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The evolution of ELT

English language training is one of the motors of the globalisation process and a multi-million dollar industry. How did the industry evolve and where did it start out? Amy Baker charts the rise of the ELT industry from visions of international understanding to the commercial reality of today's marketplace, and provides potted histories of some of the main ELT players.

There are many brands in English language teaching (ELT) that are recognisable because they have been a feature of the industry for decades. One of these is Bell International, which like many other schools, started out as the brainchild of one person. Like the eponymous Kaplan, Berlitz and King's English schools, the Bell schools were named after founder, Frank Bell.

Bell founded his first school in Cambridge, UK, in 1955 and his mission was similar to the ideals held among his peers: to ''promote international understanding by providing high quality English language training to students all over the world''. Bell is said to have been inspired to set up a language school during his time in a prisoner of war camp in Borneo during the Second World War, when he set up a university inside the camp.

At Eastbourne School of English in the UK, which is thought to be among the UK ELT forerunners, these same ideals were championed by Frances Batchelor in the pre-war years. Cecil Williamson at the school explains that Batchelor started Eastbourne School of English ''with the dream of encouraging young people of all nations to learn the English language and to foster friendship between nations of the world''.

Another factor that bolstered the development of the ELT industry in the early days was the prestige that was attached to second language acquisition at many universities. Oxford-based St Clares in the UK - which was originally known as the Oxford English Centre for Foreign Students - was set up in 1953 to offer, according to Ed Peters, Business Manager at the school, short-term courses for students to supplement their degree courses in their own country.

In Australia, the first private language school was established because of slightly different academic motivations: to attract international students to enter the Australian tertiary system. Sue Blundell at English Australia says, ''As far as we can gather, the first English language training institution was a private college - Woods English Teaching Laboratory in Sydney - established in 1965 at the suggestion, rumour goes, of the [government] to provide training for students preparing for university entrance.''

Meanwhile, in Malta, the first English language school in the country is widely considered to be NSTS English Language Institute, which was set up by a university department. Francis Stivala at the school relates, ''In 1954, the Student Representative Council of the University of Malta joined other European university student unions to develop student travel and exchanges as a means of promoting international understanding and peace after the devastating war years.'' He explains NSTS was set up as a student committee and, in 1963, English language courses were established ''as an activity to attract more of these visiting students''.

It is difficult to track down the very first English language schools in all markets, but our research indicates that one of the earliest schools on record, certainly one of the oldest schools still in operation, is Berlitz. Mike Palm at the company recounts that the school's founder, German Maximilian Berlitz, often travelled to Europe to demonstrate his Berlitz teaching method in the late 1800s, as well as to teach English to various students - such as Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1890, then emperor of Germany and King of Prussia. ''We know that in May 1900 there were Berlitz schools in 16 European countries,'' he says. The first Berlitz language school was established in 1878 in Providence, RI, USA.

In the UK, one of the earliest schools was the London School of English, set up in 1912. Timothy Blake at the school comments, ''The school was started by a Berlitz teacher called Alfred Larke, who rebelled against the Berlitz style. It started in premises in Oxford Street, opposite Berlitz.''

At around this time, English language teaching was offered in some form at a number of universities in the UK and the USA. Although it is difficult to ascertain the first university programmes in both countries, in the USA, Columbia University's Extension Teaching division in New York, NY, offered ''English for foreigners'' in 1911, ''the earliest year for which we can find records'', states David Quinn at the institution.

The first stand-alone ELT division of a US university, however, is widely acknowledged to have come into existence much later, in 1941. Joan Morley, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, confirms, ''In June 1941, by action of the Board of Regents, the English Language Institute (ELI) was established at the University of Michigan. The ELI programme [an intensive course of 25 hours per week] was the first ever offered on a university campus in the Western Hemisphere.''

Morley offers a fascinating insight into the reasons for the ELI's establishment, illustrating that politics also played a role in ELT evolution. She explains that the students enrolled in the first course were predominantly professionals - in medicine, law, engineering, finance, and psychology - who wished to undertake advanced study in the USA in their fields.

''They were all graduate-level students from Central and South America - Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela,'' recounts Morley. ''In fact, Michigan was chosen to serve the greater good of the political affairs of the USA. Specifically, the University of Michigan received its mandate to develop language and cultural programmes for Latin American professional personnel and students as a part of then-President Franklin Roosevelt's 'Good Neighbour Policy'.''

This was a policy to ''counter pre-World War threats of totalitarian takeovers in Central and South American countries and to strengthen ties with the United States, Canada, and Mexico,'' Morley adds.

