Good evening all. I am a long time forum reader, and have found the tips and general discussion very helpful in terms of bringing new ideas and methodologies into my classroom(s).

My apologies is this is not the correct forum for my thread.

A brief background; I have recently arrived home from Madrid, where I had been teaching English for a little over two years. I originally went for a 2 month contract, covering for a friend (ESL teacher) who was on sick leave, but the city had me hooked and I kept finding reasons to stick around. :-)

As I moved around from contract to contract; teaching differing age groups, levels and career-types (civil servants and army types at their locations, but also classes in the language schools) I was given a taste of the business side of this ESL industry.

The contracts were all for private language schools, all highly accredited and focused on the B2B (business to business) market - where we were introduced as 'communication consultants', 'executive trainers' and 'business coaches', instead of 'teachers' - but no different in practice to any ESL teacher delivering business English.

Now; onto my question.

Is there any scope for a new look at the traditional language school model, one that might attract and retain more students?
I ask, as the majority of schools that I have seen have worked as a conveyor-belt system.

  • Student(s) enter; either through their company or off the street.
  • They are handed a level test; 15 mins (written) and sent away to complete it.
  • A teacher enters to assess their level based on grammar and a short conversation.
  • The initial level is usually badly assessed; leaving the student to be moved around 2-3 classes in.
  • They are then sent in to the sales person, 'sold' on the benefits of English.
  • Then back to the receptionist and shown the prices and timetables; with incentives to sign-up 'now' for an immediate discount, or 'recommend a friend' for x Euro off the course.
  • Based on their level and/or needs they will select a group or one-to-one option; and they book their first class.
  • The groups vary based on general English, exam preparation or Business English.
  • Depending on the school; they may be offered an online course to compliment their lessons.
  • Once they have completed their course or block of classes; they are offered a discount to sign up again; and usually 20% (or less) will do so. (Big problem with retention).
  • And repeat.

From a teaching perspective this model seems to work; levels, small groups, correct attention to students needs etc but from a business perspective it has many flaws.

Have any schools tried a different model to the one outlined above; or is this seen as the norm and set to continue?
I have a few ideas myself, but would love to hear some opinions before this post becomes an essay. :)