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Spain: junior groups, nationality exam make for upbeat ELE providers

Spanish language providers in Spain say they’ve had a strong 2015 on the back of growing numbers of school groups and increased currency values in markets like the US.

Mari Carmen Timor, president of FEDELE, opened the annual meeting at an event at Casa Iberoamérica in Cadiz. Photo: The PIE News.

“Spanish language teachers are increasingly becoming a strong recruitment channel"

A new exam requirement for Spanish nationality applicants also promises new revenue streams for schools contributing to an overall sense of optimism across the sector.

“We won’t know the official numbers until next year but in general schools are happy and there’s an air of positivity; they say things are going well,” commented Ana Cózar, director of FEDELE (Federación de Escuelas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) after its annual meeting in Cadiz this week.

One indicator that things are going well is the number of DELE exams taken at FEDELE schools, which are part of the network of official DELE exam centres. “When the number of exams increases it means that proportionally there are more students, and we have quite a few more exams this year,” Cózar said.

The US has been a strong market for most providers, filling some of the holes left in balance sheets by the fall of the Russian rouble

In July, exams administered by FEDELE members increased from 353 to 460 and October bookings already show 77 more exam takers than last year.

Overall, the US has been a strong market for most providers, filling some of the holes left in balance sheets by the fall of the Russian rouble.

“We’ve had a much better year this year,” commented Carlos Lacunza, director of IH Lacunza in San Sebastian. “In 2014 we had a little dip after several years of small growth. It was worrying but in 2015 we’ve surpassed the growth of previous years.”

“I’m optimistic, the crisis that we had outside of Spain is getting better, things are getting better in the US and in Germany,” he added.  “I hope Russia gets better, Asia looks like it’s improving, Korea and Japan especially.”

Schools reported a drop in individual student bookings but have noted significant rises in school groups. The increase marks a trend in the sector of groups facilitated by Spanish language teachers in market countries.

“Give it another five years and I’m sure India will be a significant market”

“Spanish language teachers are increasingly becoming a strong recruitment channel,” commented Cózar citing FEDELE’s 2014 annual report which shows just 37% of students were recruited by education agents.

“Agents are for students who come from further away or students from countries where English is not their first language,” she said.

“Businesses coming from Spanish teachers is an important trend,” confirmed Miguel Sánchez director of Colegio Delibes in Salamanca. “The market is changing and we have to adapt, new agencies, new demand, new ages of the students. The school groups are 14-17 years old now where as we’re used to 18-25.”

European countries account for the growing numbers in groups topped by Italy but France, the UK and Ireland are also contributors schools say.

Sánchez added that Spanish language providers are beginning to make footprints in longer-stay markets like India and China. “India is starting to be a strong market,” he said. “It’s not an important market today but it means whoever is going there now will have many business opportunities in the future.”

Bob Burger, marketing director at Malaca Instituto in Malaga agreed that it’s only a matter of time before demand from India, the Middle East and Asian countries like Vietnam and Indonesia reaches Spain.

The CCSE presents possible new revenue streams as well as a new student base

“Ten years ago schools in Spain said don’t go to Russian markets because they’ll never get visas and now Russians are about 6-7% of student nationality,” he said. “Give it another five years and I’m sure India will be a significant market as well.”

Also giving schools a reason for optimism are the new requirements for Spanish nationalisation. Applicants must now pass the A2 DELE exam as well as the CCSE (Conocimientos constitucionales y socioculturales de España)- a test of Spain’s culture, geography and history- according to a law which comes into effect next month.

For the 50 FEDELE centres who are in the network of official exam providers of the CCSE, there are possible new revenue streams and a new student base as the exams will be taken by thousands of applicants, including native Spanish speakers.

“When we see better how the policy is going to actually be put into effect, and the examinations are better defined then we’ll see how we want to do preparatory courses for the exam,” commented Burger. “But yes it’s certainly an opportunity for language schools in Spain no question about it.

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