24 nov 2016 Basic Principles for Applied ELT Management in Brazil
According to ABF (Brazilian Franchising Association) there are currently 35 franchisors specialized in offering English teaching services. Some franchises have a staggering number of one thousand schools each. There are also countless independent teaching institutes in the market, employing a massive amount of education professionals. Yet, for all that, Brazil is still lagging behind the race for proficiency. One of the reasons is that basic management processes are overlooked. This article aims to shed light on how schools can maximize chances of success through rational planning and management.
Management may be seen as the process of controlling the delivery of a service taking into account the company’s beliefs and clients’ needs. It is the process of ensuring that the final client (students) will get what they paid for (educational services). For the sake of the brevity, I chose four aspects never to be forgotten or overlooked. By no means is this an exhaustive set, albeit these are extremely important beacons in any solid school.
Mission and values
Mission and values are the principles and goals that will make up the schools’ DNA. Those vary greatly but one aspect in common is that in times of great challenges or tough decisions, such principles will determine the path to be chosen, especially because the management and decision making processes are considerably more straightforward when you know where you are going (Impey, 1994)
Sound recruitment process
A clear recruitment process is key to having not only high-level professionals but also ones in line with the school’s values and mission. Therefore, the recruitment process needs to bear in mind technical and competency driven aspects. Most schools focus only on technical elements. Quite a few have a thorough hiring program focused on technical and soft skills.
Pre service training
Even when teachers have initial teaching certificates like the CELTA, pre-service training is paramount to ensure that the teaching staff will be in line with the institute’s view of the teaching process. Moreover, even when teachers have high level teaching certificates, it doesn’t hurt sharing experiences, recycling some old kept teaching practices and make sure that new teachers are methodologically better equipped to step into the classroom. On another line, the school’s culture and perception of the teaching process ought to be the heart and soul of pre service training.
Class observation program
If lessons are not observed, chances are that teachers are not getting proper feedback and continuing professional development is slowed down. One may well say that the best CPD is the one through observable practice in the classroom. Thus, if lessons are not observed by a peer, the coordinator or the institute’s teacher trainer, there is probably considerable bias affecting reflection upon the teaching practice. As Penny Ur once wrote, “It has been said that teachers who have been teaching for twenty years may be divided into two categories: those with twenty years’ experience and those with one year’s experience repeated twenty times.” (Ur, 1996: p.317)
Efficient management and control tools
Education managers ought to constantly analyze lesson delivery, dropout rates, students’ satisfaction, mouth-to-mouth advertisement, and assessment performance, to name a few. This can be done through official satisfaction surveys, reports and systems that generate dashboards. Norton & Kaplan (1992: p71.) endorses this point as follows:
“For the complex task of navigating and flying an airplane, pilots need detailed information about many aspects of the flight. They need information on fuel, air speed, altitude, bearing, destination, and other indicators that summarize the current and predicted environment. Reliance on one instrument can be fatal. Similarly, the complexity of managing an organization today requires that managers be able to view performance in several areas simultaneously.”
The process of ensuring that final clients get what they are looking for in the context of English teaching in Brazil is not only timely, it is a must. This is not achieved by an agenda full of good intentions. In line with this, Drucker (2008: p. 167) states that:
“Many brilliant people believe that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work.”
Educational managers ought to understand the processes that will deliver educational services delivery as expected. Not an easy task but perhaps the only task that really matters for any English school that aspires to survive the cutthroat competition in the Brazilian market.
Drucker, P. (2008). Management Challenges for the 21st Century. Harper Collins, New York, NY
Impey, G., Underhill, N. (1994) The ELT manager’s Handbook. Heineman, Oxford, UK
Norton, D., Kaplan, R. (1992) The balanced scorecard-measures that drive performance. Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 1992, (n. p.)
Ur, Penny. (1996) A Course in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge