Canada poised for another year of modest growth in language education sector - survey

OTTAWA, August 18, 2017 - Canada’s language education sector grew by an estimated four percent in 2016, a trend that is expected to continue into 2017. This is based on data collected via the Languages Canada 2016 Annual Survey, conducted in March 2017. All of Languages Canada’s 222 member programs completed surveys to create a report that provides essential insights into the state of the language education sector in Canada. Languages Canada members represent approximately 80% of English and French language education programs in Canada; the annual survey tells a story that is indicative of trends across the broader sector.

In 2016, 135,425 students enrolled in Languages Canada member programs, up about one percent from 133,910 students in 2015. However, when controlling for changes in Languages Canada membership, (i.e. comparing only data from members programs that remained constant from 2015 to 2016) the overall growth rate of student numbers was closer to four percent. This much-welcomed growth, following a year of downturn in 2015, is still well below the global growth rate of the English language training sector, which is closer to 11%.

This year’s growth is largely attributed to what is being called the “Trump and Brexit effects” on the market, with international students looking to Canada as an alternative to the USA and UK as a study destination. According to the ICEF Monitor, enrollment in the UK’s ELT sector declined by 11% from 2015 to 2016. The low Canadian dollar and more attractive student visa policies are also significant contributing factors. For example, in December 2016, the Government of Canada dropped a rule requiring short-term visitors from Mexico to obtain a temporary residence permit. In 2016, Languages Canada members welcomed 9036 Mexican students to English and French programs, up from 7970 in 2016 and 6371 in 2012, making Mexico now the fifth largest source country for LC members.

While China and South Korea still occupy the third and fourth spots in terms of top source countries, respectively, student numbers from these traditional sending countries have been in steady decline for the last three years. There were 15,391 Chinese students in LC member programs in 2016, down from 17,685 in 2014. Student numbers from Saudi Arabia, also a traditionally strong market for ESL students, have plummeted in the last five years, from 15,578 in 2012 to 5990 in 2016, due to changes in Saudi’s King Abdullah Scholarship Program.

While there has been modest positive growth in the last year, Canada cannot rely on unfavourable conditions in competitor countries, and a low Canadian dollar, as the basis for its competitiveness. Neither can it rely on traditional source countries to continue to feed the student pipeline. “We need to be investing in building the brand of Canadian education abroad, with an emphasis on the extraordinary, consistent quality that we have across our education system.” says Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director of Languages Canada. “We also need to invest in diversifying, and establishing a stronger presence in Latin America, for example, where students, families and governments are looking for English and French education options abroad to enable a globally-oriented workforce.”

The survey revealed that 45,174 students in LC member programs intended to continue on to post-secondary studies in 2016, representing approximately one third of all students attending Languages Canada programs. “International students are increasingly choosing Canada for language study as a gateway to further post secondary education.” says Cath D’Amico, President of Languages Canada’s Board of Directors, and Director of Trent-ESL: English for University program. “They come to Canada to study English or French and often want to stay to pursue a university or college degree. There is more we could be doing to support this, including identifying a more permanent solution to the double visa issue, and allowing language students the right to work off-campus while studying, so they can afford to stay on.”

Tuition and living expenses paid by language students in 2016 generated an estimated $1.44 billion in export revenue for the Canadian economy and contributed $165 million in federal and provincial tax revenue.

To download the Executive Summary, please visit: www.languagescanada.ca/en/research

Key survey findings

  • In 2016, 135,425 students enrolled in Languages Canada member programs, up about one percent from 133,910 students in 2015.
  • 45,174 students intended to continue on to post-secondary studies in 2016, representing approximately one third of all students attending Languages Canada programs.
  • The five top countries in 2016 were Japan (21,192), Brazil (20,747), China (15,391), South Korea (15,172) and Mexico (9,036).​
  • Looking ahead, Languages Canada members identified Mexico, China, Brazil, Vietnam and South Korea as the top five countries of interest for marketing and promotion purposes.
  • French programs showed different patterns in student numbers, with the highest number of students originating from Canada (2,107), the United States (891), Brazil (427), Mexico (389) and China (316).
  • Tuition and living expenses paid by language students in 2016 generated an estimated $1.44 billion in export revenue for the Canadian economy and contributed $165 million in federal and provincial tax revenue.

About Languages Canada

Languages Canada is Canada’s national language education association representing more than 210 private and public sector members offering accredited English and French programs. Membership is limited to programs that meet and who are committed to upholding the rigorous standards of the association. Languages Canada is recognized by various levels of government in Canada as well as internationally.

Contact:
Felix Tremblay
Pragmatique Communications