The Internet, fax machine and telephone are just three of the inventions of the modern age that have facilitated business connections and made doing business on a global scale much easier. As business technology has improved, so has the availability and scope of flights in recent years, with the boom in low-cost carriers now also meaning that very affordable flights are available in many parts of the world. Indeed, Singapore seems to be the next country that will see a spate of low-cost carriers offering competitive services in and out of the country.
Global politics has also led to the current situation where nearly all countries are involved in international trade and business to some extent and are dependent upon their ability to trade with their international neighbours to maintain their economic viability.
There is a further factor that is crucial to the globalisation of our nations - language learning. None of the above would be possible were it not for our ability to communicate with our neighbours in their native language. Without a common language as a means of communicating, the rest of the advances detailed above mean little in a cultural and business sense.
Language learning is not only important for a country's population from a progressive point of view, but, as many governments around the world are realising, there are inherent social benefits too of encouraging international education. International exchange expands the horizons of citizens, both those travelling overseas and those accepting visitors from overseas.
New Zealand's Education Minister remarks that international education is important, both 'socially and economically'. The economic advantage he refers to is the tremendous financial contribution that the education export industry brings to the country. Australia has equally noted the earning potential of its international education industry. The country's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has recently concluded that education exports represent the sixth-largest industry in the country.
Many countries are keen to encourage more language students, high school students and university students to come to their shores to study. At the same time, governments in the traditional student source markets are further promoting language learning within the mainstream school curriculum. This in turn is fuelling growth in another area of the market - teacher training. Language schools around the world testify to growing demand for both certificated courses and practical courses aimed at improving or introducing teaching skills.
A recent extension of the range of products on offer in the industry has come in the form of volunteer programmes, which takes international exchange one step further with the desire of nationals to help and integrate with communities in other countries. We provide a guide to such options in Latin America.
Despite technology making international communication so quick and easy, those active in the international education industry testify that nothing beats face-to-face contact for establishing new business relationships and deals. For this reason, international workshops that provide a professional environment for business networking remain one of the most important facets of professional life for agencies and educators. In this issue, we speak to a number of industry representatives who provide their opinions on the choice of workshops available.