Mandarin Language Schools and Student Welfare

20 May

A holistic perspective on education is extremely important for both student welfare and academic performance. For this reason it is similarly important that at least one person has a multi dimensional management role in any study abroad program.

I am one of the people in charge of a language school in Beijing, China. My job is strange because it involves so many different tasks that on the surface have very little to do with each other. My assignments can be roughly divided into two categories. The first is student satisfaction: to make sure that every student enjoys their stay in China, both during class and during their spare time. The second category is marketing. At first glance it may be not be intuitive that customer happiness has much do with sales, which literally covers everything: from medical visits (if a students gets ill), to counseling (if a student misses their home) to making sure that the welcome party is great kick off to everyone’s time in China. Sales on the other hand mainly involve supervising the massive array of part time employees around the world. I will however argue that for language studies, having a person in charge of both aspects is essential.

The reason that language studies abroad are different from most products is that such a service does not only involve learning a language. The scope of such a service is almost limitless. Any teacher will tell you that peace of mind is essential to academic performance. A student needs to be happy in order to do well. If we were consider the service only as an academic element the academic results of students would be much lower.

The reason that this is distinction is crucial is this: one can test academic results and put them on paper by simply issuing a test at the end of each month. General well being and happiness is however much trickier. In my experience it is absolutely necessary to have a person on the ground, talking to people and observing how people behave in order to assess this, as well as to solve problems that stand in the way of achieving this.

As a sales executive one needs to have a different agenda than a sales representative. Sales representatives incentives are such that each sale matter much more than the long-term viability of the product. If one sales person over-sells a product it will not hurt them, but it will hurt the company. This moral hazard needs to be tightly controlled by a person that is not dependent on each sale but on the long-term satisfaction of the average student. Therefore a sales executive need to have insight into that long-term satisfaction.

Because language studies is a service that have a dimension of quality that can not be tested simply by giving a test, or by some other cardinal scale, the connection between this insight and the over all supervision of the sales force is very important.

Outside this discussion there is another very important aspect of this dual role. The quality of the language course is also a moral responsibility. If someone buys a hamburger at MacDonald’s it really is not that big of a deal if it does not taste as good as it looks on the picture. People can return it and if they don’t want to make a fuss, they have only lost a small amount of money. If a person buys a Mercedes in their home country and it does not perform as advertised, it is a much bigger deal, but there is a procedure in place to solve this issue. The customer can simply return the car. For a young person that decides to come to China this equation is completely different. The money is of relatively diminutive importance as a factor here. If a person is new to a country it can of course be a very difficult time, a proper support network needs to be in place to handle culture shock. To have a person steering the sales force with not insight into the complexity of how people actually experience the service when happiness and welfare is at stake seems to me as a very morally ambiguous.

For this reason it is key that the skipper of a Chinese language school also have a say in matters of welfare provisions.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin language Academy in Beijing that is a great option for those that want to learn Chinese Mandarin. If you are interested in more information about learning Mandarin in China, please consult the website of Beijing Gateway Academy.

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