Should we be concerned about the state of English in the Philippines?

“We need to address the gap in qualified ESL teachers and the issues around ensuring the quality of ESL schools”

Mike Cabigon is the manager of English for Education Systems of British Council Philippines. He writes about a roundtable event organised by the British Council, where sector stakeholders weighed in on what needs to be done to ensure the Philippines retains its competitive advantage.

The Philippines is recognized globally as one of the largest English-speaking nations, with the majority of its population having at least some degree of fluency in the language. English has always been one of the country’s official languages, and is spoken by more than 14 million Filipinos. It is the language of commerce and law, as well as the primary medium of instruction in education.

Proficiency in the language is also one of the Philippines’ strengths, which has helped drive the economy and even made it the top voice outsourcing destination in the world, surpassing India in 2012. The influx of foreign learners of English is also on the rise due to the relatively more affordable but quality English as a Second Language (ESL) programs being offered locally.

“Proficiency in the language is one of the Philippines’ strengths, which has helped drive the economy and made it the top voice outsourcing destination in the world”

However, at a roundtable organised last year by British Council Philippines, key stakeholders from the government, academe, private, and nongovernment sectors acknowledged that even if the country were doing fine in terms of English competency, concerns on how much of a competitive advantage it still is here were raised. The stakeholders agreed that the country needs to step up its efforts in improving the teaching and learning of English, developing it as a vital skill of the workforce. This is an initiative that can potentially strengthen the Philippines’ distinct advantage in this part of the world, particularly with the upcoming Asean economic integration.

Enhancing the teaching of English in the Philippines presents opportunities for the country in the area of tourism.

“To maintain the Philippines’ strength as a major ESL destination, we need to address the gap in qualified ESL teachers and the issues around ensuring the quality of ESL schools. This also includes exploring how we can extend incentives to ESL schools and teachers,” Renee Marie Reyes, the chief of the ESL Market Development Group under the Department of Tourism, said at the roundtable. The DOT is encouraging local ESL schools to offer structured tour packages to ESL learners, the majority of whom come from South Korea, China, Russia and Japan, by incorporating English-learning activities in the travel experience.

Roundtable participants from the government sector underscored the need for an interagency government body to regulate and support ESL provision in the country in order to further capitalize on its economic potential.

Representatives of the academe focused on teacher training and professional development, highlighting the need for skills in differentiated instruction, materials development and knowledge sharing.

According to its dean, Rosario Alonzo, the University of the Philippines College of Education ensures this by emphasizing to its students that English is a skill to be used for communication. Education students focus on learner-centered teaching, and are taught to ask learners to do meaningful tasks using English.

“Our future teachers should ensure that English is a means of communication, rather than a set of facts to be learned”

“Our future teachers should ensure that English is a means of communication, rather than a set of facts to be learned,” Alonzo said. In the same way, the Department of Education focuses on the needs of learners and ensures that they learn the English language holistically, as specified under the K-to-12 basic education framework.

There is also a greater imperative to further build on the English skills of the labor force, particularly of those in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

“The demand for BPO services from the Philippines requires more than 1.3 million employees by 2016, which means that 300,000 more new employees need to be hired by next year,” said Zoe Diaz de Rivera, master trainer of the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap).

Private-sector representatives suggested corporate social responsibility programs to support teacher development, particularly in English-language proficiency in teaching other subjects. They also recommended collaboration between the government and the private sector to address language proficiency in teachers and students in the outlying communities.

Members of international and development organizations recognized the same gaps and agreed with the recommendations of the other sectors. In addition, they proposed a platform for information sharing and communication among stakeholders to avoid duplicating initiatives.

These statements were made amid the decline of the quality of English in the Philippines and the growing number of unfilled jobs in various industries that require certain levels of English communication skills. Ibpap statistics show that today, only 8-10 persons are hired for every 100 applicants in the IT-BPO sector.

Nicholas Thomas, country director of British Council Philippines, said developing a wider knowledge of the English language is one of its founding purposes.

“Part of our work is to share best practice in the teaching and learning of English with partner countries all over the world,” Thomas said, adding: “English has a distinctive place in the Philippine education system, and retaining high standards of English is critically important for the country’s economy and future development. We look forward to working with partners on more initiatives to support the teaching and learning of English here.”

