From the horse’s mouth – New World vs ELTJuly 31, 2005
By now everyone is aware of the feud between the well established ELT Institute, and the newly arrived New World Institute. It’s a battle royale, the prize being the lucrative business of Cambodia’s academia.
Within 440′s Forum, there has been some debate from teachers and their friends about the two schools. Now it’s time to hear from the people who will decide the outcome themselves – the students.
First, some background.
ELT Institute has been the longest running and perhaps the most successful English private schooling establishment in Phnom Penh. It’s Chinese owners have used a variety of marketing strategies to promote itself and secure the lions share of the city’s affluent students within its walls. It has used TV, radio, networking, and even hit the streets, handing out pamphlets in all the places kids can be found.
Its Chinese owners have cleverly associated themselves with dignitaries, embassy officials, and international universities. And despite having a collection of comedic characters as deputy directors, who were responsible for managing the hands-on side of the business, the school seems to have ‘forrest gumped’ its way to the top of the pile.
NWI is the new dog in town, and has done everything to make a huge impact with its arrival. It is in brand new premises, with new equipment, a library, and computer room. The facilities are second to none, and appeal to the Khmer ideal of whatever looks the best must be the best.
The school has realised what ELT long ago recognised as the secret to securing more and more students. Reputation. The biggest asset of any school is its teachers. A good teacher will quickly have his class double in size after just one term, bringing more business to the school. A popular teacher means money. NWI has cleverly poached all of the ‘top’ teachers from around the city, a tactic that is sure to conversely affect ELT’s own reputation.
Instead of forging out its own customer base, NWI has blatantly targeted ELT’s..
NWI offered free classes to all of ELT’s students. There were limited places available, and once the offer was made, the students came running like bulls on the streets of Spain.
Students were required to first complete an entry exam, at a cost of $1, to qualify for their places. The extra expense was felt by some, as not all of the students are from the rich elite, but it was promised to be refunded from their school fees, should they be successful in their exam.
The free classes were quickly filled, which left a large amount of students who wanted to follow their friends to the new school. Remaining classes were sold to these students at a 30% discount.
Interestingly, some students have astutely chosen to study at both schools. Rather than take their chances at a new school, they have enrolled in both of the schools, and throughout the course of the first term they are deciding which school is better.
They are also fearful of sending a message of disloyalty to ELT, should they need to return to the school again in the future.
Students who have moved to New World are very happy. The facilities are fantastic, complete with library and internet. The internet access is fast and the computers are loaded with self-development programs for the students such as grammar, vocabularly, and general knowledge tests.
The rooms are spacious and the students feel comfortable.
There has been much word about town of the quality of NWI’s teachers. The students certainly feel they have the best of all the teachers in Phnom Penh.
Whilst NWI is currently using the same books as ELT, next term the General english classes will change to ‘New Interchange’ and the higher level Speaking and Listening classes will use ‘Let?s talk.’ The students are excited about the new course material.
Not all things are peaches and cream at NWI though. The normal problems brought about by inexperienced or sub-standard teachers still exists.
One foreign teacher recently blew his stack, losing his temper at students for returning late back from a break. His angry tirade scared the hell out of the students and resulted in the entire class moving back to ELT.
Another student reported that when she turned up to class on the first day, she found her teacher was the same Khmer ELT teacher that she had changed schools to avoid.
Of the students that have remained at ELT, some are there because of close ties to the management, or friends thereof. Others are there because they were too scared to move, and others only because they missed out on the free or discounted classes. They certainly feel poorer by the loss of all their teachers to NWI, and are still toying with the idea of moving across to NWI in the future.
In response to the NWI challenge, ELT have quickly moved to build a new internet room and library, though it is still not yet up and running. Still, it marks an improvement from the non-existent facilities that they have long claimed to have on their website.
Meanwhile, a certain Madame can be heard bitching and whining to all the street side sellers who are bored enough to listen about how unfair and horrible the owner of NWI is, and how she is going to do everything she can to have them shut down.
We are yet to see the outcome of this battle. Some say there ‘can be only one’, and the school that wins will flourish, leaving the school that loses to perish. Others believe there is room in the market for two big names, offering essentially the same education, but appealing to different personal preferences within the same market.
Time will tell.