I once had a great discussion over breakfast at a conference somewhere with Jan Capper from Ialc, in which we considered what the best investments in life were. As I remember, we concluded that education and travelling were two of them, the third (in no particular order) being the property that you live in. These are investments that enrich your quality of life, investments both pecuniary (ie financial) and personal, in terms of time invested... I would add friendship to this list, although this is an asset that only time and effort yields.
With this at the back of my mind, I am pleased to read that operators in the summer school sector which is the bulk of annual business for many schools and colleges are positive about 2009 enrolments despite the looming spectre of financial dire straits around the world. Many feel sure that parents will continue to appropriate funds for the education of their children, even if new trends in booking testify to more conservative spending patterns.
South African language schools are also upbeat about the year ahead, noting a weak comparative currency and a growing range of student source countries and Turkish agencies are, on the whole, hopeful that business will not be adversely affected .
Speak to operators who have been around for a few years and tales of ups and downs over the years emerge. Not every year can yield growth but longevity in this business seems to be assured by market awareness, responsiveness, quality ideals and tenacity, as well, of course, as high standards of service and a commitment to partnerships.
We talked to many of the pioneers in the Spanish as a foreign language industry this month for our Special Report, all of whom started small, albeit with big ideas. Considering quality, rather than price; improving classroom settings as soon as possible; and building up word-of-mouth slowly through ex-students and acquaintances (some of whom went on to become agents) seems to be a typical tale of early beginnings in Spain and Latin America . It was also intriguing to hear of communication by telex and stories of police being called to arrest a foreigner mistakenly thought to be working ‘illegally’ in Spain (at Malaca Instituto!)
Studying abroad has always offered a thrilling combination of travel, education and international friendship, all rolled into one opportunity, one slice of global experience for what, when all is considered, is not a high price to pay.