A new kind of Loyalist: “Public” ESL education takes on a whole new twist in Canada

February 18, 2014

For more than a decade I have been fascinated by the links between English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and business. Public school boards, private schools and post-secondary institutions use ESL programs to generate revenue for their organizations. This topic fascinated me so much, I wrote my Ph.D. research on it.

In education, we don’t call the money generated by fee-paying ESL students “profit”. That word is pretty much a profanity in the social sectors. But essentially, that’s what it is. The revenue generated from ESL programs comes in to institutions mostly as unrestricted money. That means that the organization can direct the funds wherever they see fit. They can’t dole it out to shareholders, because there are none… but they can use it for salaries, renovations, perks or whatever they want.

I’ve never thought that was a particularly bad thing — providing that students get a quality educational experience and institutions don’t make promises they can’t keep.

Private ESL schools have often been regarded as shady or disreputable, precisely because they generate profit. They can use that profit however they want.

In Canada, it’s really getting interesting. A company called Loyalist Group Ltd. has created a public company that buys up ESL and college prep schools. They own schools in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria. Unlike other, private schools, this business is public. That means that they trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). The average joe can buy stocks in the company — and share in the profits.

A few days ago, Loyalist Group Ltd. was named to the TSX Venture 50. That’s a list of some of Canada’s strongest and most promising public companies. It’s a major coup for an educational company to be named to this list. And Loyalist has done it for the second year in a row. 

What we call “public education” is paid for through our tax dollars. We trust the government to administer those dollars in a wise and honest way.

Interestingly, one of the findings of my Ph.D. research was that when it comes to ESL programs in public education and universities — at least in Canada — there’s often a reporting loophole. Public educational institutions never have to explicitly disclose how much revenue they generate specifically from their ESL programs, what their enrolments (essentially their “sales”) are, or how well they do from one year to the next. That information is kept tightly under wraps and never disclosed publicly. I tried in vain to get revenue reporting results from numerous ESL programs during my Ph.D. research. Doors quietly closed and conversations ended. Ultimately, I had to re-design my entire study so I considered factors other than revenue. Getting my hands on financial data was impossible. Why? Because ESL programs at public institutions are under no obligation to report their financial information to anyone.  ESL programs fall through the reporting cracks, while generating millions (or even tens of millions) for public institutions…

Public education companies, on the other hand, could never get away with that. They’ll report their earnings and spread their success among their shareholders. If they’re not successful, they’ll fail. Success in education is based on outcomes and results. 

But there’s a new form of “public” education on the block and it is not to be ignored. Educational companies that are publicly traded on the stock market are drastically different from private companies. Public companies are obliged to share financial information with shareholders and investors. The accountability to the people who choose to put their dollars into the company is significant. Shareholders can ask questions — and demand answers. If their students are not happy or successful, they’ll leave. Sales will drop and they’ll close their doors. Their very existence depends on their students’ success.

Private educational companies never have to disclose details of their operations or finances. That should make us skeptical.

But public companies put it all out there for anyone to look at, scrutinize and ultimately judge. That’s a good thing. When it comes to ESL, it’s more transparent than what we see in public institutions. The very nature of accountability and reporting in education in Canada is changing… It’s strange, but true that when it comes to ESL, publicly traded companies like Loyalist Group Ltd may turn out to be more transparent, more accountable and more responsive to questioning from outsiders than some “public” institutions.

If you’re an ethical investor who values education, keep your eye on Loyalist Group Ltd. They may be the first of their kind in Canada, but they probably won’t be the only one… at least not for long.

Disclosure: Do I own shares in Loyalist Group Ltd.? Just a few. And I’ll be buying more soon.

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Job Posting: Marketing and Recruiting Manager for Prestigious English Language Program

October 29, 2013

When I wrote the first edition of 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program in 2002 one of the language program directors I interviewed for the book expressed disgust at the very idea of the book, saying that the idea of integrating marketing into educational administration was “blasphemous”.

That was at a time when language program managers had no training, no resources and no budgets for marketing. Many of them still don’t.

Since then I have kept my focus on marketing of language programs of all kinds as part of my career. From heritage language programs to TESL to modern world languages, they all have a place in our classrooms, our communities and yes, even the business world. I created www.marketyourlanguageprogram.com where I offer almost all the resources that I have created over the years for free.

In 2009 I wrote my doctoral thesis on marketing of ESL programs at post-secondary institutions. My supervisor liked that I had an innovative topic in an area that had yet to be researched by anyone (anywhere), but warned me that it might not get me a job. (As it turned out, things have worked out just fine.)

Recently, Georgetown University posted a job for

Manager, Marketing for Recruitment.

You can check out the job description here. The position involves recruiting qualified American English teaching professionals for the English Language Fellow and Specialist Programs. The programs, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, send American teachers around the world to teach English. The jobs are affiliated with and supported by local embassies. What a cool program.

It’s not super clear, but just so it’s forever captured as a graphic, here’s a screen shot of the job posting:

Marketing Manager job posting

Marketing Manager job posting

Slowly, enlightened organizations are beginning to see that marketing our language programs is neither blasphemous nor futile, but rather necessary if we want to endorse, promote and share the importance of learning languages on a global scale. Marketing is serious business. It is unlike any other facet of educational administration or language program management. If we want to get serious about not only saving our language programs, but elevating their importance, we’ve got to go beyond putting up posters in the hallways of our schools to advertise the newest language class, and instead take a professional and strategic approach to recruitment, complete with market research, using metrics to track results and understanding how to demonstrate the concrete impact of language learning to funders, stakeholders and others in our communities.

When prestigious institutions like Georgetown University start creating positions called “Manager, Marketing and Recruitment”  for their language programs (and it’s supported by the U.S. Department of State) other schools are sure to follow.

Does your institution have a marketing manager for its language programs?

If not, what are you waiting for?

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: Job Posting: Marketing and Recruiting Manager for Prestigious English Language Program http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Fu

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


Blogging workshop for ESL Teachers

January 7, 2013

iStock-woman at laptopI am super excited about an upcoming workshop I am doing. I get to combine two of my favorite passions: working with language teachers and blogging. Here’s our tentative agenda:

Introduction

  • What is a blog?
  • Why do we blog?

Getting Ready to Blog

  • Tips for creating excellent blog posts
  • Using multimedia in your blog
  • Blogging for and with students

Write on! Hands-on blogging

  • Setting up your blog
  • Writing your first blog post
  • Adding categories, tags and excerpts
  • Creating visual interest with photos

What do you think? Have I missed anything? What words of wisdom would you have for teachers who are learning how to blog for the first time? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or leave a comment. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: Blogging workshop for ESL Teachers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1yl

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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