||New indexing system measures English skills
EF Education First an organisation specialising in language training, educational travel, academic degrees and cultural exchange programmes has developed the first benchmarking system to help measure the average English proficiency of an entire country.
Using a unique set of test data accrued from over two million test takers across 44 countries, the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) is the first index of its kind to give countries a standardised measure of English competency in adults.
Very high achievers included several European countries such as Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. However, Spain and Italy fared less well, with English skills displayed in the test considered low. Asian countries performed less well than expected too, with Indian students no more proficient in English than the rapidly progressive Chinese.
Bill Fisher, President of EF’s online learning division, Englishtown, noted, “In today’s highly competitive and unpredictable global economy, English language proficiency has never been more important for the entire workforce. For developing countries to compete successfully in global industries and capitalise on the business outsourcing boom, the ability to produce large numbers of skilled graduates who are able to communicate in English must be a top priority.”
Interestingly, the index revealed a strong correlation between a country’s English competency and its national income per head.
ExpoBelta welcomes record numbers of attendees
Brazilian agent association, Belta, hosted its annual international trade show and education forum earlier this year and welcomed more than 11,000 visitors during its two-day São Paulo leg.
Delegates from more than 50 countries attended the fair, which also journeyed to Belo Horizonte for the third and final day, with language schools, universities, study abroad advisors and government bodies well represented.
Exhibitors from neighbouring Spanish-speaking countries, such as Chile, proved particularly popular, as did those from Europe. Interest in pre- and post-graduation programmes was also high.
“It [was] such a pleasure to see all those visitors at ExpoBelta,” said Maura Leão, President of Belta. “Visitors with great backgrounds who come here searching for the best opportunities for studying abroad.”
Interest in learning a second language abroad is increasing among Brazilians, with requests for international education and exchange programmes up by 22 per cent in 2010, said organisers.
English Australia guide for agents
English Australia (EA), which represents over 100 member colleges in Australia, has produced a manual for study abroad advisors to assist them in identifying colleges that provide a quality education.
A Guide to Choosing a Quality English Language College looks at the standards and processes of a college in detail; namely teaching quality, the provision of comprehensive information, student welfare, a professional approach and whether or not the school offers consumer protection.
Launched at the ANZA workshop, the guide which is downloadable from the EA website has been well received. “EA has made it easy all EA members colleges must comply with the standards and processes outlined in the guide, so if I look for a college which is a member of EA then I know my students will be well looked after,” said Miguel Varela from Global Studies in Colombia.
Advisor of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different language teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or agent partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month, Colegio de España in Spain nominates LanguageCourse.net in Spain. Yeilin González Reinoso, Manager at the school, explains this decision.
“The Colegio de España wishes to nominate LanguageCourse.net. This agency is one we have been working with for many years. The reason why we would like to nominate them is because we think that their presence on the Internet is excellent, they have a great communication with their students/clients and their follow-up procedure [for students] finishing their courses is also very good. It is one of the most well-known agencies in Europe and they offer a great variety of destinations and different languages on their website. One of the advantages of this agency is that their offices are situated in Barcelona, and seeing that there is no time difference with our location, it is very easy for us to contact them in case we have any questions, doubts or problems. The collaboration with the staff from the agency has been excellent, they are always prepared to help out in case of emergencies or possible problems. Their website reaches a wide amount of clients, due to the various languages it has been translated into.”
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How popular are teaching training courses such as Celta, Trinity, Tesl, Tefl or Tesol programmes with your clients?
Olga Khovavko, Study In, Russia
“Most of our clients choose ordinary teachers’ refresher courses and very rarely certification courses for teachers (Celta, TKT etc.). The reason is that these certificates are initial teaching qualifications and our clients have degrees (including PhDs) and practical experience in this subject area and the content of the programmes is generally familiar to them. The other problem with selling courses for teachers is that the course dates are suitable mainly for the Western Europeans and in Russia we have school and students’ holidays in other months. However, the most popular destinations for such programmes remain the UK and Ireland. I think the number of requests for such programmes has not changed within the last three-to-four years but many teachers book their courses directly unless they need advice with their visa applications.”
