With elections coming up in October, Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada, told The PIE News that sector players realise now is the time to pull together in advocating for friendlier policies.
“Internally the sector has never been more cohesive and united, so this is really positive because it’s allowing us to build an advocacy platform that has impact and that will continue to have impact for a long time,” he said.
“But advocacy is even more slow than marketing in terms of getting it out and that’s why we have a longer-term vision in place that will see us really be able to influence policy to a greater degree than in the past.”
Peralta confirmed the association is expecting a further drop in student numbers, following a 7% decrease in incoming numbers in 2013.
“We don’t see the numbers increasing. The reason for this is really simple: government policy”
“We don’t see the numbers increasing, which is basically bucking the global trend of increase, in particular destinations like Australia, New Zealand and so on,” he said.
“The reason for this is really simple: government policy.”
The curtailment of co-op programmes, which offered both language tuition and professional internships, under the changes to the International Student Program brought in last year have hit the sector hard.
Sue Blundell, ED of English Australia spoke with Languages Canada CEO Gonzalo Peralta and offered advice to Canadian providers
“We calculated 15% of our numbers came from that programme. Some of that, of course, can be regained through other programmes, which may have increased a little bit, but there’s no doubt that it had a very significant impact on the sector.”
However, the sector has come together in the face of the changes, and the divide between public and private providers is shrinking, he added.
Around a third of the association’s 227 members are in the public sector.
“There’s some very practical things like collaboration between the two in projects, initiatives and partnerships,” Peralta commented.
“And there are things that have really united them, like initially it was thought for example that language core programmes… were more of a private sector [issue], but what we’re discovering now is that it also takes the public sector.”
“Internally the sector has never been more cohesive and united”
The organisation is even looking externally for lessons to be learned from Australia in improving the ELT sector, as executive director of English Australia, Sue Blundell, was a prominent figure at the Ottawa conference.
“I think the example that is set by Australia is when things go wrong you have to move into action, and that’s what Australia did,” Peralta said.
“They took excellent data and used it to lobby the government and influence a change in policy,” he explained.
Beyond the elections, Peralta said the association will focus 2015 efforts on growing relations in the Brazilian market to the extent that a microsite has been developed specifically for strategic partnerships alongside the newly launched Languages Canada site.
“Brazil is one of the six identified countries in Canada’s International Education Strategy, and it’s the one where I think it’s a natural fit for Canada,” Peralta said.
“It seemed to make sense to move from that sort of market aspect where we see 18,000 Brazilians here every year to learn the language more to the partnership aspect.”