teachers would often tell their students that they were failing in a particular subject. This would then cause the parents to “freak out” and come into the school to ask what was going on and what could be done to help them. When this happened, additional tuition would be offered to the children, at a cost, quite often for classes that were not needed.

The same thing happened in English language schools, according to a separate source. Teachers would often say a student was at a lower level than they were, in order to extend the length of courses or sell extra lessons either through the school, or privately 1-2-1.

It was also found that unless a school is offering an International Baccalaureate Diploma, the exams are not validated externally. This means that results and grades are wholly in the hands of the school, leaving the system open for manipulation or abuse. IB Diplomas are only available in a handful of Albanian private schools and they are only assessed externally in Grades 11-12. Up until that point, a student’s grades can and often are inflated, decreased, bought, discriminated, or penalized, just so the school can make money.

In terms of accreditation, one teacher advised us that many opt for the easiest accreditation option available. For example, few opt for accreditation by the Council of International Schools because this requires that the school turn over their financial management books for review. Instead, many opt for Advanced Ed which is less rigorous on the schools finances, meaning that those with more secretive accounting practices, allegedly prefer to go with this option.

Fees

Many schools- both private and English language schools, refuse to give information out about their fees, both online and over the phone– something that was confirmed after multiple attempts by Exit.

One source working part time in a private school told us that this is because they change the rate they charge, depending on how they perceive the financial status of the person inquiring. They added that if a company or embassy was paying for the tuition, the price would often double or even triple what they would charge a family funding it themselves.

A second source– the ex-director of one of the large international schools that abides by this practice advised us that this was due to tax evasion. By not publishing prices anywhere in public and insisting on giving them verbally, there was no way for the authorities to be able to estimate how much tax they should be paying, or in this case, were not paying.

In many cases payment of fees was insisted upon in cash and no fiscal receipts were issued.

Those that did advertise their fees, charged between $3000 and $17,000 a year, placing them on a par with the average price of a private school in the UK. In addition to this, fees were often raised with little warning and by as much as 40% year-on-year, leaving many parents struggling to meet costs.

One teacher, working at a school teaching the International Baccalaureate diploma explained how difficult it would be to take a child from an IB programme and put them into a regular schooling system, resulting in the child losing out on their education.

They said that the Ministry of Education should impose limits on hikes that should not exceed 7.5% a year– allowing for parents to plan ahead and be able to meet the costs of their children’s tuition.

In part two we will look at allegations of staff drug abuse and child abuse cover ups that have taken place in English-language and private schools in Albania.