December 2009 issue

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Felca and Gaela’s momentum

The Global Alliance of Education and Language Associations – Gaela – and the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations – Felca – have both been stepping up their association activities and, together, have embarked on a worldwide survey of trends among representative educator and agency groups. Amy Baker provides a snapshot of the results.

Felca, representing agency associations around the world, is offically 10 years old next year, although it was in 1988 that the idea of a global network of agency associations was first discussed by a few forward-thinking industry players.

Since then, the federation has widened its membership to include many professional membership bodies for education agents and consultants, and it hosts international and regional meetings every year. There are 12 members, each of which represents 60-to-80 per cent of their country’s language and travel market. Other national agency associations also attend the annual meeting in London.

Early founding members included Aseproce in Spain, Tieca in Thailand, Ialca in Italy and Jaos in Japan; all of which are very active in their domestic markets representing quality counsellling services for international education. Current President, Masaru Yamada of Jaos in Japan, explains that Felca’s founding concept was that “agents and industry leaders from all countries should meet to discuss their businesses, agent-to-agent”.

Agencies have realised that there are inherent benefits in both belonging to a national association – to champion best practice, for example – and to an international association, where lessons can be learnt from business models in other countries, or a greater voice can be given to issues of international relevance, such as global agency accreditation, which Felca is currently working on now. At the most recent meeting, it was decided that all Felca member associations would work to adopt a new Felca-accredited logo after ensuring that they are in accordance with the items detailed in the Code of Practice.

All Felca member associations are expected to monitor this and aim to have all their member agencies using the new logo by 2010.

Yamada comments, “Each national association has the potential to represent hundreds of thousands of students and therefore has a great ability to improve their national system through lobbying efforts directed at visa concerns or legal matters. But, as an international association, Felca shares these associations’ combined potential, creating a lobbying strength that is undeniable.”

At Gaela, which was also established in 2000, there are now 17 members representing educator associations around the world, such as AAIEP in the USA, English Australia, English UK, Italian in Italy, English South Africa and Languages Canada. Sue Blundell of English Australia is the current Chairperson, and she explains that Gaela’s aims are to forge bonds between associations; to promote and improve the profile of study abroad nationally; to promote the adoption of comparable standards in language teaching; to lobby governments where appropriate or needed; to collect information and data on the sector and to share initiatives that develop professionalism across language schools globally.

She says, “With no formal basis for Gaela, the concept would only succeed if members found that involvement brought value. Most countries have just one language association and this can be incredibly isolating. Coming together once a year through Gaela to discuss trends, share issues and potential solutions is one of the rare opportunities for professional engagement with peers that associations have. 2009 saw a record level of attendance.”

Under Blundell’s watch as Chairperson, Gaela designed a survey about business trends in the first half of 2009 and expectations for the year-end, which it sent to all its member associations to distribute among their constituents. Likewise, Felca agreed to send a similar survey to its member associations, and the first Felca-Gaela Language Travel Industry Barometer was realised.

Results from the survey, which was undertaken in June and reported on in September when both organisations convene, certainly make interesting reading. Two-hundred and seventy-one individual responses were received back from educators within the Gaela umbrella, while 101 agencies took part as part of the Felca initiative. Dealing with the Gaela study first, the results indicated whether, across all Gaela respondents, international students commencing a language course in the first half of 2009 had grown or declined.

The vote was completely split, with 28 per cent of respondents saying they had declined and 28 per cent saying they had increased, with relatively low numbers indicating “declined a lot” (11 per cent) or “grown a lot” (nine per cent). When analysed by country, Australia, New Zealand and the UK had shown the most positive prognosis, with Malta and Ireland trailing in terms of optimism. In Ireland (over 30 schools took part), just under 20 per cent of schools indicated that bookings had grown from January to July.
However, when asked if they felt positive or negative about prospects for the last half of 2009, the results were tending towards optimistic, as 35 per cent indicated that they felt “neutral”, 33 per cent said positive while 28 per cent tended to be negative. Interestingly, here, South Africans were the most upbeat (over 60 per cent positive), possibly thinking about the upcoming World Cup in 2010. And Australians and New Zealanders, following on from their successful first half of the year, were also mainly positive or neutral about the year-end.

