CultureWorks President and Founder Tina Bax returns to China and likes what she sees. Part 1.
Tina Bax was recently on a working trip to China, teaming up with Amberson High School of Toronto. Not a stranger to China, Tina’s first journey there in 2019 will mark her 20th anniversary. We recently caught up with Tina to learn about her trip.
QUESTION: Has anything changed in China since you were last there in May/2017?
TINA: “We saw a nice mix of big cities, mid-size and then some smaller places. And one place we saw was—it’s really interesting—they are building a special economic zone. They are basically building a city within three years and they’re inviting bids from overseas education providers to come in and take a look at providing international education. So, education for students that are bound to leave the country eventually, study a little abroad and then come home. Pretty neat!”
QUESTION: What makes China so interesting to you?
TINA: “The great thing about China is it is still unique enough in the small towns that you can get to have some pretty quirky experiences which I really enjoy. It speaks to the personality of China. What I love about China and what I have always loved is that they just get things done. Manpower is not an issue. They have plenty of people for jobs. So if it is going to take a day to wait for a truck to move the bricks to move from one side of the street to another, they just move them by hand.
“Do you know what I think is their biggest accomplishment? It is they are so efficient at delivering everything, whether it’s coffee, or the news, or people building planes and high-speed rail, building new highways for the Olympics that are coming back to Beijing again. It’s pretty incredible.”
QUESTION: You teamed up with Toronto’s Amberson High School representatives for the first time on this trip. Was that successful?
TINA: “I have to say I don’t think we have ever travelled with anybody so organized and prepared and professional before, so what that means for us is when we show up at school, it has already been vetted, they have already had a recent one or two meetings, and we are meeting with senior administration at that point so our message again, efficiency, gets delivered to the right people as quickly as possible.
“And we got to see students everywhere we went and the schools were all top 1, 2, 3 or 4. So that was fantastic from a business perspective and there are just a lot of opportunities right now to deliver our programs online and maybe even some offshore opportunities there.”
QUESTION: Can you explain how the relationship between our ESL school and Amberson worked?
TINA: “So with Amberson, they were responsible for having a person on the ground in every city, that would do all of the pre-work, so the vetting of the schools, the pre-meetings of the schools and then setting up our meetings, looking after all of our travel accommodations as well. It was fantastic because it was really easy for me. All I had to do was show up and talk about ESL programs. Either we worry about or we would work with agents who may or may not get into schools.
“I think there is a big change now. The schools do not want to work with the agents. That’s another thing all the senior administration at the schools said to us. This business of international education—it’s interesting that everybody refers to it as a business now – but this business has attracted a lot of not so scrupulous people—agents.” The agents are taking 25, 35, sometimes 40 per cent of the tuition that schools need to run their programs and pay their people. So the schools would rather work directly with schools. So that’s a big change for us.”
QUESTION: What sense did you get of Canadians educators extending relationships with China vs. the U.S. doing so?
TINA: “So what was interesting is when I was there, the North Korean leader was in Beijing. And I think that is definitely tied to what is happening with the United States and North Korea and now, of course, I think, I think the Syrian peace and the Russians are going to complicate that. But while I was there as well, President Trump announced more tariffs as well on Chinese imports and there has been a rumour that he will be looking at restricting student visas for students to get into the country. Those are all facts that we stated but people knew as well. We are seeing more of an interest in Canada and the people on the ground we work with reported that as well.
“We are seen as having more tolerance, we are seen as safer, you are going to get a student visa you don’t have to worry about. You are saving all this money and you apply to a school and then you don’t get a visa. We have a great regulatory environment right now for international students coming to study so I don’t have any impact on that, but we are certainly going to try and take advantage of it and talk about it more.”
(NEXT WEEK: Tina Bax talks about the Chinese reactions to the CultureWorks ESL programs)
Do you want to learn English as a second language?
Discover the many programs offered by CultureWorks!