Ayan Aliyeva, CEO of A-Level Education Group: “The Foundation program is a 100% guarantee of admission to a range of leading universities around the world”
BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jul. 3
Ayan Aliyeva has been associated with education and English language from an early age - at 17, as a student, she began to teach which she still does with great pleasure and enthusiasm at the A-Level Education Group.
Ayan Aliyeva has 4 university degrees - she began to study English in Baku at the Azerbaijan University of Languages, then continued her studies at the University of Chicago and University of London and received a master's degree from Bangor University. All Ayan’s academic degrees as the director of A-Level Education Group are related to education; her last scientific work was dedicated to Education Management and Inclusive Education.
Ayan Aliyeva was awarded the prestigious Alumni Awards 2019, presented by the British Council in Azerbaijan - the award was presented to her in the Entrepreneur category for her contribution to the education sector both in Azerbaijan and internationally, as well as for the promotion of inclusive education and British education.
- Tell us in detail about the activities of your company A-Level Education Group?
- We started our work in 1999 and we have been in the education market of Azerbaijan for more than 20 years with our main office located in London. We are currently preparing a large project related to the United States so I am constantly traveling, two weeks abroad, two weeks in Baku.
We work in the following areas: Education Abroad, English learning consisting of programs for studying abroad such as IELTS, SAT, TOEFL, MATH, GMAT.
At A – Level Education Group we have an individual approach to each student, the approach to teaching is different, non-standard and interactive, which makes classes bright, interesting and memorable – we have both foreign specialists and local professional staff delivering our programs.
It may sound boastful but I believe our teaching staff are as perfect as one can have, our teachers constantly work on themselves in terms of teaching technique and undergo professional training abroad.
I will say that A-Level is not just a language school. For example, we work in a tutorial college format - children who are studying in English can come to our center for homework direction, which we can do most competently, as the center specializes not only in learning English, but also in teaching a range of subjects in English.
A-Level also has a specialist department for children with special needs.
It is very important for me that everyone who studies with us enjoys the educational process - we share with students not only our knowledge, but also our positive energy.
- Is there an age requirement for students at A-Level Education Group?
- We accept students from three years old to infinity (smiles). Recently, a couple of 62 years old approached us - their children live abroad, and they really want to learn English, so we help them in every possible way that we could. In our center, we are glad to see everyone who wants to learn English, regardless of age. The main thing is a desire for knowledge and as with everything else, you can rely on the professional team of A-Level Education Group.
We teach English from non-speakers of the language to advanced levels. We teach mathematics in English and we also have a Business English stream. Everyone who wants to start learning a language or improve their knowledge is always a welcome guest at A-Level.
One of our branches is located in Balajari where I remade a restaurant that belonged to my father into an educational center because I wanted children from Balajari schools to study English in depth. It provides pre-school education and teaches an English language school curriculum. At the 28 May branch, we teach foreign languages for children and adults, preparing them for international exams. A branch in the Globus Center business center specializes in the unique Foundation program that we offer.
- It is A-Level Education Group that is the only company in Azerbaijan that provides the officially certified Foundation program, which is based on Brooke House College curriculum. Tell us more about it.
- The Foundation program is a special achievement of A-Level Education Group; I worked on obtaining this official certification for three years, being on constant flights between Azerbaijan and the UK. Negotiations with Brooke House College ended with success, and our center received official certification, which testifies to the credit of trust in A-Level Education Group has with partners and which we fully have justified with 5 years of successful work on this program.
In most countries of the world, there is a 12-year, and in some even a 13-year education system and this greatly complicates the entry of Azerbaijani students to foreign universities, because secondary education in Azerbaijan lasts 11 years. But with the help of the Foundation program, now, without wasting a year, you can go through this preparatory year at A-Level Education. I would like to emphasize that this program allows you to enter the first year at some of the best universities in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe.