Daniel Billington, A8 Educatours, UK
“About five per cent of calls taken in our UK office are from British students who are considering their gap year options, but increasingly more students aged 40 and over, disillusioned with the nine-to-five of the UK are following this [teacher training] pathway. For both age groups [a teaching qualification] is seen as a passport to working their way around the world. Younger people are looking at destinations such as Barcelona, Dublin or Prague, whereas, older students are happier to consider distance learning or UK-based centres. A few will consider learning further afield and we’ve sent students to Australia for this in the past. There is definitely a growing demand for these certificates. The tricky part to manage is the student expectations for EFL employment; the dream location versus the reality. More Tefl internship programmes would be a welcome addition to this sector.”
Vanessa Feitosa, Going Intercambio, Brazil
“The demand for courses of this type is still very small, since in Brazil many schools do not demand specific certificates for English teachers or for any other language teacher. Local schools look to give more value if the candidate for a language teacher post has a considerable period of studies and if he has already lived in a country where the language is spoken. The Celta Certificate is still the most popular. The destinations for courses of this sort are always the USA or the UK. Spain is preferred for Spanish education. This lack of interest in the language teaching certificates for Brazilian teachers also contributes to the fact that the majority of local schools have weak methods of education meaning that the majority of the students have to travel abroad to improve their fluency in the language. Brazil is full of franchised schools of English which employ disqualified language teachers. A shame!”
Ana Beatriz Senra Faulhaber, CP4 Cursos no Exterio & Traveller, Brazil
“Despite their necessity, teacher training programmes are not very popular in Brazil. As a matter of fact, most teachers would like and would need to go abroad for training purposes but can‘t afford the programmes, as salaries for education in the country are below average. This is the reason why CP4 has many enquiries for these programmes but so few teachers actually going abroad. With the economy getting better over the past two years, the number of enquiries is slightly increasing, but still represents less than two per cent of total inquiries. In spite of the economic reasons, we have a few teachers who go abroad for short-term courses. The most popular courses are Celta and Tesol, especially Celta as it is a Cambridge Certificate and it is well recognised in Brazil. The two most popular destinations are London and Vancouver.”
On the move
Chris Moore (left) has joined online English course provider Languagelab.com as Sales Director. A highly skilled language training professional with over 20 years of industry experience, Mr Moore was Principal of a small English school in Brighton, UK, from 2001 to 2006, where he developed a range of business and academic programmes. He then joined Cactus Worldwide as Academic Director, before taking on the role of Director of Language Training in 2007, running the company’s hugely successful Foreign Language Evening Courses and Tailor-made Language Training programmes. Marcus Allender (right) has also joined Languagelab.com as Marketing Manager. Prior to joining Languagelab he taught Ielts and Business English in Kunming, China. Mr Allender’s professional background is in marketing and PR including working in brand communications at The Economist magazine, where he managed high-profile brand building events and cross-channel media campaigns throughout the UK and Europe.
Having served as an Ialc Membership Committee member from 2002 to 2005 and being elected Vice President Membership, Alexandra Borges de Sousa has been appointed the new President of international language school association Ialc. Ms Borges de Sousa’s involvement in languages started early on when she studied English, French and Spanish in the family’s language school CIAL, a Portuguese language school set up in the 1970s.
Jackie McGuire has joined Cambridge Education Group as the Principal of the new Stafford House School of English in London, UK. After a career in retail banking, Ms McGuire moved into the EFL industry six years ago. She has worked as an EFL teacher, a young learners operations manager and a language school principal. She is now looking forward to launching the new Stafford House school.
Diana Folch has been appointed Marketing & Communication Manager at Barcelona-based language school, ABCHumboldt. Ms Folch, who has studied Economics and has specialised in Marketing and Communication, said, “I have always loved learning languages and this post is the perfect role. There’s a lot of ambitious projects I will be working on, including developing a new website, launching an e-marketing campaign and working on the school’s communication and public relations.”
Global Experiences launches new internships
International internship specialist, Global Experiences, based in the USA, has recently introduced new summer programmes in New York and Washington, DC offering guaranteed high quality placements in careers such as fashion, business operations, interior design, government, law and architecture.
The programmes include a full social calendar and allow students to gain useful knowledge and cultural experiences. Stephen Reilly, Director and Program Development Coordinator for Global Experiences, said, “We are extremely excited to be enrolling students into New York and Washington, DC internships this summer. We strive to provide a memorable and enriching experience, along with useful practical work experience.”
Washington, DC interns will stay at George Washington University residence halls and be able to take part in job and networking opportunities, while New York applicants will be in dormitory residences at New York University and have a number of opportunities to work in the fashion industry among other business sectors.
