New Oriental Education & Technology Group under the spotlight

A “Reuters Investigates” article on 2 December has raised serious concerns about the business practices of Chinese education services company New Oriental Education & Technology Group.

The story alleges that New Oriental Education’s counseling division – Beijing New Oriental Vision Overseas Consultancy — engaged in unethical practices as a normal part of doing business.  It’s said that the company regularly engaged in college application fraud by writing application essays and teacher recommendations for students, and falsifying high school transcripts.

new oriental education

Employees spill the beans

new oriental education

The allegations are backed up by information that Reuters obtained from current and former New Oriental Education employees:

  • Olivia Qiu worked at New Oriental Education in Tianjin and confirmed that she wrote essays for students.  She said other co-workers wrote personal statements, supplemental essays and letters of recommendation. “Sometimes, the student didn’t even see (the application) before they submitted it to colleges”, she said.
  • Former New Oriental Education employee David Shi said, “I wrote essays and recommendation letters for students when I worked at New Oriental Education, which I still do right now for my own consultancy. I know there is an ethical dilemma but it’s the nature of the industry.”
  • Alan Li worked at New Oriental Education in 2012 and 2013 in Shanghai. He confirmed that he wrote personal statements and edited recommendation letters students had written about themselves. If necessary, he said, he would invent stories when writing the documents.

Certification is not a silver bullet

 

There are several organisations around the world that certify or accredit education agents. In most cases this involves the certifying body undertaking a range of due diligence checks on an agent to determine whether the agent meets certain minimum professional and ethical criteria.  Generally the education agent pays a fee to be audited and to be able to display the accreditation badge.

New Oriental Education had been accredited by at least two organisations – AIRC and BOSSA.

The AIRC works to safeguard the interests of both international students and enrolling institutions through the promotion of ethical, standards-based international recruitment strategies. Among other things it provides “independent certification of recruitment agencies based on a rigorous accreditation model.”

BOSSA’ s website says that its “purpose is to train, guide, and evaluate education agencies according to both governmental policies and internationalized industry standards. BOSSA & COSSA agency members account for a majority of all outbound Chinese student exchanges in the world.”

The AIRC has said that it will investigate New Oriental Education following the Reuters report. I have asked BOSSA for comment and will provide an update when they have a chance to respond.

None of what I have said above is in any way meant to be critical of AIRC, BOSSA or any other education agent certification organisation. They do excellent work in setting and maintaining professional standards, and the international education market is much better for it.

But they can’t be expected to get it right 100 percent of the time.  They undertake their assessment of an agency at a point in time. Once approved, accreditation or certification usually lasts for a significant period before re-assessment and a lot can happen in that time. It has to work that way. The accrediting organisation can’t watch over every agent all the time.

Agency certification or accreditation is not a silver bullet. It should absolutely be an important part of the decision to work with a new agent in the first place, but it does not guarantee that an agent will act with professionalism and integrity.

Confidence that your education agents are acting in line with your expectations and standards can only come from ongoing monitoring of their activities and performance.

Ongoing Agent Performance Monitoring

Regular agent performance monitoring is a key element of global education agent management best practice. That’s because ongoing monitoring is critical to protecting your reputation and students against unprofessional and dishonest agents.

The challenge is that regular monitoring can be time consuming and resource intensive.  The good news for in-house recruitment teams is that it doesn’t have to be.

AgentBee supports in-house teams to monitor their agents by making it easy to:

  • seek student feedback on their experience in dealing with their agent
  • seek agent feedback on how they are performing against agreed expectations, and
  • assess how actively your agents are engaging with your information and training resources.

(It will also help you increase international student enrollments through your agent channel and save you a heap of time. Click here for more info.)