Another advantage of our centers Foundation program is that it allows for significant cost savings. If a local student wants to make up for that missing year in education, for example, in the UK, then it will cost them between 30,000 to 40,000 GBP for the year and not every parent wants to incur this degree of expenditure when they can do it at a fraction of the cost with us. Plus they have them living at home for a further year. Moreover, it is not a fact that after the Foundation program in the UK a child will actually get into university – but with our program we give a 100% guarantee of admission as we ensure our students are fully prepared. One should also note that unlike other countries of the world where university studies are four-year, in the UK they receive a bachelor's degree in three years - thus saving another year, and this is at least 60,000 -70,000 GBP, which by any standards is a very substantial amount of money.
Overall, the Foundation program at A-Level Centers is unique in its essence as there is no conflict with the schedule of our secondary schools - a high school student (9th, 10th and 11th grades) who wants to participate in the program comes to our center in the afternoon - classes are conducted from 2.30 – 6.30pm therefore we do not “pull” the student out of the general secondary school curriculum in which they are engaged.
The second equally important factor is that the student stays in Baku to study, this not only saves parents money but the child is under constant attention and guidance of both parents and teachers at a potentially vulnerable time in their personal development, while studying abroad as an alternative the student would be very much left to their own devices. Students recruited by companies running such programs overseas are treated a “mass product” and they are left to themselves; nobody worries and cares about them like my team and I do for our students where we have an individual approach to every student. We care about each student with all our hearts, and this always gives a corresponding and positive result.
The third very important factor is that the child does not lose a year, and in this case, both the finances of the parents and the time that is expensive for each of us are saved. As a result the students get 100% admission to a British university.
- How to become a student of the Foundation program?
- We at A Level Center enroll students from the 9th, 10th and 11th grades - of course, it would be perfect to join this program while still studying in the 9th grade, but you can become a student of the Foundation in the 10th or 11th grades. The later you join this program, the more intensively the classes in English and subjects in English will be taught. However, please note that only those whose level of English is at least intermediate level can participate in the program, so younger students why not come to us in earlier and study English!!!???
You can join the Foundation program either in September or in January - preferably in September, but it is best to contact our center right now to get into one of the groups.
Nevertheless, not only high school pupils can study with us - there was a case when a freshman of one of the private Baku universities studied the Foundation program in order to prepare himself for the academic rigors and analytical approach to learning (in English) at a UK university which he was successfully enrolled in at the end of his studies with us. He is doing very well on his Bachelor degree course and should pass at a high grade.
It should be noted that everyone who has completed Foundation training at A Level Center has received a British degree – what a great addition to a professional CV!
- Above, you mentioned 100% of your students enter leading British universities. Tell us more about this.
- 100% admission of A-Level Education Group students not only to British universities but also to other leading international universities is not pure publicity rhetoric but the official statistics of our language center, which we are very proud of. This fact clearly indicates that we are the indisputable leaders in Azerbaijan in this direction. This was made possible due to our professionalism in preparation and, again, an individual approach to each student.
Speaking of the Foundation program, representatives of Brooke House College visit Baku five times a year to monitor the learning process for which they have high standards setting requirements and I am very pleased that the A-Level Education Group fully meets the high criteria and standards they set.
Foundation Program class sizes are also strict and no more than 12 students’ study in each group. These groups are then determined by English skill levels and the academic subject areas that the intend progressing onto at university i.e. philosophy, medicine, business, advertising, etc.
We also help the student in their choice of university by providing professional advice and help with the registration process.
University of Birmingham, University of Sussex, Bangor University, University of Bristol, University of Leicester, University of Exeter is a small list of universities in the UK where our Azerbaijani students go onto study after the A-Level Foundation program. Believe me, even after two years of college in the UK, it is still very difficult to enter the institutions listed above, but our students have done it at the first try.
-Weren’t there students who did not enter foreign universities?
- No, but in any group there are weaker and stronger students within the university entry range that has to be considered alongside the choice of university – some universities have very much a self-learning and research approach will others have a more taught approach. The skill is to help the student find the university that is best suited to his learning skills. Of course, this is all set alongside the ambitions of the parents.
We work with often privileged parents whose desires are often well above the academic capabilities of their child. For instance, in a scenario where a parent wants his child to study at a top research-based university but has not taken into account the fact that the child simply does not meet the entry criteria for this institution. In this case, we meet with the parents with whom we maintain close contact during the entire training of their child in our center, and give a full explanation of the possibilities of admission and options of institutions suited to the best performance prospects of their child. It is great that parents always listen to our professional opinion and follow the advice and in the end, they get the good news about the admission of their son or daughter to a good university.
