The South Africa Department of Education and Training has granted the association and its member schools recognition and formal accreditation as private colleges.
“We believe and hope that we will now have greater cooperation from around the world”
A lack of formal recognition as learning institutions has caused problems to the industry over the past few years, as EFL students were not eligible to obtain a study permit to enter the country.
Thanks to the new development, students can now apply for a study permit to study English in the country, provided that the school they enrol at is a member of EduSA.
“We believe and hope that we will now have greater cooperation from South African embassies, consulates and missions around the world,” EduSA chair Johannes Kraus said in a statement.
“The process of study permit applications should now be clear, unambiguous, streamlined and stress-free for all agents and students.”
Speaking with The PIE News, Kraus defined the news as “huge” but also said he didn’t want to be too ecstatic as the industry now waits for the implementation of the decision by the embassies overseas.
“The most important step was the registration with the DHET and now we can make sure that we receive the study permits if we need them,” he said.
A total of 14 member schools, and the association itself, have already received their accreditation.
Two other members already held their accreditation through the university they are linked to, and six members are still waiting, Kraus explained.
“We know that the industry is legitimate, the schools are inspected…the problem was that there wasn’t really a box for us to fit in the education system,” he said.
The ‘box’ has been found in literacy training, he explained, and that is what allowed the schools to become registered as private colleges and gain learning institution status. As for the association itself, there are plans to see it becoming a quality assurance partner in the future.
Schools are now registered until the 31 December 2021, and members will have to submit documentation on a yearly basis while also undergoing inspections.
The trouble with the South African EFL industry began in 2014, as new government regulations required students to enrol at ‘learning institutions’ when applying for a student visa.
“The problem was that there wasn’t really a box for us to fit in the education system”
EduSA members were not, at that stage, registered as learning institutions and student numbers from source countries requiring a visa, or traditionally long-term markets, consequently plummeted.
“The EFL industry in South Africa had shown some good growth from 2012-2014 before we hit rock bottom in 2015,” Kraus explained.
The industry still managed to recover slightly by enrolling students on a visitor visa, but student numbers from long-term source countries were still down.
In 2016, EduSA took the government to court and won a settlement which guaranteed member schools a provisional accreditation as learning institutions provided they obtained a definitive registration before the end of 2018.
The sector saw a healthy growth after 2016, with 2017 student numbers back to pre-crisis levels.
However, during the summer, the industry experienced problems again as embassies would not issue study permits for long-term courses finishing in 2019.
That’s when the association had a meeting and realised it was time to accelerate the process, Kraus explained.
“We really hope now is that the visa… is not a discussion anymore,” he said.
As for the future, Kraus is optimistic and looks forward to growing the industry further.
There are other issues that could be tackled, such as work rights for EFL students, that could open up “immense student numbers,” he explained.
But it may not be the right time yet, as industry recognition by the government is still shaky, Kraus said.
“These would really be add-ons. The main goal was [obtaining] study permits, we need to see how the rest develops,” he concluded