Thursday, April 24, 2008

TEFL Niche Markets

A number of years ago I worked weekends at a language school in Bangkok to supplement my regular income. There were plenty of students and a core of full-time and part-time foreigners teaching classes six days a week. But, at best, the school only managed to break even on the language classes.

The real money came from many of those same students whose parents sent them to Australia for periods of one month to many years. The language school had partnership agreements with numerous educational institutions in Australia and earned a healthy commission for every student they signed up. They also arranged accommodation, flights and other practicalities to help get the youngsters set up in their new temporary homes. Numerous other support services and products were available to the students throughout the duration of their stay.

The language school created an entire lifestyle brand associated with the experience of living and studying abroad. They published a glossy monthly magazine with models on the cover and articles profiling students already in Australia. Once or twice a year they rented out a convention centre and put on a recruiting drive with fashion shows and live bands for entertainment. In short, they were selling a dream and many were buying.

It was a lucrative business and there were/are only a handful of other similar outfits in Thailand actively recruiting students to study in Australia. There are probably another dozen or so organizations who operate the same kind of business for the U.K., Canada, the U.S. and other locations.

Niche markets for EFL teaching appear to be growing.

Teaching and learning can be nebulous concepts. Seeking a credible school with good teachers is a daunting task. Advertising, price and the promises sold often play a bigger role in determining where a person will study as opposed to any statistics or other tangible proof.

How else to explain the Philippines as one of the most popular places for South Koreans to go for studying English? No doubt proximity, the added incentive of a vacation in a warm climate and the factor that leads to unqualified people being employed the world over as English teachers--i.e. the inability of the learner to accurately judge whether the teacher has a clue what he or she is talking about--also fuels its popularity.

This article discusses the phenomenon:

"A total of 111,000 students from South Korea came to the Philippines last year for English classes and other study tours, accounting for 17 percent of the 653,320 Korean arrivals, the Department of Tourism said.

Koreans have become the biggest group of visitors to the Philippines, surpassing Americans. The tourism department expects them to number a million by 2010 and account for one-fifth of its target of five million visitors a year."


Anonymous said...

My younger sister is one those teaching English to Korean students here in the Philippines. And she doesn't even have a degree in English but a BA in Science Education.

I have met a dozen of her students and I think they are having fun in their weekend and nightly escapades rather that in their English lessons.

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