Both have their perils and pitfalls, and I’ve heard bad from teachers who’ve worked at both. I’m pretty sure the kid’s schools are where EF makes most of their money, and I’ve talked to teachers who are convinced that the adult schools will eventually fail. I’m not so sure about that, but it’s obvious to me that both types of schools are unique, but incredibly mismanaged.
When I started working for EF in the summer of 2010 they had 4 kid’s schools in the city. By the time I left them in 2013 they had just opened their 7th kid’s school. That might not sound like too much expansion over a three-year period, but it soon became obvious it was more than EF could keep up with. Some schools had very few students and their teachers sat around most of the time doing Oral Placement Tests (OPT). OPT is when a parent brings in their kid and you ask them a series of questions to try and gauge what level their English is at.
The real joke about the OPT tests were that most of the time it would be brand new teachers doing them, or else the Chinese managers. There are two things wrong with this. New teachers often don’t know anything about teaching English, what the EF materials are like for the different levels, or how to talk to a Chinese student. Invariably these students would be put into the wrong leveled class, causing numerous behavioral and learning problems.
The main reason this is done is because the scheduling by the Directors of Studies (DOS) at EF is so bad. They have no open classes to put these new teachers in, but instead of moving a more experienced teacher out to do these test, they let the new guys handle it. It just creates more problems long-term, but you’ll quickly find that EF is a company that thinks very short-term.
When the Chinese managers gave the OPT tests you could be sure they’d put that kid into whichever class would ensure the sale. If they felt that putting the student into a higher-level class would make the parent happy, they’d do it, knowing they’d get that extra sale, perhaps a commission, and a better chance for advancement. Again, for teachers this just created more problems than it was worth.
Many of the older schools, like the one I had worked at for 3 years, had far too many students, but management refused to stop enrolling students, transfer some students, or do anything to the classrooms to hold the extra students, which the schools simply became physically incapable of accommodating. Doing OPT therefore almost seemed like a way to shoot yourself in the foot, but of course if you refused you’d be given a warning, written up, and then fired. Most people fell into line.
There are several adult schools in Shenzhen, probably the same number as there are kid’s schools. I’ve talked with several teachers who’ve worked at these schools and they all tell me the same thing: it’s nothing more than a competition among teachers to see who can sleep with the most students.
Now, of course there’s going to be female teachers, but I got the impression that most were males. Even the DOS’s would be in on the ‘pussy fest,’ as one teacher called it, which most certainly didn’t do anything to improve office morale in my opinion. Most of the time female students would invite their male teachers out to coffee with the hopes of getting free lessons. Many times that would turn into the two of them starting a relationship, however short that might be. As far as I could tell, while at kid’s school the management’s focus was always on money, at the adult schools it was always on sex.
Classes at adult schools are also much larger then the classes at the kid’s schools. When I first started at a kid’s school we weren’t required to be there 40 hours a week, although people working at adult schools routinely were. By my last year at EF this had changed and all of the teacher’s at the kid’s schools were putting in close to 40 hours a week, and many of them more if they wanted to plan decent lessons.
While both kid’s schools and adult schools operate in their own spheres, never coming into contact with one another except for a year-end party, the problems that both face are very similar. And those problems can mainly, in my opinion, be traced to the poor management of the company, at all levels.