For the market explorer who is devoted to discovering what parents really consider to be benefits, market research is the only tool required in order to create a client benefit map.
A massive ELT market research project, sampling 3,072 parents and adult students from Ierapetra to Orestiada took place during 2004. At the same time, a sample of 720 foreign language schools throughout the country also gave us a clear idea of how school owners actually deal with their market but also other productive forces of the ELT market, mainly publishers.
This time the business powwow column will not analyse market tendencies but provide you with the raw research material and, hopefully, some food for thought.
The research project took place from 17th January 2004 until 17th November 2004, with a special focus on the period of June to September of the same year.
Parents and adult students
47% of the sample came from the two major cities, Athens and Thessaloniki and 53% from the rest of the country. Out of the 3,072 questionnaires, 1,771 were completed by parents, 891 by adults without children and 410 by adults whose children have already joined the employment sector.
The level of education of these people was 18% senior-higher, 22% higher, 45% secondary and 15% basic, while 18% were from foreign/immigrant populations and 82% locals/Greeks.
Among children aged 8 to 17, 59% learn a foreign language at an independent FL school, 22% at a branch of a franchise chain, 17% take private lessons, 2% rely on the public education system solely, while 6% take private lessons while also studying at a FL school.
Among students aged 8 to 12, only 38% learn a second foreign language, while this percentage reaches 54% among students aged 12 to 17.
41% of the main (8-17) age group have a PC at home and 27% have easy access to the Internet, so the 69% of these students who expressed a high interest in computer lessons is not surprising.
As far as the criteria for choosing a FL centre are concerned, 33% pointed out the success rate of the centre, 74% proximity to residence, 81% cost and level of tuition fees, 76% admitted to base their decision on personal recommendations (word of mouth), only 21% on advertising and 18%, especially in the provinces, on social obligations and personal contacts with specific school owners.
The reasons that 17% of people choose private lessons are outlined by the 80% of them who replied that their children had been overloaded with work at their previous FL school, 92% who believe that their children enjoy better supervision, only 18% because of specific learning difficulties and 42% for reasons of prestige (because they can).
As far as the people who have chosen a chain are concerned, 87% of them said they trust that chains are better organised, and 45% that payment terms are more appealing.
What is really important is that 88% of those who chose an independent FL centre, 97% of those who chose a chain and 73% of those who chose private lessons never investigate the qualifications of the teachers and the methodological targets of the lessons provided.
Also, with a trust rating system from 5 (very poor) to 1 (excellent), the three categories of FL providers, excluding the public sector, were rated by their users as follows: Independent FL centres 3, chains 4 and private teachers 2.
They all agreed that the public sector is insufficient overall (31%), incapable of orientating students to the recognised international certificates (82%) and that public teachers are not interested enough (24%).
As far as learning difficulties are concerned, 91% had never been informed by anybody about such difficulties, and 96% had never experienced such problems with their own children. 62% would expect only the private sector to provide them with guidance, as 89% do not know for sure who they could ask.
77% of parents declared that they do not get enough regular updates on their children’s progress and only 17% of those parents admitted that they have not devoted enough time to respond to the school’s calls.
56% of parents do not identify a certificate with language acquisition, while 69% are not happy with language education in Greece, but believe that the service provided by an FL centre is the best they can get.
Quality in an FL school for parents is: close supervision of each student (98%), well-trained teachers (95%), frequent parent updates (85%), good books (61%), good, safe environment and organisation (87%), and a quality certificate (only 44%).
62% of parents do not know their children’s teachers and agree that maybe that is why they insist on the school owner teaching their children, and 91% do not know their children’s books but remember how much they paid for them.
Among parents 34% could not give us the name of a FL publisher, 7% knew Express Publishing, 28% Longman and 31% Oxford University Press.
Similarly, 18% knew about PALSO, 34% knew nothing about it and 48% knew the PALSO exams.
If foreign certificates stopped being recognised, 38% would still send their children to an FL centre, but the vast majority of them only after their children were aged 12 or over.
46% judge the language level of their children from how they respond to real life and time situations and only 12% from the child’s level of satisfaction or the school’s updates.
From the adults that participated in our market research, only 38% could speak a foreign language well, but 59% admitted that they would like to learn one or improve the one they speak. Unfortunately only 28% would like to learn a second one.
56% need to learn or improve a foreign language for work reasons, but 26% for the Internet. Only 11% require it for further studies.
44% would choose private lessons or a small group and only 21% an independent FL centre, while 27% believe that one major problem is that there are not enough adult-specialised teachers around.
Only 33% of the adult market declared themselves to be active PC users and 41% believe in computer-assisted learning, especially with the wide use of Internet resources. 81% of the adults had never heard of in-house funded training, but only 48% would be interested in finding out about it.
77% admitted that they would consider starting a foreign language and that the main criterion would be the funding.
Foreign Language Centres
Out of the 720 independent FL centres sampled, 170 had less than 70 students, 340 had from 70 to 150 students, 190 had from 150 to 400 students and 20 had more than 400 students.
Rating the biggest problems from 5 (not important) to 1 (major), overall they gave 2 to competition and field saturation, 2 to lack of adequate representation from their associations, 1 to private lessons, 2 to chain branches, 3 to demographic problems, 3 to the relation of low tuition fees against high expenses, 4 to non-paid fees, 4 to the public sector. However, 67% of school owners admitted to have actively given private lessons in 2004 themselves.
Their criteria in choosing books lie with marketing and support by the publishers by 91% and sample copy policy by 77%, while 24% pointed out the cost of books and 38% the methodology and CEF-R compatibility.
72% work with a maximum of 3 publishers, 21% with as many as they know well enough and only 7% say that they do not have any particular preferences.
As far as business practice is concerned, only 11% enjoy what we could call a “regular entrepreneurial fee”, while 47% admit that they need support with administrative and business organisation and planning and 79% with their marketing. 2% say they are satisfied enough but 8% see no future in the field. However, 64% are expecting the next generation in their family to take over in the next few years.
36% of the school owners teach from 15 to 25 hours weekly and 21% more than 25 hours weekly, while 45% of the total number does not use an accountant.
12% do not believe that anything could change in the long run in the ELT field, while 38% believe that market-driven major changes have already started to take place. Only 8% believe that publishers or foreign language certification providers can affect changes in the market.
55% of the school owners are initially interested in quality certification, but 81% of them only for marketing reasons and only 17% to enjoy the benefits of a better organised school.
88% of the school owners do not believe in collective representation any more as 62% are disappointed with the lack of focus.
72% of the school owners believe they are far better than their competition and only 2% admit to be average with lots of space for improvement.
Hyphen does not pass judgement on the above answers. We perceive the above map as a reality we all have to deal with and make the best of. We will be happy to send out the actual charts showing many more questions and answers and easy-to-read figures. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.