Friday, 13 April 2012

How the global recession is affecting/ has affected the ELT profession

How the global recession is affecting/ has affected the ELT profession
#ELTchat summary for the 2nd chat 11th April

Tonight we were joined by ELT professionals from around the world, including a couple of new members: @RebuffetBroadus from France and @MellynEducation from Canada.
It appears that the recession is having an effect, although it depends on the sector and the options offered to students.
@ljp2010, in Argentina, and @MrChrisJWilson, in Ukraine, said that student numbers were down. Others are finding that the market has changed. In France, Italy, the Ukraine and Spain, corporate clients appear jittery and companies are holding back on supplying language courses for their staff. Part of the problem is falling training budgets, but increasing prices everywhere else. @vmorgana said that in the state sector where she works the recession equates to fewer English courses and no IWBs.
Many more people are signing up to do TT courses.

Where are the students coming from?
In Wiktor’s school in the UK some of the students are sponsored, which minimises the effect of the falling numbers to an extent. In France, the government allocated training means a number of the unemployed are choosing English lessons. Steve Muir and Shaun Wilden agreed that many students are using their redundancy money. It is apparent that a global crisis increases people’s interest in having qualifications, in which case English is seen as important. In Canada there seems to be a shift in sectors-fewer international study vacations, but more immigrants. In Italy there are plenty of individual students and many of us suggested that numbers are up for the moment, although not guaranteed long-term.  University student numbers haven’t really been affected- only the funding! @hartle suggested that some of the students are just looking for the ‘piece of paper’ and are not really motivated.

Do falling prices mean lessons are cheaper?
Do students want to pay for quality or make do with a cheap course? It seems, in many cases, that they want to save money.  In the Ukraine the more expensive language schools are having difficulty enrolling, but the cheaper ones are better off. Students are going to competitors who don’t offer the same quality. Private or company classes are demanding reduced fees too.

So does it mean more or less work for teachers?
Lack of funds makes it more difficult for teachers to do their jobs. It also means that they have to fund their own training. The situation differs  a little between teachers who are freelance and those who are salaried. Many new teachers are being employed on fixed term contracts.
In the UK ESOL context the pattern is for classes to be cut in accordance with the government cuts in Further Education.
In some cases schools are employing well-qualified teachers and paying them less. In some places there are new schools opening up, increasing the pressure and competition on the existing providers. In France permanent contracts for teachers are hard to come by; work is less stable and the teachers have to canvass for work for themselves, then finding that they are only paid for hours worked and not given the option of a guaranteed monthly salary .  The freelance solution is also common in Switzerland. Many schools are looking at education as a business and may look for cheap labour as opposed to qualification. And working patterns are changing…..
How does the online market affect the results?
Are online options contributing to fewer ‘bums on seats’? It was argued that online or blended learning should be included in the numbers overall, but that creates an inequality for schools who are not able to offer the same facility. One cause for concern was the possibility of students buying full, but not always good quality, courses on sites such as Groupon, which can offer massive discounts. Our new Canadian member teaches online by contract from the government. Blended courses are helping to cut teachers’ face-to-face time, and thereby, costs. A well-designed online course, using sound principles, was seen to be as good as, if not better than, a f2f one. It is also a possible way to reduce costs and can be used to deliver CPD, such as DELTA modules too. One problem for students is the sheer wealth of material available online, which could provide a niche for a consulting service to help them J

Are schools diversifying?
Some are and some aren’t! @jankenb2 said that her school’s mainstay is training students to pass university entrance exams- so no change. In Jersey we have been adding variety to our courses, which is fine as long as we continue to invest in the CPD of the teachers who deliver them. This gives us a competitive edge for the moment.  Other schools are delivering blended or online courses. Freelance teachers need to market themselves with quality/differentiated services to stand out from the crowd. Many of us are energised by the changes and enjoying mastering new models of delivery. If it leads to proper competition, investment and innovation, Shaun Wilden is all for it.

Will the Olympics have any effect on numbers in the UK this year?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many teachers are making projects out of the Olympics theme. Whether it will translate into increased numbers is less certain as it appears, to some schools, that fewer students are travelling for their lessons.

How well do TT programs address tech issues?
@pysproblems81- love the way teachers on twitter turn any discussion into a reason to use #edtech. I think that TT programs are slowly beginning to address the issues of technology in education, some perhaps faster than others. As @jankenb2 says- tech is no longer a tool, it’s a literacy and is changing teacher education entirely.
So apart from a growth in Tech, what else has changed?
  • ·        Fewer long term contracts/ less stability
  • ·        Stagnating teacher salaries
  • ·        Corporate clients slow to commit training budgets
  • ·        Redundancies
  • ·        Longer waiting lists for classes
  • ·        Teachers don’t invest as much with no hope of continued work
  • ·        Lack of continuity means lower quality
  • ·        More volatile and less forgiving environment
  • ·        Fees are rising
  • ·        Teachers having to pay for own CPD and buy own materials
  • ·        Teachers unable to access conferences due to cost
  • ·        Teachers working more than 1 job to make ends meet
  • ·        Schools going out of business

Does quality pay during a recession?
Are the schools which are going out of business the ones which are seen as providing less quality? So it would seem in a few cases.
Is quality overlooked for good marketing? It depends on the local market.
Students with different objectives will have differing ideas about the costs involved.
Students like a combination of low cost and reasonable quality, ‘the affordable luxury’- but can they judge?
Schools need to invest in standards=invest in teachers+ decent pay.
Don’t compromise!
@patjack67 puts his money on quality winning out, but the catch 22 situation is lower prices for students=lower returns for providers.
Does quality mean available for the few rather than the many?

And I’d like to finish with my favourite quote of the night @RebuffetBroadus-
Teachers have to learn to adapt and not look for 20th century work models in the 21st century.


  1. Thanks Sue - On an almost different line, since independant of the economic situation I think, it's a fact that the numbers of students studying science at Universities here in France are dropping. As my dear friend Christina said - 21st century is different.

  2. Yes. It's a problem in the UK too, but I think that has a lot to do with the fee increase