There's a bright future for ELT in the UK – but mostly for high-quality centres prepared to innovate to meet the needs of their students, English UK's Academic Conference will be told.
ELT consultant Michael Carrier will say there's "a bright future for UK ELT because global demand is growing... there's going to be new areas of demand, new geographical sources of students, new niches of language learning... there are lots of reasons running a language centre should be profitable and exciting opportunity in the next ten or 20 years."
However, he predicts a "shakeout" for centres doing "low-quality bargain basement general English" where "high-quality providers, people who are focused on their customers' needs in a truly 21st century way will continue to be successful."
He will give his talk, Reasons To Be Cheerful, on Friday 19 January, the management-focused day of the London conference. Saturday 20 January is focused more on teachers, and you can book for either or both days.
Key to the future is how innovative schools can be, he says, citing a Harvard Business School quote that successful companies sell what people want, not what they produce.
"In some parts of ELT there isn't enough customer orientation, enough focus on putting yourselves in the shoes of potential students and their sponsors to ask what they actually want and why they consider coming to the UK. What drives them to do that, and spend all that money?
"I think there needs to be a new focus on what students will gain from coming to the UK," he said, arguing that a large proportion of teacher training focuses on methodology, which isn't of interest to most students, rather than getting to think about what students hope to achieve for themselves by flying around the world for an ELT course. He also believes the subject matter in many textbooks is too focused on the social and too little on the professional and the world of work.
"ELT is a life-changing moment for most people but I don't think people in the industry think about it in those terms. We think about it in terms of how we are going to provide lessons, which materials we'll use how we structure accommodation and what exams we'll put them in for.
"We don't think about life-changing aspects of what we do. Are we talking about how to integrate the English we teach you with the world of professional engagement, of work? I don't think we think about that sufficiently and most teachers haven't worked in other industries so don't connect. Why are people learning English? What are they learning it for? We need to change our mentality a little bit and that means being innovative in programme design and materials."
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