The State of the Business of TEFL in the Czech Republic

I was fortunate to be riding the crest when the first wave of native-speaking English language teachers surged into post-communist Czechoslovakia. I guess I was just in the right place in life at the right time in history. From my beginnings in Usti nad Labem and throughout my career in Vsetin, it has been fascinating to witness the process of political and social change in this country, the country that has recently been officially dubbed “Czechia”. However, the metamorphoses in this country have not been confined to the socio-political sphere – I have also witnessed and, in one small corner of the country, taken part in changing the landscape of the language teaching business.

At this point I must admit that, as I share my experiences and observations, I am doing so in an attempt to change the landscape yet a little more. Having worked  the vast majority of my career in the insular region of Wallachia, and with an important project ready to be launched which represents my life’s work, I am actively trying to reach out and make contacts with like-minded ELT professionals who share a need and an ambition to raise the bar. (If you are interested in learning more about our project, please message me or click to go to the web page.)

So, I’ll begin where the bulk of my own experience lies – teaching English as a foreign language in a small town. Despite having undergone significant, but gradual, transformations over the past two and a half decades, the business of language teaching is alive and well in small-town Czech Republic. Since the 90s, teaching activities have moved from a concentration on public evening language courses to the current and ever growing emphases on private, corporate and specialized courses. Concurrently, corporate clients have naturally become increasingly results-oriented demanding that employees, as well as teachers and schools, be held more accountable for attendance and learning.

Furthermore, competition has become much more intense. Curiously, however, schools and freelance teachers in regions such as the one I teach in have enjoyed relatively little pressure from the outside. Schools and agencies based in larger centres have not effectively penetrated these markets – it is possible that outsiders lack the necessary local history or personal contacts with potential clients; maybe they do not have access to good, reliable, local teachers; or perhaps they are simply not all that interested. Additionally, since such towns are “off the radar” for travelling teachers, as compared to well-known destinations such as Prague, the threat of a roving competitor wandering into town and undercutting prices is not a major issue. So, the main sources of competition tend to come from within and, as a result, tuition fees have remained relatively stable over the past 15 years or so.

For schools and freelance teachers in these markets, the main concerns are simply protecting or expanding market share and maintaining or improving the bottom line. However, they still must consistently improve the quality of their services to keep pace and vigilantly keep potential outside competitors at bay by maintaining strong communications and ties with local clients while effectively managing their time and costs.

Reportedly, the situation in larger centres is a slightly different story. It seems that established language schools are under constant pressure from freelance teachers. The sheer quantity of native-speaking EFL teachers, qualified or otherwise, who have landed in Prague, for instance, has driven tuition fees down and made it difficult for many schools to compete on price. This would point to the fact that in order to compete effectively, aside from these schools needing to be more efficient, clients must be made to perceive added value when contracting the services of established language schools or higher priced freelancers.

Giving added value to the client could be achieved in a number of ways: by providing enhanced communications with clients; by helping learners to learn more intensively, e.g. outside of the classroom; by improving the quality of teachers and teaching; and by maintaining better control over teaching activities and course continuity, just to name a few. Moreover, managers of language schools, and especially those with remote branches or sub-contracted teachers, need to know what is happening in remote locations in real time.

All of the challenges and issues mentioned above are among those that we are resolving with the launch of our new project. We have designed a solution that comes from language teachers and that cuts across all levels of the language-learning ladder. It is a solution that will help any provider of language teaching services, from large agencies needing to remotely monitor teaching activities and communicate with clients, right down to freelancers who would like to save time when preparing lessons and looking for resource materials.

LAMPA (Lesson & Activity Management, Planning & Access) is an Internet-based networking solution for language schools, teachers, students and clients that saves time, increases efficiency and improves lesson quality – it facilitates teaching, the management of lessons and materials, client communications, and it ensures course continuity.

LAMPA is a FREE resource available to language schools of all sizes and freelance language teachers. Big city or small town, the system will help those of us in the language teaching business compete on a higher level.

Please take a moment to let us know if you would like more information. Click here to go to the website and then scroll down to watch the video.

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