The association’s 225 member programmes reported an overall increase in student numbers from 129,704 in 2013 to 137,416 in 2014, representing a 6% increase.
“The fact that numbers were maintained is a testament to the attractiveness of Canada as a language education destination”
The stabilisation follows a 9.3% drop in student numbers the previous year, and is likely due to an increase in membership programmes, up by 11 since 2013.
Languages Canada estimates, however, that had government policy on international education remained unchanged in 2012, there would have been around 20,000 more students enrolled at schools in 2014 in line with growth levels at the time.
“The fact that numbers were maintained is a testament to the attractiveness of Canada as a language education destination and the work done to promote it by the institutions, the sector, and even government,” executive director, Gonzalo Peralta, told The PIE News.
Languages Canada has criticised the federal government for failing to implement a cohesive national strategy for international education, which it says is crucial for growth in the industry.
Visa denials and processing delays created the biggest challenge for association members, along with competition from other providers, both within and outside Canada.
This was the case for providers of programmes in both languages, despite a lower number of international students studying French.
More than half the students enrolled on a language programme in 2014 required some form of visa to enter the country, while a third did not.
The remaining 10% were either Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Tuition and living expenses paid by language students generated at least CAN$1.48bn in export revenues and $170m in export derived tax revenue for federal and provincial governments, a contribution the association is optimistic could help to spur regulatory change.
“We’re hopeful that the results of this report will support the creation of better policy for the sector in Canada”
“We’re hopeful that the results of this report will support the creation of better policy for the sector in Canada and help generate further awareness about the value of language in the context of education, trade, immigration and the workforce,” said Languages Canada president Sharon Curl.
Brazil and Japan were the top source countries for English programmes, sending 20,128 and 20,081 students respectively, followed by China (17,685), South Korea (15,571) and Saudi Arabia (10,497).
The much smaller French language teaching sector was driven primarily by domestic students (2,712), followed by the US (766), Brazil (677), Mexico (585) and China (303).
Over a third of the students who studied in 2014 – 48,368 – planned to continue on to post-secondary study in Canada, the report states, though it notes that the actual number may be higher as it is not possible for all instutions to track this figure.
The report also states that British Columbia, which represents 40% of the country’s ELT sector and saw a 12.7% drop in students last year, may have benefitted slightly from the public school teachers’ strike last summer, when school districts contracted private language schools to accommodate international students.