The first language training departments at Canadian universities opened soon after, in 1942 at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton and Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. However, it was not until after the Second World War that private language teaching institutions started to appear more regularly around the world, capitalising on a new era of post-war prosperity and capacity for travel. In the UK, many more schools emerged during the 1950s, most of which were set up on a tight budget. In the case of the Oxford English Centre for Foreign Students, founders Anne Dreydel and Pamela Morris initially offered English language training in their own homes, or in a room provided by the British Council, relates Peters.

John Eckersley, one of the pioneers of the UK industry and the only director who is still involved with the running of a school - in this case, the Eckersley School of English in Oxford - points out, ''In the 1950s, it was pretty easy to start a language school. You found some premises, opened the doors and the students flocked in. There was a big demand from all Western European countries and Britain was the only country to come to.'' He points out, like Peters, that the au pair business was another factor that powered industry growth in the 1950s, ''so there was strong demand for part-time classes as well as full-time classes''.

Regulation and industry association came some time after that. Eckersley remembers, ''There were no Tefl courses or certificates, until John Haycraft started them at International House [in the UK], so you had to try and select teachers by interview and hope for the best.'' The first industry associations appeared in the 1960s: Arels for private language schools in the UK in 1960 and UCIEP for university and college programmes in the USA in 1967.

Other countries were a little behind the UK and the USA in terms of industry development. The first private English language school in Canada opened in 1962. Patrick Hyde-Clark, an immigrant to Canada from the UK, founded Greater Montreal Language School in that year, which was later sold, along with a second school in Toronto, to two young entrepreneurs, one of whom was David Diplock. The schools merged, rebranded as LSC, and Diplock is now sole owner of the company, which has branches in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

In Ireland, the first language school is thought to be the Language Centre, now known as the Language Centre of Ireland and still in operation. This was opened by Noelle Cleary in 1964. In 1965, two other schools opened, the English Language Institute and the Dublin Tuition Centre, which later became Dublin School of English. Ernie Crossen, Owner of the Dublin School of English, points out that ''by 1967, all three schools had Department of Education recognition for Teaching English as a Foreign Language,'' adding, ''There were also some summer schools in operation [at this time].''

New Zealand and South Africa were the last two countries to develop a private ELT industry. Dominion English School, which was set up in 1969, was the first in New Zealand, while in South Africa, the Cape Town School of English claims to be the first school of its kind, having been launched in 1990 and registered in 1991.

John Langdon, Managing Director of Dominion, remembers that New Zealand's ELT industry only really took off in the mid-1980s. ''I had just returned from my overseas experience, mainly teaching English at Berlitz in Paris, in 1969,'' he recounts. ''At first we had to do many things to survive. Occasionally a student would arrive off the street to learn English.''

The ELT industry has evolved considerably since those days. As Eckersley points out, ''a lot of big operators have come into the market''. Opinions are mixed about how onward development of the industry will manifest itself, but changes are certain. With a number of smaller schools approaching their 40th or 50th anniversaries, ownership of schools will be passed on to heirs or possibly sold to other companies. Scott Anderson of SES Folkestone in the UK - one of the founder members of Arels - underlines, ''The natural lifecycle of a family-run independent [school] is very much tied up with the longevity of its creator/s.''

Further new developments, other than ownership, will be in the geographical direction of school growth. A number of larger schools now have in-country operations, as well as schools in locations where the English language is spoken. Examples include Geos, which in fact started out in Japan; ACL in Asia; and St Giles, which has centres in Brazil. A further development among larger schools has been opening in-country offices to support agents. This is a business plan of Geos and EF, among others, and could become more widespread. Anders Ahlund at EF comments, ''Asia continues to have a growth that is stronger than Europe and South America. EF has a very strong presence in all Asia, with excellent networks of agents and support offices.'' Whatever direction industry growth takes, it seems clear that agents will remain pivotal to the prosperity of ELT schools in the future.

Company profile

Bell International
Frank Bell founded the first Bell Language School in Cambridge in 1955. In 1972, he established a charitable foundation, the Bell Educational Trust (now trading as Bell International). Its main aims remain to provide language education, mainly in English; to train teachers of English; and to offer experiences that will promote international understanding and intercultural exchange. Bell now has four main training centres in the UK and a centre in Malta that opened in 2001. Since 1981, the trust has operated overseas and is now an international training organisation with 25 teaching centres worldwide. Every year over 30,000 students choose to learn with Bell worldwide. Bell International also provides management, consultancy and project services to international organisations and governments.

Language Studies International (LSI) was founded in 1965 in the UK by a former army education officer. It was taken over a couple of years later by the owners of The Times & Sunday Times newspapers. They installed a state-of-the-art language laboratory in a re-launched school, but it was not a success and, in 1970, they sold the school to the father of the present Director, David Immanuel. Since that time, LSI has gradually expanded to the present 19 branches in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. LSI has recently formed an alliance with English Language Academy (ELA) in Malta. Currently between 12,000 and 14,000 students per year study English, French, German and Spanish at LSI schools worldwide.

Erhard Waespi, the founder of Eurocentres, set up the first school in Bournemouth in 1948 and then established a group of other language schools in Lausanne, Florence and Cologne. In 1960, Eurocentres became a foundation, with the backing of Migros, the Swiss retail giant. In the 1970s Eurocentres continued to expand, with a friendly takeover of Davies' Schools of English (1970) and schools in France and Spain. Today, the Eurocentres network has 30 schools teaching seven languages in 12 different countries in Europe, North America, Australia and Japan. Collectively, 16,000 students study at its schools per year. In 2005, Eurocentres is launching new schools in Brisbane, Cairns, Auckland and Valencia as well as establishing affiliates in Dublin, St Petersburg and Moscow.

Kaplan Inc.
From its humble beginnings as a one-to-one tutoring business in the USA in 1938, Kaplan was founded on the principle of helping students succeed. Founder Stanley Kaplan helped prepare students for standardised tests including the SAT, pioneering the test preparation industry in the USA. Kaplan expanded his operations nationally and in 1984, he sold his flourishing business to The Washington Post Company. In the early 1990s, an entrepreneurial team took the helm at Kaplan Inc. and the company entered into businesses such as post-secondary education, professional training and online learning. Kaplan began offering Toefl preparation courses and then expanded into offering general English courses. Today, Kaplan English Programs has schools in most major US cities.

Aspect Education, established over 35 years ago, is a group of 24 English language schools. Its origins date back to 1963, when two Swiss businessmen, Schiller and Scheller, formed Angloworld Travel, bringing students to the UK from Japan and Switzerland to study English. In 1972, they decided to open their own schools in Oxford, Cambridge, Bournemouth and London. Angloworld Education merged with Aspect, a group of US language schools, to form Aspect International Language Schools in 1991. In 2000, through a merger with International Language Academies - which had schools in Australia and New Zealand - Aspect became a global education company under the management of David Jones, former president of EF International Language Schools.

OISE Group
Till Gins, who still owns and manages the company, established the original Oxford Intensive School of English (OISE) in the UK in 1973. Branches of the school have since been opened in Bristol, Cambridge and London in the UK; Boston and San Francisco in the USA; Sydney, Australia; Madrid, Spain; Heidelberg, Germany; and most recently, Paris, France in 2000. The OISE group also owns other schools in the UK that continue to operate independently. These are Basil Paterson College in Edinburgh, Harven School of English in Woking, Central School of English in London, Newbury Hall in Newbury and Pilgrims in Canterbury, which joined OISE in 2003. ACE in Madrid, Spain, is also a member of the group. Approximately 12,700 students were taught across the OISE group in 2004.

Frederick Walter King and Robert Quinton Watts co-founded King's School of English in the UK in 1957 in Bournemouth. Upon King's retirement, sole ownership passed to Watts and the school is still owned by the Watts family. A London branch of the school opened in 1966 and a specialist school for junior courses opened in Wimborne in 1971. King's College, specialising in English for special purposes (which is no longer in operation), opened in Bournemouth in 1976 and St Joseph's Hall in Oxford, now known as King's Oxford, joined the group in 1987. The first King's College in Thailand opened in 1995, under the co-ownership of Mrs Watts. There are now five King's schools there. King's Canada was opened in 1999 by Mr Watts' oldest daughter and her husband.

ACL, Australia
Australian Centre for Languages (ACL) was established in 1987. Since its establishment, ACL has forged business relationships with institutions in Asia: in 1998, it established the Australian University Studies Program in Vietnam, in conjunction with Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City; in 2001, ACL, La Trobe University and Northern Melbourne Institute of Tafe established English International Pty Ltd to provide English language training to Chinese tertiary institutes; and in 2002 ACL established ACL English (Thailand) Ltd to operate English language centres and distribute ACL English to tertiary institutions in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. ACL, which is Australian owned and has the ANZ Banking Group as a shareholder, accepted over 16,000 enrolments in 2003/04.

