December 2011 issue

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Irish Prime Minister attends MEI workshop

The Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, has shown his support for the country’s English language sector by attending the Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) agent workshop. The event, organised by MEI and supported by Fáilte Ireland, the tourism development agency, also attracted over 90 advisors from 16 different countries.

Welcoming the delegation to Carton House, Maynooth, Prime Minister Kenny said, “This workshop provides a great opportunity to showcase the range of programmes on offer to English language students travelling to Ireland from overseas.” He advised that the government, tourism agencies and education institutions were working together to position Ireland as a world-class educational destination. “The Programme for Government has set out an ambitious target of doubling international student numbers. This is ambitious, but given the sort of growth we have witnessed in the English language sector, it is achievable.”

According to recently released statistics based on MEI member schools, the first nine months of 2011 saw a 16 per cent rise in student numbers over the same period last year and a 22 per cent increase in student weeks, reflecting the fact that Ireland is becoming increasingly popular with long-haul markets, particularly Brazil, Turkey, Korea and Japan. MEI Chief Executive, David O’Grady, said, “Events such as this are vital to the ongoing promotion of Ireland as a quality location for English language studies. There is huge potential for further economic growth in this sector, not only through job creation, but as a result of money spent by students while in Ireland.”

New councils for international education

A range of new consultative bodies have been established in Australia to bring together industry and government figures to discuss international education issues, while the Canadian government has established an advisory panel to assist in the implementation of an international education strategy.

The International Education Advisory Council (IEAC), the Education Visa Consultative Committee (EVCC) and the External Reference Group (ERG) have all been established in response to the Knight Review of Australia’s student visa programme (see STM, November 2011, page 7). Introducing the IEAC, Tertiary Education Minister, Senator Chris Evans, said, “The new council will provide high level advice to the government on the challenges and opportunities facing international education.” The 12-member council covers business and education sectors, including Bruce Baird, who headed the previous government review of the Esos Act, and Claire Field, Chief Executive Officer of Acpet.

The Department of Immigration & Citizenship (Diac) has established the EVCC to provide a forum for the government to engage with key stakeholders regarding student visas, and the ERG to recommend reforms for the Assessment Level framework, which currently assesses student risk based on nationality. English Australia Chief Executive, Sue Blundell, has been appointed to both panels.

Meanwhile, an expert advisory panel has been formed in Canada to make recommendations to the government on how to develop and implement an international education strategy. The panel of six members, drawn mainly from universities, will advise on recruiting the brightest international students, strengthening engagement with emerging markets, expanding the delivery of Canadian expertise abroad, and promoting international partnerships. A strategy will be formulated after the panel has consulted with provinces, territories, and stakeholders across the country.

New Zealand looks to toughen college English tests

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is considering introducing tougher English language testing, including compulsory Ielts exams, after an increase in problems relating to poor English language skills and allegations of cheating.

Under current rules, private training establishments (PTEs) offering qualifications such as the National Business Diploma may use internal assessments to determine whether international students are ready to start courses. NZQA Deputy Chief Executive, Tim Fowler, said, “Recent examples of institutions enrolling students without being able to demonstrate that the student has competency in English and the consequent disadvantage this put the students at in completing their studies has prompted NZQA to review its requirements.”

Darren Conway, Chief Executive of language school, Languages International, said independent testing should have been introduced a long time ago. “Students with inadequate language levels compromise course quality, but they also create pressures for lenient assessment on diploma courses and outright cheating,” he added.
NZQA also confirmed that 26 PTEs are currently under investigation for issues including poor academic performance and that 16 have been closed in the last two years.

Consumer protection in Australia, calls for UK to follow

A bill to strengthen protection for international students when an education provider ceases trading has been introduced to federal parliament in Australia. The Tuition Protection Service (TPS) will replace existing schemes and be a single mechanism to place students when a school closes. The national scheme will be funded by all Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Student (Cricos) providers, with levies to be set by the TPS Director. English Australia will continue its internal scheme for non-visa students, who won’t be covered by the legislation.

Claire Field, Chief Executive Officer of Acpet, said, “Acpet is broadly supportive of the changes, but concerned at the lack of consultation by government with the sector in drafting the legislation.” Acpet supports measures to outsource the service provision of TPS, but has recommended the timeframe be extended to January 2013 to ensure efficient implementation. Acpet has recently activated its own tuition scheme after the closure of the Australian Institute of Technology and Education, Melbourne, offering alternative places to the 64 international students affected.

Meanwhile, calls for a similar scheme in the UK are growing after the closure of Tasmac London School of Business, which offered degrees validated by the University of Wales, left around 650 students unprotected. Beatrice Merrick at the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said, “The recent spate of college closures has left some international students stranded through no fault of their own – they came in good faith to study at colleges listed on the UK Border Agency’s list of sponsors, and now find themselves having paid substantial fees and other costs, but with no course and only 60 days to find a new course and college and apply for new visas.”

Gina Hobson, Chief Executive of the British Accreditation Council (Bac), said sector-wide discussions with UKBA are ongoing. “The current situation has the potential to cause significant damage to the UK education brand internationally, which is likely to result in loss of income at a time when this valued export should be treated with great care.” The University of Wales has been working with affected Tasmac students to find alternative providers. Tasmac was accredited by Bac and was A-rated on the UKBA’s register of sponsors.

Spanish school targets Chinese market

Spanish language school, Babylon Idiomas, has established an office in Beijing. Located near the Central Business District, the office will provide a physical presence to support local agencies and improve the efficiency of marketing support and customer service.

In a press release, Babylon Idiomas stated, “We are extremely excited at the opening of our first office in a continent earmarked as a growth area in the industry.” Babylon Chinese Marketing Director, Mia Piao, said, “Greater China is an amazing market and Babylon Idiomas is an excellent school. I feel so privileged to be able to combine these two elements together and to establish our first office overseas. I will do my very best to make every agency and student we work with happy.”

Latin America comes together

The Spanish language teaching industry in Latin America is moving closer together after establishing two new regional associations and hosting a recent language learning congress.

Flaele, the Latin American Federation of Associations of Spanish as a Foreign Language (Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Español como Lengua Extranjera) has been established as a network of the school associations across the region: Sea (Argentina), Aacele (Argentina), Aecee (Ecuador), GTI (Uruguay) and Achele (Chile).

The organisation was inaugurated at the recent International Congress on Tourism for Language Learning in Valparaíso, Chile, where over 250 delegates attended conferences, workshops, trade missions and meetings. Marcelo García, President of Sea, organisers of the event, said the congress “aimed to help Argentina and other countries in the region to achieve professional growth and to raise their quality standards. This was an international high-level forum where we analysed in detail the present and the future perspectives of language teaching and Spanish as a foreign language.”

Meanwhile, Amerigo has been established as a new network of quality Latin American language schools with similar characteristics in terms of city location, size, maximum class sizes (seven) and teaching styles. The founder members – Tandem Santiago; SET Idiomas, Córdoba; Academia Uruguay, Montevideo; and Academia Buenos Aires – will offer advisors combined destination packages, a central reservation system and a complete product range in all schools at similar prices.
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