Thu, Aug 09, 2012 - Page 5 News List

English school’s abrupt closure stuns students

‘MALIGNANT SHUTDOWN’:Students were especially shocked because they had earlier been told the closing was for a renovation project and would be temporary

By Chiu Shao-wen, Chen Yi-ching and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with Staff writer

One of the Wall Street Institute’s branches in Taipei stands locked on Tuesday.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

The Wall Street Institute, an international English language-teaching center with branches across the country, has suddenly shut down its operations in Taiwan due to an alleged budget cut, stunning its students, who had already paid their tuition fees in full.

Several students who rushed to the institute’s branches on Tuesday were kept outside a chained door after receiving a text message from the language center a day earlier informing them of the official closure of its establishments.

However, the students had previously received a message on Saturday which said “the organization will be temporary closed on Sunday and Monday for a renovation project,” a statement that proved to be false and prompted an outcry among parents, who accused the institute of a “malignant shutdown.”

The global language center has branches in China and Hong Kong in addition to its five branches in Taiwan — three in Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市) and one each in Hsinchu City and Greater Kaohsiung. The majority of its students were adults and office workers, who paid an average of NT$80,000 (US$2,670) in tuition for each year.

The institute, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in March, also issued an statement in English on its Web Site: “In light of current economic issues, we received a notice from our chief director in Taiwan saying all five branches in that country would be closed for the weekend.”

Students could continue with their courses on the online platform or at a different branch, it added.

A security guard in the building of the center’s branch on Guangian Road in Taipei said that the institution had accumulated six months of outstanding maintenance fees.

Sources familiar with the matter also said that the institute chose to shut down its Taiwanese branches after a change in leadership, as the new person in charge was only inclined to take over existing branches in China and Hong Kong, not those in Taiwan.

Taipei City Government Education Bureau official Wu Hsin-ju (吳炘如) said it was unclear how many students had been affected, but pledged to work with the Taipei City Educational Association to offer compensatory courses to those who urgently need English lessons.

Such courses will be made free of charge and students will only be required to pay for their learning materials, Wu said.

Greater Kaohsiung Government Education Bureau official Han Pi-cheng (韓必誠) said the bureau had received three complaints from students at the language institute and thus conducted two inspections of its classrooms, which remained locked for two days in a row.

Han said the bureau, along with the city’s consumer ombudsmen and members of the educational association, would look into the matter and ensure the rights of the students were protected.

Additional reporting by Haung Hsu-lei

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