The ABC of ELT

How (not) To Market Your English School

I’ve recently moved to Krakow and so I’m aquatinting myself with all the competition in this new town. It’s something I seem to do every year, but I certainly pay more attention when I move to a new city or country. Many of the factors I’ve spotted, which schools like to sell themselves on, will be familiar to many of you in other countries and cities I’m sure.

How schools like to market themselves

  • native speakers (I sometimes wonder if this is the ELT version of snake oil)
  • exciting methodology (well no one’s going to say theirs is boring)
  • unique methodology (again no one’s going to say theirs is the same as everyone else)
  • soon you’ll be Speaking/fluent* (in which the definition of fluent isn’t really fluent and speaking a couple of words counts as speaking)
  • learn another language for free (This one’s more interesting but I wonder how many people really want to learn two languages at once. Plus I wonder if it is harder to learn two languages at the same time. I don’t know of any studies off hand. This does suggest that the value of your classes is worse because you can offer two for the price of one).
  • a wide variety of courses (This makes a lot of sense. After all you don’t want to be stuck in an Upper-Intermediate group despite being an advance speaker. Or have to study a general English course because there are no business courses).

Honestly, If I were in charge of marketing my school I’d want to have the statements

  • professionally qualified teachers (native or non native it doesn’t matter as long as they have actually been trained to teach)
  • personal coaching from your teacher (living up to this claim might be difficult but it would certain be appealing for people signing up to group classes)
  • learn how to learn on your own (help the students to take charge of their learning)
  • learn via relevant topics (more descriptive than exciting)
  • pass the year or get your money back (obviously some element of attendance criteria and a good level testing would need to be in place but if you have qualified teachers then this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.)

What about you? How would you market your (dream) school?
[Photo Credit: Wooly Matt via Compfight cc]

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

3 Replies

  1. Hi!
    I actually do have my own small language school, and I always refused to market it by the same standards as anyone else did (the ones you mention in your post). Instead, I tried for the first two that you mention as your ideal marketing for schools.
    I have to say that the first one (not *native*, but *qualified* teachers) is the tougher : probably due to all the other schools marketing – I suppose – people always expect native teachers and, when you try to make the point that native is not necessarily a good teacher, they often just go away and enrol in the school that actually markets native teachers.
    It’s quite frustrating and I hope our school can set the example and prove that a good teacher is a good teacher, no matter what his/her native language is. 🙂

    1. I can imagine Giulia. For some people “native” is the best qualification people can have even though there are plenty of terrible native teachers and many amazing non-native teachers. I guess the only way to correct this idea is for people to stand up to this false idea and explaining the advantages of non-native speakers as well.
      Do you market other aspects of your school? Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      1. Hi,
        yes, we also keep our classes very small (max. 6 students) so that every student can receive individual attention from the teacher. And finally, we don’t have proper syllabuses. We follow the CEFR and develop the programme of the course based on the needs, expectations and preferences of the students in each class. I think these two aspects are really succsessful.

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