Are my posts so boring I don’t even get flamed?
As a hagwon owner I do need to understand where the whole industry in Korea is going, or I might find myself holding an empty box in my hand.
The ESL industry is moving quite organically to younger and younger generations, and even though at this point, adults might be a profitable market, I see it drying up very fast.
Korean parents have it right on that account, the younger you start with investing in English education, the cheaper it becomes in the long run. So yes, Korean parent are giving a damn about the costs involved with educating their children.
Public schools can go two ways at this point, depending on the long term strategy of the government and since there are new elections coming up it will be anyone’s guess. Either the government understands the need for their population to increase their language ability, and will provide cash to do so. The problem here is that a lot of governmental officials have absolutely no clue about education, and rather letting a few specialized, experienced educational experts assist in deciding what investments will perform the best, they prefer to make a public showcase, throw a lot of money, get some articles written and do a shit job of following up with the actual investment. You guessed it, a waste of money. Which is fine for me, as long as the government keeps messing up, I got a future with my school. The moment I see the government taking real steps to improve their educational system, rather then painting over the old one, might be the time I need to rethink my business model. The other choice is simply cut costs, which might be the more effective strategy. Instead of inundating the market with too much cash, keep it real. Keep the investments on a need to have basis, and find alternative, more efficient ways to instruct children to learn English. This strategy also is in my benefit, since it will provide a very good basis for all students to learn English, but can never give a competitive edge on the labor market.
Private schools, I do think in the long run, private (expensive) schools will take over the ESL market, by providing English in class. Their only problem is that governments are scrutinizing them, and might cut it short enforcing rules to reduce their effectiveness. Which again is fine by me ….. Due to this increased attention and supply of these international schools, hagwons like mine will have to focus more and more on getting these kids INTO these schools, or supporting the kids who are already in, but are at a disadvantage. We will have a support role, not a leading role.
Where do we stand? We are standing in a market that is increasingly diverse and suffering from overcapacity. But all is not so bad. International schools are limited due to the heavy investments costs, and it will only increase the demand for English education …. at a younger age.
I already focus part of my attention to the Pre-elementary market, it so happens that they remain in my classes for longer, which in effect reduces my need to advertise. Since they stay longer, the results are also clearer coming from a specific source, rather than a collection of educational backgrounds. If you run a hagwon, aimed at Elementary students, you cannot forget about those who will become elementary students. You need to get them in and ease them into your system of teaching.
I can honestly say that teachers who only want to teach adults will have a harder and harder time to find a job. Not only is profitability low due to their lack of commitment, but the children who are becoming adults already have a good command of English. Those that don’t, are out of the running anyway, and mediating them will require a huge investment on their part, and they already don’t make much money.
The ESL market is already stabilizing, Growth is not to be expected (except maybe in some very specific areas) , and Koreans are becoming increasingly Bilingual.
The only choice I see is to offer services to young children, that to me seems the only viable long term strategy to develop.