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Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director, Languages Canada

Gonzalo Peralta has overseen the transition of Languages Canada into a forward-facing, government-backed quality organisation which is helping cement Canada’s unique, multilingual offering on the world stage. He talks to The PIE as the association’s conference takes place.

The PIE: What is Languages Canada hoping to showcase/focus on at its Annual Conference?

"We are absolutely in a strong position"

GP: The theme is, of course, United and Growing. We have had great growth in the last two years (17% in membership, 100% in revenues, 9% per year in students, 200% in staff), and so it’s the perfect time to sit down and take stock. We are looking to evaluate our position, to understand better our member segments, and to come up with our next steps.

The PIE: Do you consider Canada to be in a strong position to build international student numbers and why?

GP: We are absolutely in a strong position. We have a good offering based on fundamentals and quality, and the fact that we protect students and educational agencies. Awareness of and respect for LC and our member programs continues to grow, we are innovative, we are in close collaboration with our partners in other education sectors, and we may even get a bit of extra government support.

The PIE: How are you working with other stakeholders in Canada?

GP: It used to be that everyone in Canada did their own thing. Now LC is working with strong education sector partners such as AUCC, ACCC, CBIE, and CAPS-I and we are hoping to work with even more in the coming year. There is sense of respect and collaboration that is unprecedented.

There is sense of respect and collaboration that is unprecedented

The PIE: Do you think the perception of the international education industry in Canada is changing?

GP: I don’t know. We would have to research this question, but I think it’s too early to tell. I think that governments have certainly changed their tune, as has the private sector (Scotiabank, one of our largest ones, has become a sponsor and is very active in supporting international students). This is very neat stuff. But I’m not sure about the general public.

One initiative that has sparked interest is our Hope for Youth Scholarship program, where Languages Canada members have donated over $500,000 in scholarships (tuition, homestay, activities, etc.), GuardMe contributed insurance costs, Air Canada airfares, and the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo coordination in Japan. We are seeing more positive feedback about the sector as the program unfolds and the world prepares to commemorate the anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The PIE: Please tell me about your quality drive for the Canadian language travel market.

GP: This is absolutely essential for us. Quality is a bit of a misnomer; what we are looking for here is creating a level playing field with the bar set at a level that is reasonable. We’re not asking for anything that would be unreasonable. We want everybody to play in the same field and to the same transparent rules.

It’s very difficult for governments to make any decisions when there’s a mishmash of players at the table

It’s absolutely unacceptable that an institution that invests in quality teachers, in a curriculum, in processes, in policies, in transparency sits at the same table next to one that doesn’t. This is unfair for students, it’s unfair for agencies and it’s unfair to healthy competition. It’s also very difficult for governments to make any decisions when there’s a mishmash of players at the table and that is why governments at both the provincial and federal levels have recognised LC and our efforts to provide that type of container where everybody can actually compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

The PIE: And how can Canada benefit from current UK visa changes.. [more>>]

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