Why schools[edit source]
Somewhat ironically, the purpose of many language schools is not to teach languages. This often comes as a surprise to people new to the profession, but many of the actions of language some schools can only be fully understood once this point has been grasped.
The purpose of language schools is, naturally enough, to make money - and most of their activities are geared towards this primary goal. Teachers and their salaries may be regarded as a necessary evil, and schools may do all they can to employ the minimum number of staff at the minimum possible salary. This may mean regularly changing teachers if the "old hands" start to realise their worth and demand more money. It also explains why some schools are keen on their students learning via computers. Computers don’t need to be paid, don’t take time off sick, get pregnant or need holidays. Whether they are the best solution for students is another matter.
Although there are certainly some honest well-run schools, cowboy outfits are by no means uncommon.
In any event, you won’t get rich working for a language school.
Most schools will have their teachers teach from a coursebook. Finishing the coursebook within the allocated time is usually regarded as vital by both schools and students.
"Finishing the coursebook" is regarded as being equivalent to "learning the language" and this "success" means the student is more likely to sign up for the next year’s course.
It can be seen that "finishing the coursebook" keeps both the students and the school happy, and consequently there is significant pressure on teachers to get through the book in the time allotted - usually regardless of the students' needs, attendance records, or true academic advancement.
Schools will initially put students in levels which reflect their ability. If the student stays at the school for some time, and consequently finishes a series of coursebooks, he or she will move up through the levels. This will frequently result in students being placed in classes far above their ability, as both they and the school have confused "finishing the coursbook" with "learning the language". This results in classes which are increasingly difficult to teach.
Schools could, of course, insist that students pass qualifying exams to change levels - and some do. But as long as the student is paying money, the tendency is to be fairly generous in the marking and let them through.
External exams[edit source]
Although most schools will give students their own home-made certificates if the student has paid money, attended some classes and finished the coursebook - things are not so cosy if the students have to pass external exams. It is frequently at this point when students (or their parents) discover that not everything in the garden is quite so rosy and the search for guilty parties begins.
Cowboy outfits[edit source]
See main article Cowboy outfit.
Some schools are beyond the pale and are nothing more than cowboy outfits.