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Online ESL market worth $10bn in 2021 – report

The value of the global online English-as-a-second language learning market is worth $10 billion in 2021 and its segment for children of all ages worth $3bn, according to a new study. 

The value of the global online English-as-a-second language (ESL) learning market is worth $10bn in 2021. Photo: Pexels

"In 2021, the market for English language learning (traditional offline and online learning) hit a record 1.7 billion learners"

J’son & Partners, a firm that specialises in research and consulting, conducted the study in March to June 2021, reviewing the total offline and online ESL learning market. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the digital learning and language learning market”

It found that in 2021, the market for English language learning (traditional offline and online learning) hit a record 1.7 billion learners.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the digital learning and language learning market which has led to a dramatic increase in online education users and overall market growth,” said Maxim Azarov, founder of Novakid, one of the companies assessed in the study. 

“Another main factor driving this growth is the acceptance of English as a global language, with nearly 20% of the world’s population speaking English,” he added. 

The research analysed more than 90 global and local online schools with different business models, and reviewed online ESL audiences and schools in detail from 36 European countries.

“The popularity of online English language training for children has increased significantly since the pandemic began,” said Azarov.  

“A year later, it is still growing, and is poised to continue to grow exponentially. We believe this is a consequence of the wider availability of quality online English learning platforms for children, the expansion of career opportunities for those with a good command of the English language, and an increase in remote working. 

“As linguistic research shows, to achieve a high level of fluency, you need to start learning a language as a child,” he said.

The study also aimed to review the main trends and obstacles in the market, and identify, as well as analyse the leading online English language schools for children (in teacher-assisted learning segment) in Europe as a whole and selected countries: Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and Russia. 

As with EF’s English Profiency Index, it found that Europe is the region with the highest level of English proficiency, with approximately 97% of secondary school students in Europe learning English. 

“Distance work, the demand for STEM specialties in the digital age and online studies in any chosen specialty with prospects of getting a job offered by the world’s largest universities and technology companies, stimulate the growth of the foreign language learning market,” said Svetlana Vodianova, CEO of J’son & Partners Consulting. 

“English is the undisputed favourite for cross-border communication.

“We have analysed and discovered that parents in major countries (including Europe, China, India, Mexico, Brazil, etc., where English is not the national language), who desire further international education and career paths for their children, show increasing preference for programs and services of English distance learning with a teacher (tutor).”

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