Q&A Agency association
This month, Lorenzo Agati, new President of Italian agency association Ialca, answers our questions..
What has Ialca achieved in the last 12 months?
Six Ialca agencies have travelled throughout Australia visiting schools. We had a very interesting meeting with Languages Canada members and took part in international fairs such as ICEF Berlin and Alphe London, where we were shortlisted for an STM Star Award.
Ialca signed an agreement with Languages Canada last year. Do you have any more plans for collaboration?
It was has been an unique experience for Ialca members: we were welcomed at the Canadian Embassy by the team in charge of Public Affairs and Education Promotion and by the Ambassador. Some schools came to Rome to meet us so that we had the chance to meet many of them without having to travel to Canada we are going to create more events together with the embassy and Languages Canada in the next few months. After the fam trip of last December, we are now working on a similar project with the Australian Trade Commission.
What challenges do member agencies face?
We see that, despite the difficult economic situation that our country is facing, families are still interested in investing in their children’s future; our goal is to provide a very good experience for them: high quality programmes at an affordable cost.
What marketing projects does the association have planned?
We are thinking of renewing our website to make it more attractive and provide more information to students. We would like to advertise so the association can be more known; we are also planning seminars for members and open them to new potential members.
Full name: Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents (Ialca)
Year established: 1997
Number of members: 20
Association’s main role: to promote agencies in Italy; to increase quality and reliability in the sector; to develop agent’s professional skills; to guarantee reliable and highly professional school partnerships; to maintain constant collaboration with official national bodies in Italy and abroad
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Do you think internet delivered courses could threaten your agency business?
Suad Alhalwachi, Education Zone, United Arab Emirates
“Online study or Internet delivered courses are not a threat to the study abroad market. They are specifically prepared with a mature adult in mind: a person who is above a certain age, probably married, and probably with kids, and most probably working. This adult wants to broaden his or her horizons, but has no time, or/and cannot afford to stop work and join university full time. I am glad that universities have thought of this option so this niche market is well catered for. Of course the concept is not new, the Open University started in the 1940s and Beirut Arab University has [offered this option] for a long time. But there are disadvantages: first the time that one has for leisure has been allocated to study, the second and most difficult disadvantage is the loneliness; no group discussions, no one to talk to, no one to ask about difficult issues in the course. We work with many providers of online courses, but we ensure that they are approved, accredited and have moderators. [There is a commission structure in place for online courses], but it is difficult to follow through as the universities will forget to pay us especially when the student may take courses over a few years.”
Rodrigo Chaves, English for Business, Brazil
“Two types of online language courses are increasingly popular in Brazil. The courses designed by investment groups for the mass market with heavy advertising on TV – and very low quality – and the courses designed by good language schools worldwide that also want to tap into this market by offering their VIP courses at higher prices. It is easy and convenient to buy the first one as there are no intermediaries but most students give up as soon as they realise the poor quality of the classes. Some of these students contact the agencies in Brazil in order to find better options even if they have to pay a premium. In both cases though, the online tuition seems to be “not enough” for many of them who are encouraged to seek face-to-face courses abroad.”
Rosa Munoz, Education Advisor, Venezuela
“From my experience, I would say that young professionals and middle management staff know that the English language is a very important tool to get a good work position. Because of time implications, they are inclined to invest in English training by taking a course in an English-speaking country rather than just doing an online course. Although e-learning is regarded as a useful platform to study at your own speed, this technology does not replace the direct interaction with teachers and fellow students ‘in situ’. Studying abroad is seen as a whole cultural experience, during which English can be practised all the time not just in the classroom. Some providers offer online language courses as an added option in order to expand their portfolios. Others offer it to full-time international students as an additional course component a couple of months before their course starts and after it ends. From this perspective, I think that Internet delivered courses could not threaten the study abroad market.”
Fred Chiderolli Tiba, Educnet, Brazil
“Since the advent of the Internet, agents and educators feared that the market would change. Combined with various crises, students looked for potential alternatives to improve or learn a language. I believe this market is not accustomed to online courses, and only a small portion is concerned. Unfortunately contact is made directly with schools, devaluing the services of agents.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or advisor partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month Browns English Language School in Australia nominates GCS Group Australia. Roy Nishimura, Manager, International Relations at the school, explains this decision.
“Mr Nobuhiko Eto and his team have been working with us for the last five years. They have five offices in Australia and one office in Tokyo, Japan. Each one of their counsellors is not only dedicated to counselling but are also focussed on student success. I often meet with the team and enjoy exchanging ideas on how to develop opportunities to do business together. They always provide student-oriented services as well as deliver friendly individual student support. This quality service and attention to detail is the reason why their offices are always full of students. Their professionalism and industry knowledge always results in high client satisfaction... and I look forward to doing business with them for many years to come.”
“We have been working with Browns English Language School since they started their business in the Gold Coast. It is great pleasure for us that Browns has prospered as one of the top language schools in Australia. I believe Browns will continue to thrive with their good quality lessons and smart marketing strategy.”
Nobuhiko Eto, GCS Group, Australia & Japan