Part 3: How to Choose the Right School Type
Welcome to the third instalment in StudyCELTA’s series on opening your own English Language School. In this part, we look at the various school types out there, and how to decide which one is right for you.
If you’ve missed the previous parts in the series, you can access them below:
Traditionally, learning takes places within four walls. Students at their desks, listening attentively to their teacher as they write lists of verbs on a blackboard.
Describe that to any English language teacher today, and they’ll be quick to tell you that TESOL has evolved long past the dictation-style lessons of old.
There’s autonomous learning, group and partner work, class discussions and outside experiences. There’s multimedia in the classroom, endless sources of online reading, and more ESL teaching techniques than you could poke a stick at.
The styles of learning within the classroom are continuously evolving and, as some may argue, improving. But what about outside the classroom?
No, I’m not just talking about after-hours homework or getting students to watch British soaps on the telly. I’m talking about English classrooms when you’re not physically in a classroom.
With the incredible technological advances that the internet has brought us, English learning is fluid. It has no fixed time or address – it’s in our lounge rooms, our laps, and the palms of our hands.
There are so many different ways to start your own language school or ESL business, it’s often hard to decipher which one is right for you. In this instalment of StudyCELTA’s series on opening your own language school, we look a little closer at the various types, and help you decide which to choose.
The Traditional English Language School
For many budding English language school entrepreneurs, the traditional classroom is the way to go. People have been learning in physical schools for centuries – it’s a practice perfected over time.
Plus, in terms of client base, the most popular way to learn another language continues to be academy enrolment.
So, how can you know if this model is right for you?
Firstly, it’s important to look at your training and experience. Running any kind of fixed location business is hard work, no matter the size.
Besides having some general English teaching experience and a recognisable TEFL qualification, it’s important to possess a bit of managerial know-how. There are always a lot of papers to push – registering your business, meeting health and safety guidelines, contracting and paying teachers.
Then, of course, there’s the money – opening a physical school is a huge investment. You need to purchase, or hire, premises, fill them with classroom furniture and supplies, pay for advertising and employ teachers. Financially, you need to be in a position where you can still afford a hot lunch while waiting the months or years to see a return.
Finally, you have to consider your legality. If you decide to open an English Language School in a different country, you’ve got to make sure you can obtain the right kind of permit to become self-employed, and employ others. We’ve compiled a list of countries here, where acquiring visas and starting a business it a little easier for foreigners.
Opening a traditional English language school: what you need to ask yourself
Do I have enough business experience and training to be able to start and manage an entire school?
Do I have the funds to be able to buy or rent premises, acquire furnishings and supplies, and employ other teachers?
Can I legally open a new business in my chosen country?
Online Teaching Business
Online English teaching is a rapidly growing phenomenon, extending from simple, freelance Skype tutoring to entire networks of virtual classrooms.
For many TESL entrepreneurs, online teaching is the way to go: it’s cheap to set up, time-saving and you can do it from almost any corner of the globe. Plus, there are a great deal of online tools and management systems which make virtual learning simpler and more engaging.
However, most people don’t associate ‘online teaching’ with the word ‘school’, but rather, freelance work. It’s something you do after-hours to supplement your income, or an extra way to aid struggling students.
With virtual classroom tools such as WizIQ and Moodle, you can host multiple screen video chats, use online blackboards, show presentations, curate courses and deliver homework. You could even take it one step further and create an entire network of online teachers – similar to the website iTalki, which takes a small cut of every transaction made between students and their instructors.
Starting an online teaching business: what you need to ask yourself
Am I comfortable with using technology?
Do I have access to the right tools and equipment?
Do I have the right kind of expertise to market myself and find new students?
The ‘Pop-Up’ English Language School
Want to run a school with multiple students and face-to-face teaching, but can’t afford the actual school?
The ‘pop-up’ style of English language school is becoming increasingly popular across Europe; because it’s cost effective to owners, students and local café owners.
You read right – local café and bar owners are benefiting from this type of school, because teachers are setting up office in their establishments and bringing with them ten coffee orders at a time.
EnglishCafé is a Spanish-based English language business, with several locations across the country. In each city, it works in partnership with a number of coffee shops and restaurants, where its teachers hold classes for up to six students at a time.
“We look for charming places to foster conversation in more relaxing and informal environments, getting rid of the classic four walls of the classroom,” said Juan Carlos Sainz de Baranda, regional director in the southern city of Seville, “A café is always a more daily, natural place, which permits our students to live a more authentic, linguistic immersion experience.”
The café gets business, the teacher gets paid a good rate, and the owner takes a cut – all without having to pay rent or a mortgage.
“This is the third academic year of EnglishCafé in Seville, and we haven’t stopped growing,” adds Sainz de Baranda, “We have a monthly average of 150 active students”.
Starting a pop-up English language school: what you need to ask yourself
Are there any kinds of restrictions in my city for running this type of business?
Will I be able to form partnerships with good establishments to hold classes?
Does this type of business already exist where I’m based? (I.e. will I be stepping on anyone’s toes?)
Am I prepared to compromise on the quality of teaching offered, in favour of more conversational-style lessons?
Following on with the same, daily, immersion-based style of English teaching, in-home tuition is another way to earn yourself a healthy slice of the ELT pie.
Basically, teachers can host an ESL student in their home for a defined period of time; providing meals, the occasional social activity and intense, English immersion.
In return, the host teacher can earn hundreds of pounds, dollars or euros a week, and perhaps even make a new friend.
International House offers the program via their InTuition service, with a network of teachers based across the UK, Ireland, Canada and the US.
“We offer a style of teaching that suits a growing number of teachers and students alike,” says Norman Renshaw, InTuition’s Managing Director, “Many of our teachers like the flexibility of working from home and welcome the extra income that having students for 10 to 12 weeks a year can provide.”
Plus, the company is increasingly incorporating technology into teaching, too.
“We offer online video classes when [the students] return home, as well”, adds Renshaw.
Providing in-home tuition: what you need to ask yourself
Do I have the space and time to be able to host someone at home?
Am I prepared to actually live with a student?
Am I prepared for the cultural differences sharing my home with someone from another country may bring?
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See the rest of the series here: