SIG Focus: The School Owners’ (SO) SIG

Language school owners face unique challenges. Many of these challenges are directly related to financial issues such as the need to make a profit and to submit tax returns and other financial documents. Other unique issues school owners often face are the need to hire, train and manage other people, balance educational quality with financial restrictions, and develop curricula for students of all ages and levels. The School Owners’ (SO) SIG was established four years ago to address these issues.

 The SO SIG is a small but rapidly growing SIG with just under 30 members, most of whom joined us during the last year. We started four years ago because we felt there was no other SIG that adequately dealt with issues specific to running an education business. Many SIGs address different aspects of teaching, which of course are important to school owners as well, but none dealt with the equally important nonteaching side. The last two JALT National conferences have seen a renewed interest in the SO SIG and we look forward to continued growth.

 Current members run schools of many different sizes, from single-teacher schools to those that employ teachers at multiple locations. We are looking for members with schools of all sizes—or who would like to own schools—and especially those looking to develop both their businesses and themselves professionally. We are especially interested in members who are also interested in taking leadership roles within the SIG. The SIG’s strength lies in its membership numbers. 

 The SIG has several publications for its members. Our Facebook page (JALT School Owners SIG) helps SIG members and interested parties to network and discuss common issues and concerns, as well as to share experiential knowledge. Our newsletter, which comes out three times a year, gives different perspectives on matters pertaining to owning and running a language school. We also host events of importance to our members. One event, held at the JALT 2015 Conference in Shizuoka, was a debate on the different issues affecting school owners, such as pricing. It was both well attended and well received. We also run panel webinars, which give owners an opportunity to meet in a virtual context. Since school owners tend to be relatively isolated, these various points of access give them opportunities to meet with others in similar situations all over Japan. In the future we hope to have a school owners’ summit. 

 The more opportunities school owners have to communicate and learn from other owners, the stronger our schools become. Becoming a member of the SO SIG is well worth the small investment. And an investment is exactly what it is. Those who take a proactive interest in the development of their schools stand out in the marketplace as educational front runners.

If you run a school, employ other teachers and/or staff, or hope to do so sometime in the future, the SO SIG is the group for you.  If you are a school owner, or are considering opening your own school please visit our forum at the JALT2016 International Conference.