Stephen Greene

English Teaching: Recession proof?

How is the English langauge teaching profession going to cope with the recession?

It’s something I’ve heard from other teachers.  It’s something a lot of my non-teaching friends seem to believe.  It’s something I’ve even said myself as I am trying to convince myself I am in the right profession:

Teaching English is recession proof.  In the good times people need English and have the money to spend on teachers.  In the bad times, people are desperate for English to get or keep a job, so even if they don’t have the money, they’ll find it.

As the hard times seem to be hitting Brazil right now, we shall see if this is true.  My hunch, though, is that the industry is in for a hard time.

One reason that we might not be recession proof is that English isn’t only about jobs.  People choose to learn English for travel, for study, for the hell of it.  If money is short, then this becomes one part of discretionary spending that is easy to forgo, especially in the short term.  And it is very easy for the short term to become medium term and then long term.  And in the long term, we are all dead.

A Cautionary Tale from Curitiba

But even when English is about jobs, the money can soon disappear.

Here in Curitiba we are still trying to digest the news that HSBC is changing hands from the world’s global bank to Bradesco.  Of course, this change might have huge implications for the employees; are they going to lose their jobs?  Are they going to have to relocate?  Are they going to have new opportunities?

Because HSBC had their South American HQ in Curitiba, this change of ownership has ramifications for the city and businesses that supply the bank; not least among them the English teachers who were preparing the workers for life as part of an international bank that is now proudly national.

A few years ago, about 30% of my students came from HSBC.  More through luck than judgment, I only had one student from the bank a couple of weeks ago. As soon as the news of the sale was confirmed in the press, she cancelled her classes.  The same has happened to all of the schools that were set up near the different HSBC buildings in and around the city and the other private teachers who had been milking the money cow of HSBC.

I can take the hit of losing one student.  I am not sure what I would have done if I had lost 33% of my students alost overnight.  What would you do if you lost that amount, or more, of your income from teaching?

Nobody is quite sure what the effects are going to be.  Some teachers will drop their prices.  Others will leave the industry completely.  One thing is for sure, though, we will need a lot of coonvincing that we are in the right industry as things go from bad to worse.

What is it like in your city?  Have you noticed any difference in the numbers of students you have?  Have you heard stories from other teachers or institutions?  I’m really interested in reading your stories in the comments box below.


Everything Must Go by Molly (CC BY 2.0)

Closing Down by Stephen McCulloch (CC BY 2.0)

Recession Special by Jussi  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Stephen Greene

Stephen is a freelance teacher, trainer and editor. He has been teaching for over 20 years all around the world, but has been living and working in Curitiba, Brazil for the last 6 years. He writes self-indulging articles about all things associated with languages at

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