EIC is one of China’s top education consultancies sending over 40,000 students overseas each year. Deputy General Manager, Bei Guo, is leading the company’s evolution into an international education provider that offers value-added services beyond traditional counseling. She tells The PIE how EIC is catering to an increasingly savvy customer base, and how she expects more consolidation in the agency industry.
The PIE: Can you tell me about the background of EIC?
BG: EIC was founded more than 20 years ago in China – I think it is one of the earliest pioneers in terms of starting to provide Chinese students with study abroad advice. Later on, we migrated into test preparation and study tools and nowadays, we have an academy which is an academic English provider. So in the past few years, we have been trying to adapt ourselves to changes in the market.
The Chinese education system is going to take a longer time to reform itself; parents are still looking into international education opportunities for their kids and the trend is now not only for college students but also for younger kids.
We don’t call ourselves agents anymore because usually ‘agent’ means you are just a bridge and an information provider. Now we see ourselves as not just an agent but also an educational provider. This means we have to provide more systematic and value creation and content and services to our students.
The PIE: How has the trend of counseling to younger students evolved?
BG: In the past, our students came to us when they were approaching their senior year. We called them ‘early birds’ coming in one year in advance, but nowadays the early birds could be three years in advance. A seventh grader’s mum will come to us to ask for an application service for the kids for college – not for boarding school, but for college.
They are really thinking about it, they know it is going to take a few years to kick off the application process but they are savvy. They understand it is not that easy, actually one year in advance nowadays is way too late and you really have to be prepared way more in advance.
The PIE: Why do you think parents want to send their students overseas at younger ages?
BG: I think the goal is actually more for the enhancement of the student as a human being, which is why we are trying to provide short-term ‘value-add’ programmes like life coaching and public speaking, debate and also critical thinking and writing.
Usually the project-based learning is more effective for younger kids, so we provide different kinds of competitions – the international space design competition is one of them.
We are also doing test preparation, but test preparation is different from language study, so that is why we are working on starting a department of academic English and courses to teach how to really navigate yourself through a real setting in an English classroom in a university.