Key source countries were indicated, on a global level, as being, in order of importance, Korea, Saudi Arabia and China. This order did change depending on individual country, but they were overall of most significance in the survey. However, Saudi Arabia, China and Brazil were highlighted as having shown the most growth in demand in the same January to June period. Declining enrolments were signalled to be coming from Japan, Korea and Taiwan, on a global level.

Among the Felca contingent, responses came from 11 different countries, with a majority of Spanish agencies – members of Aseproce – taking part overall. When asked if the number of students sent overseas had grown or declined in the first six months of the year, there was certainly a negative trend overall, as 33 per cent indicated bookings had remained stable; another 33 per cent said they had declined and 21 per cent said they had grown.

When looking at these results by country of origin, it is clear that French and Italian agencies had seen the best growth prospects this year, while Jaos members in Japan registered no growth at all – just stable bookings or a decline – and Mauritian education agencies registered only a decline; hard times there for sure.

Again, there was optimism in the air among agencies when asked about the fortunes of the latter half of the year. Around 37 per cent indicated they felt positive about the year-end and 36 per cent felt neutral – around 19 per cent of the 101 agencies polled were negative or very negative.

Analysing these responses by country, it appears that Brazilian, Vietnamese and Russian agencies were the most positive, with Korean and Japanese agencies at the other end of the scale; most likely to feel neutral or negative about the latter half of the year. This ties in with well documented declines in student numbers from these two countries this year.

The most likely study destinations chosen by agency clients were, in descending order, the UK, USA and Canada, although again this varied by country. For example, Thailand’s top destination was Australia, and Spain’s second favourite destination was Ireland. There was a clear concensus however that the UK was most likely to be seeing increasing demand from students in the second half of 2009; this must be connected to the low price of the pound sterling compared with most other currencies. Likewise, poor Ireland was voted most likely to be seeing decreased demand for the rest of the year. It has been a difficult year in Ireland, with the high value of the euro not helping matters, as detailed in our Market Report (see page 37).

Members of both associations identified various challenges facing them, such as establishing a strong Internet presence; marketing on a reduced budget; diversifying services to provide other sources of revenue (all Felca); incompetent government support; maintaining staff morale; and sourcing good quality accommodation options (all Gaela).

Sensible suggestions for association support were provided, and great achievement was made by placing national challenges and domestic industries within a global context. “Members agreed that this would be a good initiative to continue and that the survey would be done again to look at developments in the second half of 2009,” Blundell asserts.

Contact any advertiser in this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





English Australia  
Feltom Malta  
MEI Ireland  
IALC International  

Alphe Conferences  
IALC International  


Alphe Conferences  
College Bound
Student Marketing  

Malta Tourism
      and Training
      Trade Queensland  

Twin Group  
      (Ireland, England,

English Australia  
Embassy CES  
      and Training
      Trade Queensland  

College Platon  
Elmwood School  
ILAC - International
      Language Academy
      of Canada  
Richmond School
      District #38  

IH Xi'an
Mandarin House

ABC Languages  
      (England, Ireland,
      USA, Cyprus,
Bell International  
      (Malta, UK)
IALC International  
Kaplan Aspect  
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand,South Africa,
      UK, USA)
LAL Language
      and Leisure  
      (Canada, Cyprus,
      Ireland, England,
      South Africa, Spain,
      Switzerland, USA)
Study Group  
       (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy,New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
Twin Group (
      Ireland, England,
Queen Ethelburga's
SUL Language
University of Essex -

International House
      Berlin - Prolog  

MEI Ireland  

Kai Japanese
      Language School  

      Language School  
Feltom Malta  
Malta Tourism

Dominion English

Holme Park  

Malaga Si  

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd  
      (Australia, Canada,
      China, Costa Rica,
      Ecuador, England,
      France, Germany,
      Italy, Malta, New
      Zealand, Singapore,
      South Africa, Spain,

Inlingua Language
NYC Language
University of
      Nebraska - Lincoln  
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)  

Celtic School  

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