I thought I’d seen everything in Taiwan’s English cram school market. Recently, I’ve had an experience that shows how naive I (still) am. I can’t really get into any details online, but here’s the gist: A school owner offered to sell her school’s students.

A school’s financial valuation

In general, when an English buxiban changes hands, the going rate is about the amount of tuition the students can be expected to pay in a single financial quarter. Thus, if a school is charging 3000NT per month and it has 200 students, then it would be worth 3000NT * 3 * 200 = 1.8 million NT. Location, curriculum and reputation obviously factor in as well, but these things are generally reflected in the school’s student numbers.

I can understand this. A school’s value is definitely dependent on the amount of tuition money it brings in, and while most schools lose some students as the result of replacing any teachers or making any other large changes, most students usually stay. Especially if the teachers stay, and the curriculum is left intact, it makes sense for students to continue. Why bother looking for another place to study if there’s a good chance that things will be fine?

Selling the students

I just can’t wrap my brain around this one. Say one owner decides to “sell” the kids studying at his or her school to some random other school owner who can’t attract students through conventional means. I suppose it’s possible to get them to go initially, if the first owner is pushy enough about it. If the first owner tells the children’s parents, “Sorry, we’re going out of business, but my buddy at another school will teach them for the rest of their semesters,” the parents would be justifiably upset, but they’ll probably take what they can get since they’ve already paid. The problem is, their kids will almost definitely get shortchanged educationally, and they’ll resent it. I can’t see that many staying long enough to ever pay tuition to the school owner who “bought” them.

I know education, even public education, is a business. But this is out there.