Geos Corporation was founded in Tokushima, Japan in 1973, with a single school opened by now-Chief Executive, Tsuneo Kusunoki. Geos expanded rapidly, opening schools throughout Japan. International expansion began in Vancouver, Canada in 1987, and New York, USA and Brighton, UK in 1989. With the goal of further improving service, Geos created a network of international support offices, starting with the establishment of Geos International Korea in 2001. Geos now has support offices in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico and the Czech Republic. It has plans for schools and support offices in Russia, Spain, Slovakia and Italy. Today, Geos teaches over 100,000 students through a network of 557 schools in 17 different countries.

Study Group
Study Group began life as British Study Group, a privately owned company, in 1996, joining UK schools Embassy Language Centres and Bellerby's Colleges under common ownership. This was followed in 1997 and 1998 by an aggressive acquisition strategy in Australia and the USA, resulting in the formation of Study Group International. In 1998, the company was acquired by the Daily Mail & General Trust. In 2001, the company was rebranded as Study Group. Acquisition continued in 2001 and 2002 with new centres opening in Vancouver, Canada and Auckland, New Zealand. The Study Group chain now numbers 25 teaching centres in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. Approximately 36,000 students studied with Study Group in 2004.

St Giles International
The first St Giles College was founded in 1955 in central London by Paul and Diana Lindsay. The school was so-named because it was located near St Giles Circus. It consisted of just two rooms - an office and a classroom. Paul Lindsay was the teacher and Diana was the secretary. Since then the organisation has grown in the UK, USA, and Brazil with schools opened in Brighton in 1969, London Highgate in 1973, Eastbourne in 1979, San Francisco in 1982, London Central in 1987, Sao Paulo in 2001 and Campinas in 2004. The two schools in Brazil are joint ventures between St Giles and Central de Intercambio. The St Giles Group is still family-owned. In 2004, around 9,000 students from more than 90 different countries attended one of the St Giles schools around the world.

The Regent School of English was first established in London in 1964, offering general English and summer vacation courses. In 1978, Regent Brighton was acquired. Then, in 1992, the company diversified successfully into foreign language training under the name Regent Foreign Languages. In 1994, the Regent Group merged with the Godmer House Group to form Regent Language Training. The Godmer House School of English in Oxford, founded in 1953, became Regent Oxford and Fitzroy College, Margate, founded in 1969, became Regent Margate. Between 1995 and 2003, Regent Home Tuition was launched, Regent Edinburgh and Regent Cambridge were acquired and Regent Trebinshun in Wales joined the group. In 2004, Regent taught around 7,500 students.

EF was founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult, who still owns the group. He started by accompanying young students from Sweden to the UK during the summer to study English and live with a host family. Soon the programme became so popular that he opened offices in other Scandinavian countries. EF now has 90 offices in over 45 countries, agents and representatives in around 100 countries and 30 language centres that teach the native language. EF is opening three more centres this year, in Brisbane, Manchester and Torquay. EF also has franchise operations that teach English in non-English language destinations around the world. In total, 200,000 people are taught a language through EF each year. In 2005, EF is celebrating 40 years as a leader in the educational field.

EC Group
EC School was established in Malta in 1991 by Marguerite Mangion of Chiswick House School, in response to a growing demand for quality language schools on the island. EC's initial aim was to provide holistic quality English language programmes to its students and to focus on attracting those students through agent networks, a goal it achieved by 1996. In 1997, Andrew Mangion took over as Chief Executive. EC chose to expand through acquisition and acquired schools with similar ideals, including House of English in Brighton in 2002 and Cambridge Centre for English Studies in Cambridge in 2004; becoming EC Group. In 2004, the company hosted over 11,000 students in all its schools and it has plans for further growth in 2005 with new centres in the UK and Malta in the pipeline.

Maximilian Berlitz opened his first school in the USA in 1878. He opened a second in Boston, MA in 1881 and then, in 1888, launched a school in Berlin, Germany. Between 1900 and 1914, Berlitz schools appeared in four different continents. In 1966, Berlitz was bought by Macmillan Inc. and in 1988, Maxwell Communication Corporation took over Macmillan. In 1989, Berlitz International, Inc. went public. In 1993, Fukutake Publishing, now Benesse Corporation, acquired a majority share in Berlitz. In 1996, Berlitz launched its franchise programme, and in 1997, it acquired ELS Language Services, which has locations throughout the USA. In 2001, Benesse took 100 per cent ownership of the company. In 2004, Berlitz taught around 200,000 students in 500-plus locations in 63 countries.

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