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What do foreign universities need to know about establishing institutional partnerships in China?

“MOE approval is very difficult. The approval criteria is that the foreign partner university has to be a very good one, if not the best in its country”

Shuai Yang, Senior Consultant at BOSSA, answers some common questions foreign institutions have about 3+1 and 2+2 arrangements with Chinese universities.

Shuai Yang BOSSAFor foreign institutions wanting to partner with Chinese schools, they must submit applications to the national/state ministries of education to get approval. Is that true?

There are basically two types of N+N programs in terms of government approval:

1. Programs with the national (MOE) approval may join all public universities recruiting students from high school graduates throughout the country. These students are called “in-quota students”, because they have passed the nationally unified entrance exam to universities. It is fairly easy to have the number of students the programs expect.

2. Programs without the approval can’t recruit in-quota students. They have to recruit either “out-of-quota” students (who failed the national exam) or students from the current student body of the Chinese partner universities, namely, transfer the students from their Chinese programs to the N+N programs. It is not easy and usually the number of students is small.

The second type may not have any government approval at all, but many universities would apply for provincial approval or “file” the program with provincial governments.

How difficult is it to get approval for such an arrangement from the national and provincial governments of China?

MOE approval is very difficult. The approval criteria is that the foreign partner university has to be a very good one, if not the best in its country, and the subject of the N+N program has to be in the academic area where there are not many Chinese universities providing similar programs. Generally speaking, science and engineering programs are more possible to get approval for than business programs. MOE officials have been saying unofficially that they will not approve any business programs in the future, because “There are already too many of them in China.”

“Generally speaking, science and engineering programs are more possible to get approval for than business programs”

But provincial approval is much easier. Local universities can usually get it. In some cases recently, some universities are recruiting in-quota students from outside the universities for its N+N programs with provincial approval. MOE would punish the provincial educational authorities and the universities in the past, but they look safe now. Don’t know why.

What are the criteria to qualify as a top US university, program, or faculty to be considered a viable partner?

MOE officials read the US News & World Report and trust its college ranking. Many Chinese universities have already got N+N programs on their campuses and would like more. Those who don’t have any N+N yet are usually small, local universities, and for sure they want to establish partnerships.

Find a partner university or a couple of partner universities in China who really want to have programs with foreign universities (you’d better have strong promise from the president of Chinese partner university) and push them for approval, whatever the approval is, be it MOE or provincial. For example, Tianjin municipality is considered on the same level of provincial government.

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How to fix study abroad

“Surveys of high school seniors reflect that the vast majority of the future collegians expect to study abroad. Unfortunately, this expectation ends up being more of a dream than a reality”

Mark Shay, CEO of Abroad101 - which some describe as the ‘TripAdvisor of Study Abroad’ – argues that when it comes to studying abroad, US institutions need to do more than simply aim to increase numbers. With red tape and credit transfer proving to be stubborn obstacles, he argues that an overhaul is needed.

Mark Shay Casual HeadshotAmericans perceive study abroad as a prideful, traditional centerpiece of the Liberal Arts experience. The image of leaving the home campus to immerse oneself in a foreign culture and gain a different perspective on life is viewed as a romantic extension of a college experience. Surveys of high school seniors reflect that the vast majority of the future collegians expect to study abroad. Unfortunately, this expectation ends up being more of a dream than a reality – because 95% of all American college students will not study abroad, we need to change.

College brochures are filled with visions of study abroad as a way to entice new students. IIE is leading a campaign to double participation by 2020; even the White House has joined the call to increase study abroad numbers. These initiatives don’t reflect the reality that study abroad is stuck and without significant retooling study abroad risks fading from the American college experience. Study abroad will be possible to only a select number of privileged students, or be relegated to short-term vacation-style touring unless we take bold steps.

“Even the White House has joined the call to increase study abroad numbers. These initiatives don’t reflect the reality that study abroad is stuck and without significant retooling risks fading from the American college experience”

To boost participation numbers, universities have started promoting faculty-led programs in which home university groups (including the faculty member) study abroad together. These programs tend to be short in duration and squeezed within semester breaks or holidays. They also tend to only draw students from one university because of variance in academic calendars. Universities also tend to have their own faculty and departments promote these programs delivering even less diversity. Some argue these programs are having a negative impact on study abroad.

