The language travel industry is a competitive field on a global scale, and even more so in beautiful sunny Malta, where learning a new language can be just another holiday. How then does a language school find a way to boast a competitive edge and differentiate from the rest in such intense business environment? What happens when a school is a family enterprise? ETN Focus speaks to Karl Sammut from family-run and family-owned GSE – Gateway School of English, Malta. Read and our interview with GSE Malta below:
ETN Focus: Please introduce yourself and your school?
Karl Sammut, Gateway School of English: I am the Sales & Marketing Director of Gateway School of English GSE. My parents are also the sole owners and sole shareholders of the company. The school is fully and solely owned by the family.
We are an established family-owned and family-run English language school in Malta celebrating our 15th anniversary this year (established in 2002). We offer high quality tuition and accommodation right next to the school in an adult school residence within 3 minutes’ walking distance between bedroom and classroom. Our accommodation is on half-board basis (breakfast and lunch) and offers fully air-conditioned bedrooms. In addition, all our host families are located within 5 to 10 minutes’ walking distance from school.
Our location, in a quiet high-class villa area, is perfect for those students wishing to learn in a quiet and peaceful environment, yet within 12 minutes’ walk from Spinola Bay in St Julian’s – Malta’s most popular tourist resort.
Gateway is renowned for its high tuition standards and English learning success rate thanks to an excellent academic team of NATIVE teachers. Our teachers, apart from being fully qualified, have extensive experience in the ELT industry and have taught English with us for many years.
We have students from all over the world (Japan, France, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania & Brazil to name a few) and we cater for adults 18+, families (parents & children travelling together) and juniors (teenagers – groups or individuals).
We also organize a full weekly social programme of activities. In this way, students learning English with us can make the most of their free time practising their English with peers while visiting places or attending outdoor/indoor activities. There are weekly movie nights at our school, sports activities, evening bowling, visits to old towns and villages, countryside walks, horse-riding etc.
ETN Focus: Malta is among the top destinations in the world for studying English. What is your competitive edge ahead of other Maltese language schools?
GSE: As a family-owned and family-run school we can provide a lot of individual attention and a personalized approach. This applies not only to our individual students who enroll with us on short-term or longer-term courses but also to junior groups who travel from all over the world to learn English in Malta. We can be flexible also when it comes to organizing tailor-made programmes for groups travelling with teachers. Our location in St Julian’s is also a plus and the fact that all our host families are within walking distance from our school is definitely an advantage. Furthermore, we have the school residence next door. It’s only 3 minutes from bedroom to classroom available for our adult students and parents travelling with their children.
ETN Focus: How diverse is your current international student mix?
GSE: We have an excellent mix of nationalities and our promise is that there will always be a minimum of 8 different nationalities at our school. Our school boasts a great mix of nationalities. We have Japanese, Argentines, Brazilians, Swiss, Germans, French, Spanish students and many other nationalities.
ETN Focus: What kind of international students are you looking to attract in order to enrich your current mix?
GSE: Believe it or not, Italy being one of the closest markets to Malta, is not our main market and we are trying to expand our network of agents from Italy. We recruit very few Italian students.
ETN Focus: What marketing strategies and tools do you use to promote your school to prospective students?
GSE: Mostly agents fairs and workshops but we also visit agencies at their offices abroad to keep that constant personal relationship which is very important in the language travel business.
ETN Focus: Do you work with agents? If so, what is their role in your international recruitment strategy, and what kind of support do you offer to them?
GSE: 98% of our students come through agencies and we depend a lot on agents business. We participate in local fairs organized by our agents and also contribute to their marketing material and campaign expenses.
ETN Focus: What is in your experience the key to harmony in a diverse classroom? What methods and approaches do you use to handle cross-cultural differences among your students?
GSE: We use the communicative approach to language teaching where the emphasis is on speaking. This means we focus on the use of language to communicate with peers in class thus encouraging students to speak and use the language. Our teachers always cover the four language skills during classes: listening, speak, reading and writing as well as language systems vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This is our ethos which is clearly stated on the homepage of our website and I personally think that our mission statement highlights the importance or reaching out across cultural barriers:
Gateway’s mission statement:
“Gateway School of English (GSE) is more than a guarantee that your stay with us will be a successful English language learning experience. It is a promise that you will take back home with you an exciting total memory that will enrich you as a person, making you more aware of the world’s diversity and of the importance of reaching out across cultural barriers. In short, we offer you a gateway to the world and a pathway to success. We look forward to welcoming you to Malta and to GSE.”
Our social programme of weekly activities also encourages students to mix with other nationalities and learn about new cultures, traditions while practising English outside the classroom.
ETN Focus: Are there any new markets where you see untapped potential for selling English language courses in Malta?
GSE: As I mentioned Italy is a market we haven’t yet tapped into and we are eagerly looking forward to cooperating with agents who are interested in representing our school in several Italian cities. Germany, Austria and France are three other markets which we haven’t yet tapped into.
ETN Focus: You’ve been on the market for 15 years now. What is your secret to success and vision of your school for the future?
GSE: Maintaining a strong relationship with our agents who are representing us in various countries across the globe combined with an excellent high quality service which we provide to our students in Malta is our recipe to success. Gateway School of English is renowned for its exceptionally high quality tuition and accommodation and this is the reason why a lot of students recommend us to their friends. We are highly dependent on word-of-mouth recommendation and this keeps us on our toes continuously ensuring that students go back home with a successful learning experience with us in Malta.
All photos courtesy of Gateway School of English GSE.