The city’s ELT market has gained more attention in the last few years, with more agents and schools seeing it as an option, especially in the wake of Brexit and other issues.
“Our numbers have been steadily growing [in Dubai] through the pandemic,” Mike Summerfield, managing director of English Path, told The PIE News.
“We have a fantastic nationality mix in Dubai; our top five nationalities currently are Colombians, Turkish, Japanese, Russians and a mixture of European nationals,” he explained.
This diverse mix of nationalities comes from the ease of access to Dubai itself, according to Ingrid Farieta, director of STEP International agency.
“Dubai is a place that has its doors opened to the world. There are not as many restrictions on visas as in other major destinations – people from all over the globe can come here without any issues,” she told The PIE, explaining its growing popularity for EFL learning.
According to both Farieta and Summerfield, Dubai’s famously safe streets and city life is what really sells it for young learners. Farieta even said she could leave her laptop at her desk in a coffee shop and it would still be there three hours later.
“People want to be here”
English is the language of communication in Dubai. While 20% of the population in the city is Arabic, the rest are from all over the globe, Farieta noted.
“When a student comes here to study, they simply have to speak English. From the waiter, to say, a street sweeper, every human being speaks to you in English.
“Nobody is going to speak to you in Arabic or even Spanish; English is the universal language here,” Farieta added.
STEP’s recruitment mainly stems from the LATAM region, and Farieta noted Dubai is now one of her strongest markets along with Australia. Ecuador and Colombia are the biggest source markets, along with the emergent Mexico.
For those Latin American students, Farieta stressed that reaching at least a B1 level of English in Dubai opens the door to getting much better jobs after.
While in Australia it’s possible to get more menial jobs with lower levels of English, she noted, the need to reach a better level of English to get a job in Dubai allows for more avenues to more important positions.
“The opportunity to work part time whilst studying in Dubai is a major attraction,” Summerfield commented.
“[What’s more], it is very easy to move to a full-time work visa after your course has finished.”
Along with more accommodation options, and being more affordable than other destinations, Summerfield added, it’s the perfect place for young learners.
English Path has announced an expansion in the Dubai Knowledge Park to welcome more students.
“The UAE’s careful politics has paid dividends”
“The UAE’s careful politics has paid dividends is the rise in applications from Chinese students and Dubai has managed to be one of the only places on offer for Russian students to easily come and study English,” he said.
“Dubai is rapidly becoming one of the main education hubs in the world. Over the next few years, we will see more English language schools and universities opening up,” he added.
Whether this will be seen through the UAE ministry of education’s “innovation strategy”, which was announced in February, is another matter.
Nevertheless, Farieta sees “lot of potential for English learning in Dubai”.
Her business is on Colombian hours – another advantage of Dubai, she said, is that people can work at their own pace and time and the city goes on.
“I always say, if I would have come 30 years ago, I would have only seen sand. But now people see Dubai as a world power. 16 million people visit every year. People want to be here.”