While these programs have boosted volume, their shorter duration has kept the number of credit hours earned abroad flat, at best. Unfortunately this number doesn’t get reported which means that we really don’t have any insight into the true economic and academic impact of American-style study abroad. Further limiting the market is the restrictive practices imposed by US universities with what are called pre-approved programs, selected by criteria that is not always in the student’s best interest. As a result, students increasingly have to consider summer if the approved programs are out of students’ reach (academically, financially or otherwise). Universities outside the US make individual access hard as well as many don’t accept tuition-paying students (so called Free Movers) and only allow students from exchange partners or in the faculty-led groups.

“In the 25 years that I’ve been in the field, study abroad has gone from a free market to a complicated maze of pre-approved programs”

In the 25 years that I’ve been in the field, study abroad has gone from a free market, where students are able to choose any program as long as it generates a transcript from a recognized university, to a complicated maze of pre-approved programs, endorsed providers, consortium exchanges and third-party operated overseas campus centers and group tours. The red tape and hurdles through which students are required to jump for other programs are massive; one provider told me of 62 steps needed for a student to be approved for their study abroad program. In the US, approximately half of the university students will transfer to another university, and yet we see these same universities fight to restrict semester-long departures from campus.

Study abroad administrators created a Standards Development Organization that has guided an important dialog about the elements of a successful program. However, in its 14 years of existence, this SDO has offered a host of concepts and theoretical tools, but no universal controls or tangible standards. Without clearly defined standards, we can’t streamline and make practical improvements to study abroad. Today, academic credit (the currency of study abroad) is more difficult to transfer that it has ever been and “transparency”, the pledge to share student experiences, is as elusive as ever.

“Today, academic credit is more difficult to transfer that it has ever been and ‘transparency’, the pledge to share student experiences, is as elusive as ever”

It is harder to study abroad than it is to get admitted to college. The college application process in the US has a common application, standardized entrance exams (2), common academic credentials, common definitions of enrollment status and a national student clearinghouse for verification; even a common set of federal government reporting criteria. All of this is missing in study abroad which on some days get me to wonder how ANY students manage to study abroad.

If we want to encourage more students to study abroad, we need to properly define and standardize the process. We need to create a simplified common application that can be shared by universities, providers, and exchange programs. We need to develop a common set of definitions, simplify the concept of measurable outcomes, require minimum standards for things like insurance, and better report on these to all stakeholders, especially future students and their parents. I say let’s work to build capacity in study abroad by creating real minimum standards and tangible action points so that all students can access a study abroad experience and reap the benefits it brings.

Mark Shay is a business leader with a long history of success helping higher education institutions recruit and retain students, with a career that has spanned three decades. He is known throughout the higher education industry as an innovator for developing products like, and creating international student recruiting solutions for agents and universities.

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The re-emergence of ‘Brand Canada’

Raed Ayad currently works for INTO University Partnerships as a Research and Policy Analyst. As a Canadian citizen who has studied in Canada and in the UK, he offers his reflections on the change in Government in Canada and its potential implications for Canadian international education strategy.

On October 20th, 2015 the front page of one of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Toronto Star, read ‘It’s a New Canada’, with a photo of newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrating his historic win with his family and supporters.

While many, from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia, were jubilant in celebration of their ‘New Canada,’ Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau had a different message to the world, simply: ‘We’re back.’ Overnight, Canada seemed to reverse a decade of regression to its image, internationally.

Two months have passed since the election in which the Canadian Bureau for International Education held their annual conference in Niagara Falls and stakeholders seemed confident that this excitement would be reflected in the advancement of international higher education in Canada.

That said, according to CBIE, Canada is already home to 336,497 international students, an 84% per cent increase over the past decade. The Canadian Government is dedicated to continuing this increase, setting a goal of attracting an additional 450,000 international students and researchers by 2022. This aim of doubling international enrollment is highly attainable and already within grasp, according to talks at the CBIE conference. However, one wonders to what extent this ambitious goal might be enabled through the development of wider partnerships, especially within the context of the straitened financial circumstances which affect most of Canadian post-secondary education.


