Joined: 19 May 2009
|Posted: Sat Feb 28, 2015 9:00 am Post subject: WARNING!!!!! Kaplan Changsha Center
|First let me apologize for not writing this sooner and for the length but it has taken me almost a year to cool down enough so I would write as an objective review as possible... That being said this won't be pretty...
Kaplan itself has many issues but one issue I can give them positive marks for is high pay and getting paid on time... Unfortunately the Changsha center has been in financial trouble going on 6 years and as of last contract cycle were offering below Kaplan's stated salaries which are published on their website. The reason for this besides financial problems at the center is this is the only Kaplan center that is privately owned. The owner simply sends Kaplan a licensing fee to be able to use their name and offer the NCUK foundation program.
I've been teaching in China for the past 6 years teaching English, Business, Economics, Math and Research Methods. I worked at the Changsa Center for 1 and 1/2 years and is the only place I've worked where I received a poor recommendation (even though after my first short term contract I was asked to come back for another year) at the end of the yearly term.
The main thing I want to relay to anyone contemplating working at this center is the absolute incompetence of the Chinese staff (SABRINA and her husband MR. ZHAO are not included they are AMAZING) and the FAO in particular Philip. Philip is a dishonest lying individual who not only blames the foreign staff for the poor performance of the students THEY recruit but actually tried to sabotage my ability to get another job by not providing me with a release letter after I fulfilled my contract and told my current employer I had a drinking problem and shouldn't be hired. Luckily for me my current employer didn't listen to him and the funniest thing is I don't drink. Philip is one of the most incompetent people I've ever come across that is managing any type of business.
Another problem with this center is the students who are recruited. The program is a 1 year foundation program with NCUK in the UK and if a student can pass the course they have the opportunity for admittance to roughly 17 different universities (i.e. Leed's, Brighton, etc). Because the center has been sliding downhill for the past 6 years (going from an enrollment level of around 50-80 students down to 15 last year) the school accepts anyone who is willing to pay the tuition regardless of English level. Last year 60% of the students could not competently communicate in English either orally or through written means. Their ability was roughly between a 1st and 3rd grade primary school level. For the most part the students worked hard and tried their best but simply needed a good year or two of English immersion in order to take the classes required for this program. They also offered a graduate level program for students who had obtained a Chinese college degree with the opportunity to go straight into a graduate program in the UK. These students English was slightly better but still the same issues were present.
At the end of the year when faced with two students failing economics I was pressured by Kaplan to send the final exams to the subject coordinator in Qingdao and these exams were given enough extra points so the students got a passing grade. An example of a question that was given more points by the coordinator than the actual teacher was on an essay question where the student simply wrote two sentences that didn't answer the question but because their were two very simple economic terms in the answer magic points were added and "poof" a passing grade.
In recent years the quality (measured by entering EAP ability) of both IFY and GD students has decreased. This year is no exception to this trend. The overall quality of students was even lower than last year and can be seen through the final grades. This is due to simple economics. The school accepts students who shouldn’t be in the program and then expect teachers to teach them English along with difficult subject matter. Student’s need more than a basic English level to understand the subjects taught, but the school is not interested in the student’s well-being only their financial contribution to the center.
The teachers implemented individual systems to deal with student’s behavior issues in the classroom. The teachers also tried to get the Chinese staff involved but they showed no desire to participate. They felt there was no way to punish such behavior although the teachers gave suggestions such as kitchen duty, clean the hallways, etc. Another issue is the students live in the school with no night time supervision. This results in students staying up late playing video games and horseplay (students told the teachers this is why they were always tired in class). Overall there is not a nurturing academic environment outside of classroom time and I believe this hinders the student’s ability to learn. This is a direct result of the school not having anyone, outside of the expatriate teacher’s, who possess a background in education or basic management skills. This is perplexing because with such a small number of students the work load is not overwhelming. The CAP suggested a few extra-curricular activities but the staff and school showed no interest or motivation to help the teachers implement any other activities other than attempting to teach the student’s the classes in Chinese either by outside tutors or the current schools unqualified staff. The school is not focused on preparing students for a Western education instead they complain the teacher’s don’t teach the students as they are taught in their Chinese high schools and the expatriate teachers need to understand how to and implement this way of teaching. All of the teachers have been teaching in China for between 1 and 5 years and are well aware of how the Chinese education system works and how Chinese students are taught in their high schools. The reason the students are going abroad to acquire a Western education is because of the lack of quality and integrity within the Chinese system and this is what the teachers attempted to prepare and teach the students.
Resources remain the same as the prior year and have gotten worse due to another year of using the same equipment that has been in the school for at least the last five or more years, this is due to financial constraints. The teachers asked for the computer lab to be activated but this could not be done due to financial constraints. The Chinese staff felt student’s using their laptops was sufficient but this shows a lack of their understanding of teaching and using computers as a learning tool. A computer lab allows the teacher to control the class and implement lesson plans that will not work on individual student computers. Although the internet was a huge improvement over last year the student’s connection is limited in order to discourage movie and music downloading. A computer lab could have a full speed connection once again allowing teachers to conduct a more updated teaching plan in the 21st century. Library resources are not updated and the school refused to subscribe to any Western type of newspapers trade journals or magazines such as the Financial Times or The Economist. The CAP suggested subscribing through various websites but was told this in not possible due to financial reasons.
If your contemplating working for this center beware and if you do decide to accept I wish you the best of luck.