Over 200 members and non-members attended the event, where organisers highlighted clear objectives to expand membership of the organisation which has focused on accrediting language schools through its evolving inspection scheme since 1991.
“We must ensure the linguistic ability of European citizens in order to complete our development goals”
Officially opening the event, Irish Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn said: “As we move from a manufacturing based to a service based economy, the ability to sell in the language of the purchaser is of critical importance. We must ensure the linguistic ability of European citizens in order to complete our development goals.”
Other highlights during the three-day event, which took “Effective Language School Management” as its theme, included a plenary from Matthew Bullock, Chair of the International House Trust. He emphasised the need for direct business, especially for small language schools trying to build up their brands. Michael Carrier director of strategic partnerships at Cambridge English Language Assessment stressed the importance of digital marketing and integrated digital learning for all schools.
Specialists outside the language school industry also shared insight on how to develop business, including economist Susan Hayes, who encouraged language institutions to stay positive during the European debt crisis.
Newly appointed executive director of EQUALS, Sarah Aitken, said the presence of non-members was congruent with her plans to expand membership. “I’ve been delighted to see so many people attending for the first time whether they be new perspective members or from member institutions. It’s nice to see that the organisation is vigorous and renewing itself,” she told The PIE News.
“Our heart is in Europe but we have a large geographical spread”
Twenty-nine languages are taught by the current membership which is broken down into 107 private language schools, 23 associate members including the British Council, Goethe Institut and Pearson ELT, and five project partners including Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates.
“Our heart is in Europe but we have a large geographical spread from Russia and Kazakstan, China and South Africa,” said Aitken.
Attendees were pleased with the organisation’s new approach to combine business development skills with quality assurance. Patrick Creed, director of Bridge Mills Galway Language Centre, said EAQUALS had given schools “a road map” training both students and staff. He added: “Coming to the conferences gives us an opportunity to network with each other, find out what other schools are doing and better build our own quality brand.”
The next EAQUALS conference will be held in Belgrade, April 24-26.