Course: 5 weeks, 18 hours/week, homestay, February 2016
Scuola Leonardo da Vinci
The school is clearly professionally run and the staff are both well-trained and courteous.
However, I do not recommend this school. A majority of the students arrive late and classes do not actually start until at least 30 minutes have passed. Even later than this students are allowed to enter the classroom - they may then eat their sandwiches. Some students arrived 2 hours into the class. Many students only presented themselves on 2 or three days of the week. The result was that even students who had begun by attending lessons punctually started to come late - they had little incentive to arrive on time. In this way a vicious circle was firmly established..
It was reported to me that other classes in the school were as bad or worse than the one I attended. In my case the result was a completely demoralised teacher who was unable to follow a structured and consistent teaching programme. On some mornings she resorted to showing a whole Italian-language film which could easily be watched by students in their own time. I felt sorry for her. She had given up because she was not being given the proper institutional support.
What can be done? When asked, staff said that, as autonomous adults, students could do as they pleased. Though this sounds reasonable at one level I did not pay to attend ineffective, time-wasting classes. Students should not be allowed to enter the classroom if more than 10-15 minutes late. Students who misbehave in the classroom or consistently skip days off school should be expelled. When students are late they should be contacted by mobile phone to see if they are experiencing difficulties. These policies have worked in the language schools I have taught in and ultimately improve the profit margin.
Is it really so bad? I was told by other students who had attended other language schools in Milan that the situation was even worse elsewhere, so am I perhaps being overcritical? No. I moved to another Leonardo School (I had paid in advance and could not get a refund) in Florence and found the situation much better. Students were much more punctual and missed fewer classes. The teachers were able to follow a more effective programme and I learned much more while I was there. I recommend the school in Florence.
As I understand it, although they fly the same banner, not all the Leonardo schools are owned/run by the same people. The school in Milan should definitely take itself more seriously, support teachers better, and try to break the culture of lateness.
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There was potential for a very good school - staff were well-trained and courteous
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