Global game plan
There are current disputes and wars in the world that do little to encourage tolerance and understanding between nations, but fortunately, there are also examples of integration and countries becoming politically closer, which is good news for global understanding, international exchange and by default, the language learning industry.
An example of such a positive development is the enlargement of the European Union (EU), which occurs on May 1. Demand to learn English is likely to increase from the 10 accession states and many higher education institutions in the UK are expecting more enrolments from nationals in the new EU countries.
Increased migration between countries in the EU is also expected, which in turn fuels bilingualism. According to the author of a new report about the future of languages, English is likely to remain the international lingua franca among multilingual families and international businesses.
However, the report warns that English will become only one of several important languages that global citizens will need to be able to speak in the future in order to gain access to maximum opportunities. Other languages of significance will include Chinese (Mandarin), Urdu and Spanish.
If such trends do eventuate, then the language learning market could be a very different place, with Chinese language schools competing in equal numbers with English and Spanish language teaching institutions. Education consultants could find themselves busier than ever, with their clients wanting to study at least two languages overseas each year.
As we report in this issue, most agents and consultants like to visit the institutions that they represent personally, in order to be able to match their clients with the appropriate type of institution and ensure one aspect of a successful placement. Workshops with a regional focus, such as the recent Alphe workshop in Korea, might become regionally biased in terms of educators as well as agents in the future, if such trends evolve and language schools based in Asia increasingly promote themselves to overseas agents. Local fam trips to visit schools in Asia after a workshop might also become commonplace.
There are many interesting scenarios for future growth in the international education industry. As usual, all growth predictions are dependent upon countries' visa legislation. The latest figures to be issued in the USA provide more evidence that current immigration rules are restricting the influx of graduate and undergraduate students into the country, while the UK is hailing its amended visa process as being one contributory factor that has enabled the country to meet its growth objectives for international students in the higher education sector.
Italian language schools reveal that they are looking to increase student numbers from fellow European Union countries in many cases, as visa issuance for study in Italy has also been a problem for nationals from certain non-EU countries.
The existence of a national educator association that can lobby its government to consider the interests of the industry when amending visa law is clearly all-important. The Canadian Association of Private English Language Schools (Capls) acknowledges that as one of its central aims, the association intends to 'continue to develop a strong dialogue and spirit of cooperation with government agencies'.