While Canada is increasing its enrollment, directly benefiting the local economy as well as the institutions, there were a number of issues raised throughout the conference. When a student studies abroad, although the academic experience is most important, it is necessary for students to gain knowledge of the customs and lifestyle of the country in order to maximize benefit. It is troubling to learn that in a survey conducted amongst 4,000 international students in Canada only 46% were reported to have a Canadian friend.

During the plenary session of the CBIE conference, Martha Navarro from the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation spoke of the issues faced by students who study abroad. She posed a simple question geared towards countries that attract high rates of international students, asking: who is satisfied with being tolerated?

This is a very important question for diverse cities such as Toronto, New York and London. The universities in these respective cities generally have a high percentage of international students, reflecting their high immigrant population. Integration is as essential to the world of immigration, as it is for international students. Students who leave their family, friends and comfort zone to study abroad are taking steps in developing themselves; it is up to the receiving country, its citizens and the university/college to ensure that there is a benefit for all parties involved.

Another point of discussion throughout the conference was the importance of promoting the idea of studying abroad to Canadian students. As of 2014, only 3% of Canadian students were studying abroad, one of the lowest numbers amongst OECD states. According to Karen McBride, President and CEO of CBIE; “If we don’t increase the number of students studying abroad, we won’t be involved in the trade deals that Canada is putting into place now, or in meeting global challenges.” While the Canadian strategy of doubling international enrolment in Canada is progressing well, the strategy of creating 50,000 scholarships for Canadians to study abroad has not paralleled this growth. For Canada to grow as a country, with regard to international higher education, the transfer of students and ideas must go both ways.

Public diplomacy and higher education

For Canadians, higher education is just a part of the public diplomacy measures the country must undertake to retain their place as leaders internationally. Students will always come to Canada but the success or failure of international education mustn’t be gauged by the numbers and experiences of students entering our universities, but by the numbers of international students and experiences that graduate from our universities. Additionally, the number of our own students who graduate from our international counterparts.

International policy advisor Simon Anholt, the champion of ‘nation branding,’ developed a hexagon of international competitive identity (pictured below), in which he defines the different determinants essential in the projection of countries internationally.


A point of benefit from developing Canada’s international higher education strategy can be made for all six determinants in the above hexagon. Starting with ‘people,’ arguably Canada’s strongest asset is their people, the general perceptions of Canadians is usually a positive one, the movement of Canadians abroad as well as the interactions with Canadians by international students should only benefit this perception. Tourism and culture go hand in hand; international students are technically ‘academic tourists’ and if they embrace the culture of Canada, they may project this to their friends as family as a friendly place worth visiting or doing business with. This leads to investment, having students study abroad, gaining knowledge of international markets will allow Canadians to play a stronger role in trade agreements and the overall global market. Finally, higher education institutions are brands and must attract students, exchange students and promote their alumni to study overseas to extend the reach of their respective brands.

“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, Canada enjoyed an increase in international enrolment, albeit mainly driven by provincial, rather than federal, policy”

Since the Harper Government eliminated funding for the Understanding Canada program in 2012, the onus of projecting Canada academically has lain heavily with the institutions themselves. When the cuts were made, the Canadian Studies program had over 7,000 ‘Canadianists’ teaching students about Canada around the world in 290 centres across 50 different countries. The courses ranged from Canadian environmental and economic studies to Canadian politics and pop-culture, serving as a leading tool in public diplomacy. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Development and Trade has been provided with a new trust under Trudeau, which will allow them to re-engage with the world in order to promote both Canadian studies, as well as studying in Canada.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, Canada enjoyed an increase in international enrolment, albeit mainly driven by provincial, rather than federal, policy. Although Canada was open in welcoming students from other nations, the government did not do much to promote the public image of Canada internationally. Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged to the world that the Canada of old has returned and that his government will be dynamic and reflective of the needs of all Canadians. Similar to the manner in which the new Liberal government is attempting to be modern and innovative, the country and the provinces must do the same when developing their higher education strategies.

