Still, this calls for celebration. In 2015, an immigration policy allowing only registered ‘learning institutions’ to enrol students from overseas made student numbers fall by 28% in a year for the ELT industry.
While language schools tried to patch this up with students on short-term visitor visas, some source markets such as Saudi Arabia were more hit than others.
EduSA took the government to court and won a settlement, which gave the association two years to get official accreditation from the Department of Education and Training.
It then applied for accreditation, which allowed for study permits to be issued again for EFL students.
This concerted effort saw numbers pick up again, with a fast recovery: from 2015 to 2017, student numbers increased by 37 percentage points.
Now EduSA is hopeful accreditation will come soon, and with it an official recognition of the industry by the government.
The PIE has condensed three years of industry battles in a series of interactive graphs, showing the trajectories of student numbers and student weeks, by source region, over the period 2014-2017.
The last graph instead gives a peek into how the South African ELT industry reaches out to students – for some regions, word of mouth (this is what ‘other’ means) is more effective than agents.