“From our perspective, I think we want to be a player in the game; we want to be a participant in the community … in the Canadian language education sector. This is where the people gather in that sector.”
Derek Martin, CultureWorks London Principal
“The conference is always a great time of bringing together like-minded professionals. We joined the other Languages Canada members in solidarity to bring a voice to both private and public ESL programs.”
Trevor van Peppen, CultureWorks Ottawa Director
Have a chat with Derek Martin and Trevor van Peppen any day of the week and you will learn a great deal about the state of ESL programs in Canada.
And if you chat with the two just weeks after they attend a major industry conference, you will get the latest news available.
The conference was Languages Canada 10th Anniversary, Feb. 19-22 in Toronto. The number of delegates was 240, the largest number to date.
The twosome were kind enough to share their observations, a state of the union as it were. Over-all, there are some challenges, they agreed, but not all is doom and gloom.
“There are too many programs, not enough students and they made that clear. The numbers made that clear,” Derek said.
“And the only programs that are surviving are ones that are innovating and that was made clear. I think that we are definitely innovating, we are developing new programs, we are trying new things and I think we have done a lot in that regard.”
More and more students deciding to study English online
Derek said the oversupply of programs is not only a Canada challenge, but also a world-wide issue, and the total number of students who travel to study English is starting to decrease.
“People are still interested in studying and so that’s where the online comes in. They are interested in studying if they can do that at home.” he said.
“But the ones who are going somewhere to study, those numbers are decreasing … that’s a challenge and people are trying to figure out how to deal with that.”
Meanwhile, Canada is being looked on “very favourably” as a destination for students.
“There are advantages to Canada. They talked about Canada being viewed very favourably, in terms of safety, in terms of the safety and security of the society, it’s viewed as a welcoming place,” Derek said.
“So those do work in our favour, the quality of our universities and the quality of our programs. They are viewed very favourably.”
Derek said the number of students heading to the United States is decreasing faster than other countries.
“The political environment there I think is part of it.”
Adapting to current trends in the ESL market
Meanwhile, Trevor reminds us that Languages Canada keeps ESL front and centre with more than merely the conference attendees.
“They are able to connect us with trade commissioners and trade missions, which we may not otherwise have access to if we were outside of the organization,” he said.
Trevor said Global Affairs Canada helps Canadian programs reach 495,000 international students via trade commissioners/missions.
Global Affairs work, Trevor said, is focused in Chile (“agent driven”), Peru (“looking for teacher training”), Turkey (“growing market as they are not interested in the USA”), UAE (“looking for graduate studies”) and Egypt (“few agents, so you need a relationship with a school; high rejection rate of visas”).
“In 2016, Canada lost market share in every source country except for Turkey. Suddenly, everyone was asking, ‘Where are our next students coming from? How are we going to penetrate new markets?’ Global Affairs has stepped in to help with the void,” he said.
Trevor said his week was “capped” with an event with the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, where he listened to representatives express Brazil’s desire to partner with Canadian institutions.
“The successful Science Without Borders program was being followed up with the Languages Without Borders program. Canadian professors and students have been researching and studying in Brazil. Canada is seeing Brazilian students coming to study at the graduate level.
“Let’s see where this initiative brings us.”
For CultureWorks, the “initiative” means the On-Campus Academic Pathway Program, the Online Gateway Program, the Preliminary Year Program and the Career Exploration Summer Program.
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