This post originally appeared on INTO’s corporate blog and has been reposted with the permission of the author.

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Washington State & Vietnamese Students: A Story of Requited Love

Mark Ashwill, Managing Director of human resource development company Capstone Vietnam, writes about one success story of a US state recruiting Vietnamese students.

Washington state’s success in recruiting Vietnamese students is noteworthy.  In 2014/15, there were 27,051 international students studying in WA, a 5.9% increase over the previous year. WA was the 11th leading host of international students in the US. These students and their families contributed $789 million to the state economy, in addition to all of the other tangible and intrinsic benefits they bring to WA, 49 other states and the District of Columbia.

Among the over 27,000 international students enrolled in WA colleges and universities, 2,164, or 8%, were from Vietnam, making it third among sending countries after China and Saudi Arabia. To put this in national perspective, 11.50%, or more than 1 in 10, of all Vietnamese students were in WA last year.

In fact, WA has been so successful recruiting in Vietnam that it is the 3rd leading host of Vietnamese students after California and Texas. Why? It’s not because there are so many Vietnamese-Americans living in the Seattle area, unlike the usual locations in CA and TX, i.e,. San Jose and Orange County. (Seattle ranks 11th among US cities with large Vietnamese-American populations with 13,252, according to the 2010 US Census.  In contrast, San Jose, CA had over 100,000.) Neither is it because of the climate, which in all fairness is much milder than many of the places where happy and satisfied Vietnamese students are studying in the East, North and Midwest.

Killing Two Academic Birds with One Stone

First, it offers a very unique program called Running Start that allows high school students to study at a community college, thereby completing requirements for the high school diploma and the associate degree. The program was created by the WA Legislature as a component of the 1990 parent and student Learning by Choice Law. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) website, “Students receive both high school and college credit for these classes and therefore accelerate their progress through the education system.” This program has been wildly popular among many Vietnamese parents, as well as those from China, South Korea, Indonesia and other countries, who appreciate the advantages of saving both time and money.

Timing & Persistence Pay Off

Secondly, WA schools, especially community colleges, have been coming to Vietnam much longer than most.  Some launched their recruitment efforts in “the early days,” i.e., 12 or 13 years ago, when the market was much less competitive.  Many continue to come not once but two or three times a year to participate in US higher education fairs, offer info sessions and work with their extensive network of education agents, among other activities, in addition to ongoing marketing and promotion efforts, e.g., Facebook ads.  WA higher education has become a brand, thanks to their efforts and word-of-mouth advertising of the thousands of student they’ve recruited over the years. Their ROI has been significant and their work has opened up pipelines that continue to flow.

It’s no surprise that three of the top five host institutions for international students in WA are community colleges, in or near Seattle, each with a large contingent of Vietnamese students:

University of Washington, Seattle:  8,035
Washington State University, Pullman: 2,448
Seattle Central College, Seattle:  2,171
Green River Community College, Auburn: 1,736
Edmonds Community College, Lynnwood:  1,620

Seven of the top 40 associate’s institutions hosting international students are from WA, including Seattle Central (#4), Green River (#10), Edmonds (#12), Bellevue College (#18), Shoreline Community College (#22), North Seattle College (#23) and South Seattle College (40).

Try Harder! 

What I tell colleagues who are not from CA, TX or WA, which enroll over half of all Vietnamese students, is that they have to try harder, to paraphrase an old AVIS tagline.  Colleagues from those three states have a natural competitive advantage because of family ties, mainly the result of post-war waves of emigration, and the WA-specific reasons I mentioned. For colleagues from one of the other 47 states, this means a adopting a long-term vision and investing considerable resources in terms of staff time and recruitment, both armchair and in-country.

I also advise them to explore the possibility of offering a high school completion program similar to Washington’s Running Start Program. Why should WA have all the fun? On the other hand, I’m well aware that this a political issue usually decided by the state legislature and thus not realistic for many states. Washington’s gain is their loss.

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How to attract Chinese students: four tips for overseas universities

“Chinese parents and students are in an investment mindset when they are looking to study overseas”

Susan Fang, CEO of Academic Powerhouse, writes about what Chinese students and parents look for in an overseas university. Part of OxBridge Holdings, Academic Powerhouse is a leading educational consultancy providing independent and professional advice on all aspects of UK education as well as all aspects of China and Far East education.

