Out of a total 87,190 international students attending English language courses in Malta in 2017, Italy (29.4%), Germany (11.8%) and France (10.5%) accounted for more than half of total students.
Student numbers from Brazil and Poland increased significantly in 2017, with 4,519 and 4512 students respectively, compared to just 2,621 from Brazil and 3,131 from Poland in 2016.
“Students coming to Malta are realising that there is a high quality of English teaching on our island accompanied with the sun and the safety of the place”
The NSO revealed that students aged 15 years or younger made up the largest share, at 32.2%, while students aged 50 and over were in the minority and numbered just 5,741.
Female students outnumbered males in all age categories and accounted for 59.7% of the entire student population under review.
General English proved to be the most popular course offered, with a total of 62,317 students (71.5%) opting to study it in 2017. This was followed by the Intensive English course, with 16.5% of total students.
International students in ELT schools were also revealed to have spent a total of 244,202 weeks in Malta. The average length of stay during the year under review stood at 2.8 weeks, down by 0.2 weeks when compared to 2016.
Students from Colombia recorded the highest average duration with an average of 12.2 weeks. These were followed by South Korean and Turkish students with an average duration of 9.3 and 7.2 weeks respectively.
The NSO noted that 1,225 people were employed as teaching staff in local licensed ELT schools last year. The largest share of teaching staff (37.6%) was aged between 18 and 24.
CEO of FELTOM James Perry told The PIE News that he sees the increase in ELT student numbers as a result of several factors.
“Students coming to Malta are realising that there is a high quality of English teaching on our island accompanied with the sun and the safety of the place,” he said.
“Also schools are advertising more, thus reaching a wider clientele, and there is better connectivity to Malta from various airlines.”
However, with the growing English language sector in Malta concerns have been raised that the Maltese language could be at risk.
To address the issue, education minister Evarist Bartolo has proposed that international students living in Malta should be obliged to learn Maltese.
Speaking in parliament, Bartolo was asked to for a clarification on the government’s plans to introduce an O-level in ‘Maltese as a foreign language’.
According to Maltese media reports, Bartolo said it is important to ensure the country’s schools are equipped to teach Maltese as a foreign language “in the same way that Malta has successfully been teaching English as a foreign language”.
“I think we must oblige [international students] to learn Maltese because I think that if they are living among us they should have respect for us and learn the language,” he said, stressing that any changes to the University of Malta’s entry requirements would be left up to the institution.
Bartolo added that the requirement should, however, be considered for entry into MCAST and the Institute of Tourism Studies.