“While international internships are becoming more common, they still provide an incredible opportunity for students to distinguish themselves from other applicants vying for a job after graduation. Global Experiences hopes to help every student learn what it’s like to be immersed in another culture, as well as to work with the top companies in their fields,” concluded Reilly.
New course and certification for Zoni Language Center
The new York branch of Zoni Language Centers has become a Cambridge Open Center for Cambridge Esol exams and has also launched a new preparation course for the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) a standardised exam that is required in order to enter most business-related graduate programmes.
The English Advantage is a super-intensive 32-hours-per-week course, consisting of 20 hours of premium English and 12 hours of GMAT preparation. Students have the option of a 24-week or a 48-week programme.
The preparation course will focus on core skills such as critical thinking and analytical writing skills, maximising students’ GMAT test scores as well as their MBA grades, observed Lyssol Garcia, Marketing Manager at the school.
“Zoni now offers Toefl, GMAT and Ielts preparation in addition to its Cambridge courses furthering its reputation of excellence as a provider of ESL classes and examinations of high regard,” Garcia added.
New Kings College residence in Bournemouth
Kings College in Bournemouth has received planning permission to build a new student residence with 50 en suite study bedrooms.
Andrew Hutchinson, Director of Kings Colleges, said that the development was part of a wider plan.“Our aim is to develop a range of high quality residential options for our students in Bournemouth,” he said.
Chichester College pioneers web-based EFL study for students
The international department of Chichester College in the UK has successfully pioneered the integration of BurlingtonEnglish a 24/7 web-based platform aimed at teaching English for special purposes into its courses, the only further education institution in the UK to have done so.
The West Sussex-based college has an international student population of 2,400 with around half studying solely to improve English skills. The institution turned to Burlington, one of Europe’s largest publishers of English language teaching materials, to address its need for supplementary EFL provision with continuous, real-time feedback along with English for Specific Purposes, and began trialling BurlingtonEnglish from July 2009.
BurlingtonEnglish assists learners by repeating the practice cycle of read-listen-speak and creating randomly generated games. The web-based software provides state-of-the-art speech processing based on the analysis of millions of recordings of speakers of many different languages, allowing it to adapt to a variety of accents and pronunciation difficulties.
Furthermore, BurlingtonEnglish offers a range of specialised courses in a variety of professional fields. Course content at Chichester includes accounting, medical, financial and business strands.
Peter Brown, Director of International Studies at Chichester College, said, “With BurlingtonEnglish, students record themselves, and the software tells them how they did on a scale of one-to-four. In a class, it’s very difficult to give every student individual feedback on all their pronunciation. However, with BurlingtonEnglish our students can receive specific feedback on every word.
Access to courses is provided via the WebMic, a high-tech microphone with patented technology. These are provided at Chichester College in a new interactive learning room (see left). Over 500 students are now using the programme.
Jeff Hutcheson, President of American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP), talks to us about the group’s success concerning recent government legislation.
Full name: American Association of Intensive English Programs
Year established: 1986
Number of members: 280
Type of members: Accredited Intensive English Programs
Association’s main role: To support and promote ethical and professional standards for IEPs, communicate the value of US-based IEPs to students, governments, and organisations, and to provide a forum for member exchange
Government recognition: Non-profit Professional Association no government affiliation
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: n/a
AAIEP Central Office
c/o ELS Educational Services, Inc.
400 Alexander Park
Princeton, NJ 08540
T: +1 6097503555
What has your association been up to in the last 12 months?
AAIEP has been active in the past 12 months in all aspects of its mission. Our most prominent accomplishment has been the passage of legislation that requires language programmes to be accredited in order to receive approval from US Immigration to issue I-20s. AAIEP has worked for over five years to make this legislation into reality, as we strive to bring standardisation of quality to the numerous programmes in the USA, providing additional confidence for students seeking to study in the USA. In other areas, AAIEP continues to support professional development through its Professional Development Workshop, held annually in October. This past year’s workshop brought over 30 programmes together for collegial discussions and for meetings with government and organisational officials for the support and advancement of intensive English programmes. AAIEP continues to develop its branding of EnglishUSA (www.EnglishUSA.org) to support students seeking study in the USA. As we kick off our 25th year of existence, our goal is to continue to grow and add more programmes, becoming an even better voice for US-based IEPs.
