||Last year was a tough one for the Canadian language teaching industry, with the Sars outbreak sending enrolment figures reeling (see Language Travel Magazine, November 2003, page 17). However, not all schools were equally affected. Jay Jamieson from the Canada Language Council (CLC) reports, 'Some programmes located outside the major centres reported significant increases in enrolment while, in the larger centres such as Vancouver and particularly Toronto, [there were] reported decreases of 20 to 50 per cent.'
Jamieson blames several factors for a 'ripple effect on enrolment' since early last year. 'There is still reduced travel following 9/11 as well as political and economic problems in some countries,' he says. 'These factors, combined with a stronger Canadian dollar and enhanced opportunities for language study at home, have meant fewer students choosing Canada.'
But, for most schools, the situation has been improving in 2004. According to Valerie Richmond, President of the Canadian Association of Private Language Schools (Capls), Canada is experiencing a surge of students who had postponed their study trips last year. 'Our members found that many students who appear to have had reservations about coming to Canada [in 2003] also recognised that the same travel hazards exist [elsewhere]. Early indications are that the schools' enrolment forecasts are strong for 2004,' she says.
EF opened its Toronto centre in September 2002, notching up minimal growth in 2003. Therese Joyce at EF says, 'In 2004, we now have an increase of over 400 per cent in our student numbers. This demonstrates the severity of the effect of Sars last year.'
For Pan Pacific College in Vancouver, 2004 started slowly, and student numbers were almost the same for the first half of this year as in 2003, reports Alejandro Filipovsxis, Marketing Coordinator at the college. 'However, the summer season [has shown] a better picture and we believe that this trend will continue for the rest of 2004,' he relates.
Although these reports are encouraging, some schools still have a long way to go before reaching their pre-2003 numbers. 'Compared with 2003, of course, the numbers look very good,' says David Hughes of LSI, which has centres in Vancouver and Toronto. 'We [had] received almost twice the bookings for this year [by June]. However, we are in fact only approaching 2001 levels.'
Nevertheless, the market appears to be back on its growth curve. And the benefits of the 2002 visa rule - allowing students to study in Canada for up to six months on a visitor visa - are apparent. 'The Canadian visa regulations can only be described as positive,' says Robin Adams of KTC Language Centre in Vancouver. 'We have noticed an increase in the number of weeks we received from Korean, Japanese and Mexican agents.'
Hughes believes the next step to making Canada more competitive is to allow all students to work part-time. 'Without the opportunity to earn some money while they are here, I think that students still find Canada an expensive - though desirable - destination.'
A more recent regulatory change has been the new rules for education agents submitting visa applications for clients (see Language Travel Magazine, July 2004, page 11). But there is hope that this should not affect the market too much. Jacqueline Bedard at Camosun College in Victoria says, 'We have yet to see significant negative repurcussions as a result of this regulation. In fact, we anticipate an increase in enrolments this year due in large part to our recruitment partners.'
Associations join force
Last year the Council of Second Language Programs in Canada (CSLPC), representing language centres at colleges and universities, amalgamated with the Private English Language Schools Association (Pelsa) to become the Canada Language Council (CLC).
With a membership of 82 institutions - and a further 18 programmes going through the accreditation process - it has, for the first time, united both private and state sector language centres. '[Our] Quality Assurance Scheme has been fully implemented and there is significant support for this initiative across the country from language programmes and government agencies,' says Jay Jamieson of CLC.
David Wood of Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, which is a member of CLC, says of the union, 'The move to establish a national association with a quality assurance scheme along the lines of English UK and English Australia is a welcome initiative. I am hoping it will become an effective lobbying voice to the federal government as well as a way to become a self-regulating industry.'
The Canadian Association of Private Language Schools (Capls) has not joined CLC but it may work with the new group in certain areas, says David Hughes of LSI - a Capls member. 'At this point, private language schools need to present a united front when addressing government and immigration issues which affect us differently from the public institutions,' he says.
Meanwhile, Capls has forged closer relations with trade body Industry Canada and the new government-funded Association de l'Industrie Language/Language Industry Association (Ailia) to work on its own standards for schools. 'This will ensure an 'arms length' approach to site inspection,' says Capls President, Valerie Richmond.