Any research on Education shows that the basic factor for good, fast learning is the quality of the teacher. So this is the most important item with which you should be concerned when buying your English course. Moreover, it is also important to check the adopted teaching method and the supporting infrastructure offered to students by the school.
Considering these three items, the English schools for overseas students can be classified as follows:
- Level A - Are well structured schools with their own teaching method and well qualified teachers. All teachers are native English speakers and have some specialisation (post-graduation courses and even doctorate) in studies of the English language, Education, English language teaching for foreigners, etc. These teachers are very well paid professionals who earn according to their years of experience. Obviously, a school with such characteristics is not a low cost school, however, the quality of teachers, the teaching method and the support given to the student guarantees the quality of learning in a shorter period.
- Level B – Has a mixed teaching staff. Teachers are qualified but sometimes not as skilled as those schools in Level A and not all come from English-speaking countries which often causes discomfort to students. Even if the teacher is well qualified, it can feel somewhat strange to travel to the other side of the world to have English class taught by a foreigner like yourself. It is also common that this type of school does not have an established method of teaching. As a consequence, the quality of their teaching will be completely dependent on the competence of the teacher. If you are lucky to get a good teacher passionate about their job, great! If not, only God will fix your student life.
- Level C – Are poor quality, cheap schools. These are the so called ‘budget’ schools. They are inexpensive because they are the exact opposite of Level A. They have no qualified teachers or teaching methodology and quite often they don’t even teach with a text book, but rather teach subjects using Xerox photo copies from books that the teachers have taken from a library. The teachers are hired as "coaches", since they do not have the qualifications required to be classified as teachers. In general, they are foreigners of any nationality and profession, who came to Australia, learnt English and are teaching because they could not get any position in their professional areas. Because they are not qualified to be a teacher the schools pay them very little, somewhere around $35 per class hour, the same as a basic family house cleaner. Of course, this way the cost of the course is very cheap, but the quality of education is questionable and the students leave hardly fluent in English at all, even if they have stayed for the duration of the course!
How to get rid of traps?
- Be wary of cheap school sold as “the one which offers the best cost-benefits." In Education this does not exist. The school offering you the best benefit is the one where within a reasonable number of months you will become fluent in English.
- Also do not believe that "all schools are equal". This is not true. As we have outlined above, there are vastly different levels in quality of schools and anyone trying to tell you otherwise is most likely just trying to meet their weekly sales quota.
- Ask the agent to give you in writing, all information on the recommended school and its teachers, if they are real teachers or "coaches" and their original nationality. Also ask about the adopted teaching method, materials used in class and the infrastructure to support students.
Remember: A cheap school is like a cheap wine; it will give you a headache tomorrow!