9 Sep 2009, 6:51pm
business EFL eikaiwa kids


Variable fees: a crazy idea?

I had a wild thought last night as I headed home last night at 23:30 and thought I would throw it out there for consideration…

Has anyone tried/thought about charging variable fees based on how ‘good’ students are? (I’m thinking about kids here).

For example, you would have a standard monthly fee of, say, 8000 yen.
If a student participates actively in class, does all homework, and gets into English, after a month or two they would change to a lower monthly fee, say 6000 or 7000 yen. This is like an academic scholarship, and is dependent on their good behaviour continuing.
On the other hand, if a student does not participate actively, is disruptive, doesn’t do homework, then they move to a higher monthly rate (to compensate for the extra difficulty of teaching them), ie 9000 or 10000 yen. Their parents would be contacted a month before the change and warned. If the student’s behaviour improves, they would move back to the standard rate or even the scholarship rate if they become a model student.
I came up with this as I pondered what I will be doing once I ‘retire’ (won’t happen for a while), and continue teaching for pleasure rather than out of necessity. I suspect a system like the above might encourage parents to become more involved with their children’s English studies, as well as encourage less serious students to quit. I find that the pareto rule applies to our students, where a small minority of the students cause all the problems.
Obviously I would like to make a difference to all our students’ lives, and ‘rescue’ the less socially/academically able, but a lot of the time it’s not really feasible to make a difference with an hour a week when parents are not helping at their end with encouragement/interest.
Now, I am not going to implement this myself at the moment (we’re trying to grow at the moment!), but if we were at full capacity or oversubscribed I may consider it. What does everyone else think?

Hi everyone

Really enjoyed the feedback so far: keep it coming!

It seems no-one likes my variably prices idea, so let me qualify it a bit in case I wasn't clear enough in the first post.

I'd like to make a few points and address some things that others have said that have stuck with me.

1. this is not a business oriented idea. I did say I have no intention of trying this any time soon as our school is trying to grow at the moment
2. this idea came to me because I have been thinking about my students, and my classes. I would say that about a quarter of our students are wonderful: interested, active, do their homework and pay attention. About two thirds are okay: they do those things most of the time. About ten percent are horrible: uninterested, disruptive, don't want to be there, don't participate or do homework. This ten percent has a negative effect on all the students and the teachers. I don't blame the kids, but I question their need to be in my eikaiwa class if they are not enjoying it or interested in it.
3. eikaiwa is not compulsory. There is no great need for all kids to learn English in their free time. I am convinced that some kids would be better off spending the time with their families, playing football, or learning karate.
4. I am not sure that Kohn's theories apply to this. After all, I am not intending to reward or punish the kids themselves. There would be an element of counselling, where we talk to them and possibly their parents to find out how they feel about the classes, but it is not intended as a reward or punishment as such, just an attempt to price the work and stress that goes into teaching them.
5. I am hoping that one of two things will happen: either students will improve as they realise that there are specific expectations for how they should behave, or parents will pull them out when the fees go up indicating that their child is a poor fit for English classes at this time.

Now, again, this is just an idea for when I am a bit older and a lot greyer, and no longer have to run the school for profit or size, but rather for my own enjoyment.

Interesting discussion. A few rambling thoughts on this can be found at
Humanistic Teaching. I think children should be free to follow their passions. I don't think learning anything should be compulsory. Any method that helps give children greater control over their own learning is worth investigating.


Leave a Reply

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives