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Breaking down the barriers of language, culture and geography


EF draws on over 45 years of experience, over 400 schools and offices around the world, and more than 15 million students. Headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland, the group is the world’s largest private educational company providing language learning, educational travel, cultural exchange and academic programmes.

EF operates schools and offices in more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, North America, the Middle East and Africa. The company’s global network comprises 9,000 employees and 25,000 teachers and guides. EF stands for ‘Education First’. “Education First is more than our company name,” says Managing Director Peter Burman. “It is our corporate passion.”

EF was founded by Bertil Hult in Sweden in 1965. Since then, the privately owned company has helped over 15 million people worldwide learn a new language, discover the world or earn an academic degree.

EF has advanced rapidly since its foundation 46 years ago, always keeping abreast of new developments and technological innovation in the education industry. The company started with taking a group of Swedish high school students to England to learn English. “Travelling abroad to learn a language is a simple idea but one with an enormous future,” states Mr. Burman.

From the 1970s, EF has been taking this idea to the world, opening offices from London to Beijing. International expansion has always been accompanied by the introduction of new, pioneering teaching methods and a strong dedication to finding the most effective way for people to learn.

30 years ago, EF started the world’s first advisory board for language teaching. In the 1990s, the company initiated an online school, in cooperation with Apple, which has developed into the world’s largest online English school with over 14 million students from across the globe.

“More recently, we have established a partnership with Cambridge University to fundamentally improve the way students learn,” says Mr. Burman. EF also has its own research centres in Cambridge, Zurich and Shanghai and employs over 300 linguists, scientists and designers to ensure that it remains at the forefront of language education.

A speciality of EF is the English Proficiency Index (EPI) calculated by the company. “The EPI is a ranking of countries according to their average English skill level,” explains Mr. Burman. “It allows educators and politicians around the world to evaluate their overall progress towards English proficiency.”

EF offers a wide range of educational programmes, including language schools for people of all ages, fully accredited courses, language training solutions for companies, executives, cultural exchange programmes for high school students and au pairs, and online English language training.

In North America, the company also offers educational tours for students and explorers of all ages. “We are a one-stop shop for language training,” says Mr. Burman. EF’s online learning opportunities are particularly high in demand. After taking a competence test, students are provided with a course exactly tailored to their individual needs, including everything from basic grammar to industry-specific vocabulary.

EF students can also connect to a virtual classroom where they can meet other language learners with the same level of proficiency but from different countries. “Online learning is a compelling training proposition for companies,” states Mr. Burman. “It is very flexible, fully scalable and highly cost-efficient.”

What makes EF’s language training programmes even more attractive is that all learning is taskbased, which is proven to be the most effective way to learn a language. The goal is to actually enable participants to perform specific tasks, such as giving a presentation, writing an e-mail or conducting an interview. All learning is supported by EF’s unique Efekta™ System.

“Efekta™ is the first system to fully integrate virtual face-to-face classroom teaching with the latest in interactive technology,” explains Mr. Burman. “Whether in class, online or in one of our language labs, students are given the freedom and flexibility to learn anytime, anywhere. One of our key USPs is that our teacher-led virtual classrooms are available every hour 24/7. This flexibility accelerates language acquisition by up to 55%.”

The sustained success of EF in international education is, to a large extent, a result of the company’s pioneering efforts in advancing new technologies and teacher-led Internet-based learning. “We started offering online courses in 1994, at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy,” states Mr. Burman.

In addition, EF distinguishes itself by its comprehensive network of 27,000 teachers in all time zones, which facilitates teaching in online classes on a 24/7 basis. Last but not least, the company is strongly committed to constant innovation. “Every year, we invest about five million USD in product improvement and development,” concludes Mr. Burman.

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