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English language students beware

September 30, 2008

Hello again,

The international banking sector is in turmoil. That can’t affect you or me, surely. Think again. In the intricate world of global business, nobody is...

... immune from troubles that appear to have been sparked off in the USA but then seemed to spread like wildfire. When Belgium starts to bail out Fortis, I remember my car insurance and wonder what will happen if Fortis fails. The UK, France and other countries are affected and now the Irish Government starts talking about measures to protect the investments of savers for two years: you suddenly start to wonder about your money, or your mortgage and why you seem to have no control over these things.

Of course, the issue is exceptionally complicated but at least part of it stems from the global interconnectedness of the institutions. When I first opened a bank account many years ago it was with a small private bank. I remember asking humbly for a modest overdraft to pay for the binding of my thesis. The bank manager spoke to me in person and doubled the amount I asked for, telling me not to do things by halves. But that bank got swallowed up by a bigger one and then by another and is now lost in some global monster that will only offer you remote conversations with call centres on another continent if you try to ring them.

What has this got to do with EL teaching? Well, do you remember the collapse of the Nova Group in Japan last year? When the schools shut down, it appears some 420 000 Japanese students were affected and inevitably many of those will have lost their tuition fees. Teachers were also laid off, many with salaries still owed to them. Just like the small private bank, the small private language school is becoming a rare bird, as global corporations either buy them up or effectively price them out of existence. And these large-scale players are deeply into diversification. Their loyalty to ELT will survive only as long as they see it to be a reliable cash cow. If one of these global players goes to the wall or decides that English Language is no longer profitable we could well see thousands of students affected as with Nova.

For an in-depth report on the big players, see: http://www.hothousemedia.com/ltm/ltmbackissues/sep08web/sep08specreport.htm.
Perhaps students should start checking the credentials of the schools they enrol with and being cautious before they pay advance tuition fees.

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