What challenges are your members currently facing when it comes to recruiting new students?
We continue to face the challenges of exponential growth from only certain sectors of the globe. The opportunities for students extends far beyond the borders of the USA, and we want to continue to increase the diversity of our international student populations and identify the USA as the destination for language instruction.
Explain AAIEP’s involvement in the recent government bill that stipulates only accredited English teaching organisations issue I-20s.
AAIEP was the major association supporting the recent legislation and many of our members have worked tirelessly to see it to fruition. What this means for English language teaching in the USA is increased quality for students, as more and more programmes become accredited. Standards and quality are at the core of AAIEP’s mission.
What marketing activities do you have planned?
We desire to promote the EnglishUSA brand, in conjunction with AAIEP, in numerous ways and venues. AAIEP will increase its organizational capacity to devote valuable resources to the EnglishUSA tool.
• Iceland’s flagship carrier Icelandair and JetBlue Airways have joined forces to connect JetBlue’s network in the USA and the Caribbean with Icelandair’s European destinations across Scandinavia, the UK and Continental Europe. The partnership will allow passengers to book a single ticket for Icelandair/JetBlue flights and enjoy one-stop check-in and baggage transfer. Connecting passengers also have the opportunity to stopover in Iceland at no additional airfare cost. In addition to the partnership, Icelandair has also expanded its services from Boston and New York/JFK to Reykjavik to twice a day, and has launched a non-stop service from Washington/Dulles to Reykjavik.
• A report from International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed that passenger traffic slowed in March. “The profile of the recovery in air transport sharply decelerated in March. The global industry lost two percentage points of demand as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA),” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. Data showed that passenger traffic grew 3.8 per cent over March last year, but that growth was down on the 5.8 per cent recorded in February. Events in Japan caused a one per cent loss in global traffic and a 22 per cent reduction in domestic demand, while MENA disruptions cut overall international traffic by 0.9 per cent.
• Emirates has been voted as the best airline for in-flight meals in a recent survey by flight comparison website Skyscanner. Eastern flavours proved very popular with six of the top 10 rated airlines based in the Middle East and Asia. Lufthansa were the highest-ranked European airline in second place, while Singapore Airlines came third. The 1,200 respondents to the poll were asked to rank preferences based on three categories: taste, presentation and choice. Skyscanner Director Barry Smith said, “It is interesting to see these Middle Eastern and Asian airlines ranking so highly. Airline food is notorious for being bland and perhaps it is the use of these strong eastern flavours and spices that is contributing to their popularity. Possibly it’s also because exotic flavours get people in a holiday mood!”
• British Airways has doubled its weekly frequency to Rio de Janeiro from three-to-six flights. Flights now depart from Heathrow every day, except Monday. Neil Cottrell, British Airways’ Head of Network Planning, said, “We are experiencing a real increase in demand for Rio and by doubling the number of frequencies, we are able to offer our customers more choice and greater availability. Brazil is also experiencing strong economic growth and this capacity increase is a great opportunity for British Airways to be part of that growth.”
• AirAsia X, the Malaysian-based budget long-haul carrier, has announced a year-on-year 56 per cent increase in first quarter passenger numbers, with a total of 640,000 passengers. During the three month period AirAsiaX commenced new routes from its Kuala Lumpur base to Mumbai, Delhi, Tehran, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris. Chief Executive, Azran Osman-Rani, said, “Our continued rapid growth trajectory is testament to the breakthrough long-haul model we have pioneered, which unlocks significant latent demand that exists between Southeast Asia and the major markets in North Asia, Australia, India, Middle East and Europe.”
• Disruptive passengers on Hong Kong Airlines flights should think twice after the airline announced that lessons in Wing Chun combat are being made compulsory for all stewards and stewardesses. The carrier reports around three incidents involving disruptive passengers every week and the revolutionary approach is thought to be a world first for an airline. Wing Chun involves striking and grappling moves with simultaneous defence and attack, and can also be practiced in confined spaces: ideal for narrow cabins.
• Air France has launched a new mobile flight status service that will allow Air France and KLM passengers to be kept informed of delays, cancellations, gate changes and missing baggage in real time via their smartphone. The free Air France Connect service enables the carriers to contact passengers either by phone, text, or email from 14 days before the flight. Air France Connect is currently available in Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian.
Please see the digital issue of Language Travel Magazine for the Grapevine section