Student weeks were down from 1,652,697 in 2014 to 1,577,149 last year, the report finds, prompting a further need for integration across all sectors of international education.
Student numbers were also down from 137,416 in to 2014 to 133,910 in 2015, which has had a knock-on effect on revenue.
“One of the cornerstones of Canadian identity is language, culture and bilingualism”
The figures bucked a global trend of growth, the report noted, with StudentMarketing data showing that between 2011 and 2015, student weeks in ELT grew by 10.7% internationally.
Over the same period, Languages Canada members experienced a decrease of 1.3%. The financial impact in 2016 was a loss of $180m to Canada’s economy in export revenue.
Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada, told The PIE News that while a slowdown of growth is a “natural course for any sector and any industry”, it is a concern that Canada is experiencing a decline.
“This is worrisome for a country that has such high level of education, and great results,” he said, adding, “One of the cornerstones of Canadian identity is language, culture and bilingualism. So it should be worrisome to us.”
The report, which analysed survey responses from all 226 Languages Canada members, found that the top-sending source countries in 2015 remained the same as the previous year, with Brazil sending the most students – 19,865, followed by Japan and China, with 19,618 and 17,093, respectively.
Most countries experienced a decline in the number of students coming to study in Canada. Brazil, as the top sending market, saw a drop of 263 students from 2014 to last year.
“It wasn’t huge, but there was a drop,” said Peralta. “I am concerned about 2016, but I’m not concerned in the long term.”
“Everybody talks about Canada, Canada is a preferred destination, but the reality is the numbers do not prove that”
Writing in the report, Peralta explains that the biggest challenge facing the sector “continues to be a disjointed and disharmonised approach to international education”.
“The sector is ready – and has advocated for years – for a pan-Canadian approach that integrates all aspects of the promotion of international education,” he says.
However, the decline in numbers is a “repercussion of policy”, added Peralta, referring to the end of co-op programmes in the language sector and different provinces enforcing different legislation and regulations.
“I know for a fact the quality of Canadian education is very high and has remained high and will not go down,” he said, adding that “the regulatory container in which [members] have to operate, and the fact that it’s so different across the country has been the Canadian challenge.”
The report finds that 46% of students came to Canada for 4-12 weeks last year, demonstrating little change in the length of stay from 2014.
Meanwhile, close to 37% of all students (49,194) intended to continue onto post-secondary studies.
“I think it’s so valuable to really know what is happening,” said Peralta. “We know Canada is hot, everybody talks about Canada, Canada is a preferred destination, but the reality is the numbers do not prove that.”