It should be noted that published university rankings are very subjective, all universities in the UK are very good and ranking tables are very subjective and the tables change according to the author of the ranking
Thus, we at A-Level Education Group do a great job not only with children, but also with their parents, international colleges, universities, etc. The result of this work is the admission of our graduates to these universities, which is the best indicator of our professional activity. I repeat, the admission rate is 100%!
- What is the pricing policy for this unique Foundation program?
- The final result is higher than everything that any private school provides in Azerbaijan, plus it is three times cheaper than studying in a private school - it is imperative to take into account the fact of 100% admission rate and the professional selection of universities that we carry out for each student. The Foundation program is an educational ‘luxury’ product. In addition, as I said at the beginning of the interview, this department is our pride, since nobody in Azerbaijan could achieve such results, A-Level Education Group is the one and only.
- Today every now and then we hear about scandals related to the cancellation of the IELTS, SAT, TOEFL exams, what can you say about this?
- Unfortunately, this is a very unpleasant situation and it shows that the organizers should strengthen control and checks during the exam. Having acquired the answers and copied them in the exam, the candidate themselves will suffer from this by failing in the first year of studying abroad. Learning takes time and effort and one cannot take such shortcuts.
- What does English and your language center mean to you personally?
- English is my whole life; it is a part of me that I am constantly improving and which I am ready to share - I have been teaching from when I was 17 to the present day. At A-Level I teach a course in the Foundation program. Unfortunately, today I do not have as much time as I would like - the students are delighted with my classes, as well as the teachers of the center when they are present for professional development. This is the interchange of knowledge. As a teacher, it is important for me to be a leader, by whom students would be guided - today it is impossible to impose anything by force, everything should be encouraged by my own example; I am happy that my personal example motivates those whom I teach.
A-Level is my eldest child whom I love with all my heart. Yes, this is the private sector and this is business, but this is what increases the level of literacy and education in our society, which was originally my main goal. This fact played a decisive role in me getting the UK Global Alumni Awards 2018-2019, where, by the way, I beat a graduate of the University of Cambridge. My language center gives a lot to society, since I believe that a literate person will never be left behind under any circumstances - education is the foundation for all of us.
A competent person is always valued and I am glad that I have a direct relationship to the development of literacy and education in general, since it is very, very important for society. I have always opposed cramming - I stand for critical thinking and analysis.
Over the years, the center has established itself as the very best, having gone through all the crises and remained the leader in the market, since we have always worked and are working on improving ourselves, not stopping for a second. A-Level is a serious center of foreign languages, where graduates of local and foreign universities who have passed professional training courses teach our students. ‘Study to teach’ is what the A-Level team follows.
A-Level is mini-England and mini-America in Baku, where we follow the English and American rules, which, of course, affects first and foremost the quality of education. At the center, we have a non-standard approach to the transfer of knowledge; it is interactive and is conducted according to the latest textbooks. The A-Level library is constantly updated. This year I arrived in Baku with a big margin and brought the latest editions of textbooks for the IELTS, TOEFL, SAT programs. There are no such textbooks in Baku in any language center. We are always ahead and keep our finger on the pulse, ahead of everyone.
- What can you say about competitors?
- A-Level Education Group is a company that is known, recognized and respected on a global level. Competitors say that we adhere to an aggressive strategy, but the main thing for us is healthy competition.
We constantly encounter plagiarism of the content of our advertising. The last time we filed a complaint with one of the advertising agencies, we were told that the content was sent by the company's employees with strict instructions to use it in advertising. For us, this is another recognition of our excellence.
A-Level is at a completely different level. This brand has invested a lot of effort. Most importantly, with its successful work, it fully justified all investment and entered the world market; this is a top product in the education market, which I, as its CEO, am very proud of. Our successful long-term work is the best response to competitors. Let them continue to consider our strategy aggressive, copy our ideas - yes, we have our own style of doing business, and, as you can see from all of the above, it gives its positive results. The slogan of A-Level Education Group is “Quality”! - I think that says it all!