The language study market has undoubtedly grown and matured from its humble beginnings in the 1960s but continues to evolve and adapt, buffeted or nurtured by factors such as domestic and international politics, economics, education policy and employment trends.
For some time now, a clear driving force in the market has been the push towards language acquisition for career development. This strong trend is continuing, driving demand for recognised language certification. "Until 10-to-15 years ago we sent students abroad to take general English courses and Cambridge exams for the English language," relates Bianca Buganè at STI Travels www.stitravels.com in Italy. "In the last 10 years we had to start sending student for Ielts and Toefl in America, or Delf in France, Dele in Spain and same for other countries. Students [want to] to put the language into 'action'."
The quest to maximize qualifications for the employment market is a trend that has swept the globe. Daniela Stuber at Linguago www.linguago.com in Germany reports an increase in requests for language programmes as part of a Bildungsurlaub - which is a provision that entitles most German employees to five paid days of educational leave per year. "The Bildungsurlaub grant is a highly [useful] tool that is being used by a lot of older people looking to learn a language," she states.
Many agents also report a rise in demand for higher proficiency language courses overseas. This is because of better language learning provision in their home countries coupled with the fact that online language learning is accessible to almost anyone. Anja Finkel at Linguista www.linguista.ch in Switzerland says that Cambridge exam preparation courses have always been important to their Swiss clients, as employers request this official language certificate. However, as language teaching standards in schools have risen, students generally complete their school career with a FCE or CAE diploma in hand. This has led to students seeking shorter and "more flexible" courses overseas, as well as Ielts programmes.
Higher language proficiency is also the driving force behind the desire among Poles for more than just a language course, says Maria Banaszak, Owner of LEC Centre www.lec.com.pl in Poland. "There is a relatively big group of [junior] clients who [have] a high level of English so they are looking for courses of certain skills taught in English: debating, negotiating, business. Or they choose to learn some school subjects in English, usually unavailable in Polish schools, like dance, music, UK school preparation, design, coding." She suggests, however, that more clients would be attracted to such courses if the cost was lower. "Prices are too high for at least half of my clients," she says.
In other countries, too, agents note a trend towards more academic programmes, not only for older teens but for younger students. In Turkey, Sinem Bayraktutan at Atlas Private Educational Services www.atlasedu.com reports a hike in interest for, for example, project-based courses or courses with options for sports, art or academic subjects.
Similarly, Christine Top, Managing Director at Top School www.topschool.es in Spain, mentions that parents are requesting more academic courses with more hours of tuition. A similar observation is made by Yuko Hayashi at JTB Europe www.jtb-europe.com - which deals with Japanese school groups in the UK and Ireland. "Recently [clients] do not request normal English lessons only. Every [mainstream] school in Japan would like to offer their students something different from other schools so just having English lessons is not enough."
While career development is certainly a major driving force, economic factors are another that pushes demand up or down and can influence a client's destination and course choice. Santuza Bicalho at CVC Brazil www.cvc.com.br says, "Over the last couple of years, with the deterioration of the economy in Brazil, the demand for shorter periods of stay has grown."
Shorter course duration is also influencing the higher education market, says Irawati Sandjaja, Director of PIRAX Education www.pirax.com in Indonesia. According to Sandjaja, Indonesian students prefer to take a master's degree overseas than a bachelor's degree because of the shorter length of study, making it more financially viable. In Taiwan, meanwhile, Tina Chuang, Director of Envision Study Group/EnvisionRecruit www.envisionrecruit.com, relates that although master's degree programmes are their number-one product, they have in recent years experienced growth in demand for bachelor programmes but that "it's getting more and more popular to earn a 'Western' or dual degree in countries close by, such as Singapore".
Changing education policy at home also affects demand . In Argentina, for example, local high schools have started incorporating study abroad programmes for 13-to-17 year old students. As a consequence, says Gabriela Ardito at VCE International www.vce-international.com in Argentina, "Our agency has had more enquiries from high schools than even before - in fact, we have already booked two groups for July 2017." firstname.lastname@example.org
Economics, visa issuance, work rights for overseas students and security issues all affect a student's study destination choice. Roger Bartholomew, International Education Specialists www.inter-ed.com in the Philippines, reports of a "major trend" away from the UK and towards Australia. "This is largely based on immigration regulations, including work opportunities after graduation," he explains. "We believe there will be an emerging trend for Canada as a destination soon, once the embassy has a predictable visa processing time."
Immigration policy has also affected the Indian market. Hardeep Singh, Director of Overseas Education Information Centre www.oeic.com in India, asserts, "The change in the immigration policies of countries like the UK, Australia and the USA has made the demand shift towards Canada and Europe. There is a big demand for studies in Europe. Countries like Germany, France, etc have changed their policies to benefit from the situation."
Panos Nikoloutsopoulos from Plano-Paneducational www.plano-paneducational.gr in Greece reports a move towards Germany, France and the Netherlands, while Daniela Stuber at Linguago in Germany, mentions an increase in bookings for schools outside the UK, especially in Malta and Ireland.