“Gessha Sei” is Japanese for “monthly tuition”. It is important for us Smith’s franchisees. We are monthly tuition based schools.
Recently one of the big corporate schools was required to cease entering into contracts which exceed 1 year for six months due to their practices of charging high fees up front for lessons that students sometimes had difficulty to take due to a lack of available lesson times. Many students were unable to take lessons when they wanted due to a lack of teachers or classes at the appropriate levels despite the promise to allow the students to take classes virtually anytime they want. Also they could not get their money all back when they asked to quit. This fact may not have been fully explained to the students when they signed up.
This particular school is one of the largest in the Japan and has taught English to nearly a million Japanese customers. So I am sure that they have provided and continue to provide very good teaching service. However, their business case is based on the up-front purchase of months or years of tickets or points. The problem with such a payment system is that students’ lives change and they cannot always continue without interruption and if the school has a shortage of teachers or available classes at the appropriate level for the students, this kind “lack of fulfillment” problem can happen.
So how is Smith’s different. Well in my opinion, we are world’s apart in terms of how much we care about the students and the improvement of their English, but the following are the most important for our current and potential students related to tuition how much we care.
1) We collect tuition only one month in advance. This fits the lifestyles of most Japanese students.
2) Most SMITH’s schools are teacher-owned so we take more interest in our students and meeting their needs. We do not get a salary for 30 hours of work and then not have to worry if the student does not come back. We know that our effort to make the lesson fun and beneficial for the student keeps them coming back and we know that we must continue to do a good job or we will lose students. This benefits the students tremendously and can be a selling point for us as well.
3) We cannot afford to do TV ads. In fact it is hard to believe how any English Conversation school, no matter how large, can make enough money to afford to do such ads in Japan. Normal payments from students could not derive enough for most schools to afford to do TV ads. We are not collecting money for which the student will not get any benefit due to scheduling problems. We will teach all lessons owed to a student. Money received for lessons not taught may allow the larger schools to be able to do the TV ads or they may have another related and very profitable branch of the business to cover such costs. In any case, given their extremely high costs of being conveniently located near the local stations and high sales personnel costs etc., it is hard to see how they could afford such expensive TV ads or large scale print ad campaigns. However, if they can afford to do it, more power to them, I guess. So “Gessha Sei” refers to a monthly tuition-based system and this best fits the lifestyles of Japanese students of English conversation. In fact the “gessha” based system is the traditional way of paying for all kinds of lessons in Japan so Smith’s method of payment is in line with Japanese tradition. It is well understood and accepted by Japanese students. I think that Smith’s has chosen the right way. And I believe that our students will agree.
Al Bartle (Smith’s School of English – Okamoto)
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