A message from the president. Towards a more collaborative relationship between schools and agents

Text by Paolo Barilari (President)

But when it comes to choosing a restaurant, do you still rely on trip advisor? I don’t.

You can never tell whether the many positive or negative reviews are authentic or are paid for by someone who intends to promote or destroy the reputation of a business.

It is of little importance, though.
Choosing a bad restaurant, whether you use trip advisor or follow your instinct, only jeopardises a few dozen euros and a few hours of your life.
Quite differently, the stake is higher when it comes to choosing the right school for a language course abroad.
If you rely on Google and search “English School in London” you will have hundreds of schools.
And if you visit their websites all of them seem to be beautiful and claim to be the best option on the market.

However, considerably higher sums of money are at stake here and not just a few dozen euros. But even more importantly, the education and future of young students.

Nevertheless, in the field of language courses abroad there is a reliable trip advisor, which consists of the intangible network encompassing the myriad of agencies that professionally and fairly help thousands of students who leave to study a foreign language every year.

In short, in a world showered with online information, be it true or false, professional guidance is fundamental to make the right decision.

This is why I’m not concerned about the future of agencies and of Educational Consultants. They still play a key role and are indispensable. And, apparently, schools are also aware of this.
But oftentimes the role of agents is not fully recognised by educational providers.
During B2B workshops all agents are held in high esteem by schools. But in everyday life, there’s no shortage of conflict and competition in the relationships between schools and agencies.

I’m thinking of the management of problems that may arise during a course, mainly related to accommodation and general welfare of students; I am also thinking of the management of repeat bookings. Lastly, thanks to my experience as an Italian agent, I’m thinking of those few cases – luckily – of schools that bypass agencies and contact directly public schools in foreign countries to form groups, or organise meetings of teachers and local students, which means becoming direct competitors of local agents.

We believe these practices to be unfair without a doubt.
The fear generated by the advent of the Internet in our sector has been quickly overcome; all of us, agents and schools, realised that the Internet could be a positive tool, which could make our job easier and strengthen our relationships.

Quite differently, unfair competition is a cloud that has no silver lining.

Felca strongly believes in working relationships between schools and agencies. This relationship is of paramount importance and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, is a loyal and productive one.
It is precisely for the sake of preserving and improving this relationship that I hope Felca, the International Federation of Agencies, and Gaela, the Global Alliance of Education and Language Associations, in the near future will sit at a table to analyse and tackle the few but critical points that might arise in the relationship between agents and schools, two players with the same purpose: offering the highest quality of services.



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