February 2013 issue

News Round Up
Inside the industry
Agency Survey
Secondary Focus 1
Secondary Focus 2
Tertiary Focus 1
Tertiary Focus 2
Vocational Focus
Special Report
Course Guide
Regional Focus
Market Analysis

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South Africa secure

South African ELT providers’ hard work and positive attitude paid dividends last year, with all reporting stable or increased enrolments. Nicola Hancox talks to language schools about the operational highs and industry challenges. 

South Africa’s marketing budget by region (overall %) Student feedback respondents by world region of origin
Latin America 26%
Africa 25.5%
W Europe 20.5%
Middle East 10%
Asia 9%
C&E Europe 7%
Australasia 2%
Africa 35%
W Europe 24%
Asia 15%
Latin America 15%
C&E Europe 4%
Middle East 4%
No reply 3%

Top nationalites in South Africa by student weeks – according to schools, 2011 To practise in South African with native speakers is ....
Angolan 23%
Brazilian 12%
Saudi 6%
Chinese 5.5%
Korean 5%
Gabonese 5%
Mozambican 4%
German 4%
Turkish 3%
French 3%

Source: STM South Africa school survey

Quite easy 49%
Quite hard 33%
Very easy 15%
Very hard 2%
No reply 1%

Commission Student numbers by age range
20% is the average commission paid on a language course

Four of the institutions profiled paid commission on accommodation

8-11: 1%
12-15: 1%
16-18: 18%
19-24: 35%
25-30: 25%
30-50: 17%
50+: 3%

Means of recruiting students in South Africa, 2011 (schools) How did you find your programme? (students)
Agents 43%
Internet 18%
Local bookings 15%
Other means 24%
It was recommended by a friend/relative 53%
I found it on the internet 25%
It was recommended by an agent 17%
I saw it advertised 4%
No reply 1%

In my class there are...
...just the right amount of students and mix of nationalities 66%
...too many students from one other country 16%
...too many students who speak my language 8%
...too many students 7%
No reply 3%

Total marketing spend by sector and by category in %
Agency costs 34%
Commission 30%
Incentives 3%
Agency brochures 1%

Travel costs 12%
Agent workshops 7%
Agency visits to school 2%
Entertainment 2%

Trips to agencies 1%
Publicity costs 54%
Agent mags etc. 5.5%
Student mags etc. 4%
Brochure, video etc 14%
Internet 30.5%

21% of students who had been on another study programme

92% of students who would recommend their school

Student reasons for school selection included:
“Interesting concept of combining the lessons with the excursions to discover Cape Town”
“Good information via the Internet”
“Because the accommodation was inside the school”
“Because when I was checking the Internet, the homepage looked good”

South Africa student feedback at a glance
Total number of students: 134 (female 64, male 68, unknown 2)
Average age in years: 27
Average number of students in class: 7
Participating schools: Kurus English, Cape Town; Bay Language Institute, Port Elizabeth; EF, Cape Town; Wits Language School, Johannesburg; IH Cape Town, Cape Town; LAL Language Centres, Cape Town; Cape Town School of English, Cape Town; Cape Studies, Cape Town; Cape English Language School, Cape Town.

8.4 weeks Overall average length of stay

21 hours Average language tuition per week

An effective marketing strategy is paramount in raising a school’s profile on the international education stage, observe educators in this month’s ELT market analysis of South Africa – including Johannes Kraus at Kurus English in Cape Town. He allots the school’s 10 per cent increase in student numbers to marketing activities over the last four years, observing, “We have become more established and have been able to consistently grow our student numbers [as a result].”

Similarly, Shaun Fitzhenry at Bay Language Institute in Port Elizabeth attributes the school’s steady growth in student bookings to changes in their marketing strategy. “We expect to see consistent growth as our own marketing efforts show results,” he relates, adding that a newly clinched marketing agreement with a larger organisation will almost certainly help grow their reputation further.

“Student numbers have gone up very nicely over the past year,” asserts Wolfgang Graser at Good Hope Studies in Cape Town. He puts this down to gaining access to smaller markets in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. “This has provided us with a nice increase in student weeks,” he adds. And launching just four years ago, IH Cape Town continues on a path of strong, balanced growth, observes the school’s Gavin Eyre, with student numbers from all key markets increasing by approximately 20 per cent. Increased participation at market-specific workshops and visits to key agent markets have been contributing factors, he adds.

Word-of-mouth marketing proved equally as powerful, notes Trish Cooper at Wits Language School in Johannesburg, with a significant number of students recommending their school experience after their course, “And this number is growing,” she elaborates. “It would seem we are in the fortunate position of gaining a reputation as one of the best schools in Johannesburg,” she says. Word-of-mouth endorsements also had the biggest impact on enrolments at The International English School (TIES) in Somerset West, which saw student numbers increase over 2011 figures, asserts Tania Copeland at the school. Meanwhile, Annaelle Moothoo at Cape Studies in Cape Town relates that the school has enjoyed consistently high booking levels over the last few of years and this, she adds, has been largely attributable to clients recommending the school to peers in their home country. Also, many students re-book a second course.

Brazilians and German-speaking nationalities performed well for many English language schools. “The German speaking market is performing best due to existing networks in these countries,” notes Kraus. However, providers point to other viable source markets. “We also had significant Cameroonian, Congolese and Angolan bookings, as well as good growth in the South American market,” relates Fitzhenry. New agent partnerships forged in the Libyan outbound student market also saw enrolments from this domicile grow to represent 30 per cent of all student bookings at the school, he adds.

The small island of Réunion, east of Madagascar, was an interesting source country at City Education and Language Studies in 2012, expresses Gina Pardenwachter, adding that many young learner groups from this country enrolled throughout the year. Group bookings from Saudi Arabia were also numerous during summer months, and a good referral rate from previous students did wonders for Turkish enrolments, she adds.

Interestingly, Chinese students were the most numerous national grouping at Wits Language School, with a very small proportion of students originating from Western Europe, says Cooper. However, this trend was not sector wide, with several providers noting a downturn in the Asian market. Kraus says, “Enrolments from the Far East were very bad in 2012. We received hardly any enquiries, let alone bookings.” Australia is a far more attractive prospect for Asian students given its close proximity and affordability, muses Kraus.

At EF, Ecuadorians were the golden ticket in terms of 2012 admissions, while an overly complicated visa application process stifled Chinese enrolments, observes the school’s Anka Stenten. Indeed, several canvassed providers vented their frustrations over visa stipulations. “The process is having a negative impact on enrolments as students are struggling to meet visa demands. These seem to fluctuate according to the country. Unfortunately this process is also very often not at all efficient, causing significant delays and extreme frustration,” comments Cooper.

Fortunately, visa streamlining is high on the agenda for national language school association Education South Africa (EduSA). Fitzhenry, also association Chairman, explains that the organisation has been tirelessly lobbying government, but progress is slow. “Government clearly understands the need to boost tourism to South Africa – it is already the single biggest contributor to the country’s GDP, but it doesn’t seem to understand that our sector plays a significant role in that contribution,” he proffers. The association is also working in tandem with the umbrella organisation South African Youth Travel Association (SAYTC) to drum up support among tourism bodies in the country.

EduSA’s good work has not gone unnoticed by its membership. Kraus relates that it is through the association that they are able to negotiate government recognition/accreditation and funding for future joint marketing events. Stenten at EF concurs, adding, “As part of EduSA, we are trying as a group to make things happen. Some schools are travelling abroad to attend big fairs and attract students… this is definitely helping,” she notes.

One area where South African language schools are particularly proactive is product development. At Good Hope Studies, Graser relates that they increased the variety of general English courses available and introduced more language plus programmes in 2012. “What was really popular was our volunteer programme, which gave our language courses a nice boost,” he says. Meanwhile, Wits Language School implemented two new ‘Natural English’ programmes to focus on student communication and fluency. “These have taken off extremely well,” affirms Cooper, “as they are less academically demanding than the other courses so suit students who are not planning to study at university but would like to improve their general communication skills.” The centre, which is based on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, has also developed a new range of English for academic purposes courses aimed at more proficient students who want to build on skills required for university study in an English-speaking country.

Optimism: result generator

Adopting the same positive mental attitude applied to 2012 business suppositions, ELT providers in South Africa are unanimous in their 2013 business forecasts, with all confident that the sector will sustain business growth. Gavin Eyre from IH Cape Town notes that they expect substantial growth from key markets over the next 12 months, due to marketing efforts, adding that the school will tap into nascent markets rather than solely rely on traditional source regions. “New markets are being sought where we hope to see some growth, albeit small,” he says.

While a weak currency is by no means a panacea during times of economic hardship, it can certainly help businesses grow in the short-term and South African language schools are eager to take advantage of the weakened rand while they still can. “We are hoping for a small growth in numbers along the lines of 2012 on the basis of a weak rand and related costs of studying here relative to other countries,” comments Trish Cooper at Wits Language School in Johannesburg. Tania Copeland from The International English School in Cape Town concurs, commenting, “The trend for us [in 2013] is that student numbers are increasing. With a weaker rand we expect this trend to continue.”

“I’m hoping we’ll increase [bookings] by at least 20 per cent again,” asserts Anka Stenten at EF in Cape Town. “The figures are looking good and the reasons are simple: people have started talking about South Africa and those who come here speak about CPT in a very positive way – referrals are still the best marketing tool,” she adds.
Summer enrolment levels are expected to peak at City Education and Language Studies in Cape Town. School Director Gina Pardenwachter notes that the development of their brand and reputation both locally and internationally is helping grow business.

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ESL Townhouse  
Sara's New York Homestay LLC  
Colonias de Inmersión al Idioma.  
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LAL Language Centres Holding Ltd  
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AHLI - American Home Life International  
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