Susan Fang APUKStudying overseas has become a fashion, a new normal in China.

According to China’s Ministry of Education, 459,800 Chinese students went abroad in 2014, an 11.1% increase over the year before. China has now become the world’s top source of overseas students, with 14% of the global total.

As an international education specialist between East and West, one of my key roles is to advise Western universities and schools on how to attract Chinese students in this increasingly competitive market segment.

Here are my four insider tips on how Western educational institutions can market to Chinese students better. The key is to have a true understanding of what Chinese parents and students really want when they are looking to study overseas.

1. Return on investment

Chinese parents and students are in an investment mindset when they are looking to study overseas. They have a fixed mentality on what makes a good university.

They are looking for their best ROI – in both tangible and intangible terms.

Tangible return is about getting a qualification from a good university or school. This qualification must come with a physical certificate and is recognised by the MOE. If your institution is not listed, even if your courses are vouched by industry professionals in the Western world, the Chinese will not buy in.

“Chinese parents and students focus a lot on the “hardware”, which is often the benchmark for a good university and school in China”

Intangible returns are about prestige, status or anything that can add value to how they are perceived (their ‘face’), which arguably is even more important than tangible return in some circumstances. For example, Chinese parents and students focus a lot on the “hardware”, which is often the benchmark for a good university and school in China. They like grand buildings, large campus, modern facilities and en-suite accommodation for their children to live comfortably.

2. Get the branding (naming) right

Recognisable names are very important when marketing to Chinese parents and students.

When they choose schools, they often look for famous names. For example, in the UK, it would be Oxford and Cambridge. In the US, it would be the ‘Ivies’. Chinese parents might not know which eight institutions make up the Ivy League, but if you say a university is in this “power group,” or any elite group that has a selective few members, then the Chinese will embrace it.

They also look for names that associate with recognisable cities and areas, such as the London School of Economics and Political Science, which carries the name of the capital; the University of Manchester, which reminds them of the great football leagues, the University of Toronto, which triggers the association of their affluent immigrant families; and NYU, which represents the Big Apple and the big American dream. Chinese parents and students love these facts.

3. Enlist popular subjects

Understanding what Chinese students want to study is also important to winning their custom.

At the moment and in the next few years, most Chinese students are still largely focusing on business-oriented subjects, such as accounting, finance, international business management and marketing.

“As the wealth gap in China is getting narrower and people start to think about non-materialistic fulfilment and satisfaction, I predict that there would be a shift to ‘softer’ subjects”

However, as the wealth gap in China is getting narrower and people start to think about non-materialistic fulfilment and satisfaction, I predict that there would be a shift to ‘softer’ subjects in the next decade. Chinese students would start wanting to study something more related to creativity entrepreneurship, international development, or design management.

4. Embrace league tables and rankings

Chinese people love rankings. It’s deep-rooted in Chinese heritage, way back to Han Dynasty time when the imperial service exam system played a critical role in shaping one’s intellectual, social and political life in China. In the old days, the higher scores you got, the better job and the higher social status you would get.

Despite recent economic advancement in China, this tradition still runs in our Chinese blood and remains deeply influential in today’s modern society.

Therefore, Western universities and schools must play the game to get some good rankings for themselves if they want to attract Chinese students.

Above and beyond, marketing Chinese students is not exactly rocket science. It is all about understanding their needs and desires, and then matching them and managing their expectations.

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Work and Study in Ireland – changes to visa regulations

 “Several schools offer learner protection with no real policy in place. In the past, students have paid fees and been left out of pocket when the school closes”

Graham Gilligan, Managing Director of Welcome Ireland, gives a whistlestop guide to the major changes to Irish immigration laws in an overhaul of the English language industry.

Last January 1st the Irish government were planning on introducing reforms to immigration laws which would change the popular one-year visa to a new eight-month visa, primary aimed at overhauling the English language industry and addressing immigration abuse.

This was delayed until October 1st and has now again been delayed in order to allow for certain aspects of the changes to be fully implemented. These regulations can be read fully in the policy statement on the government’s education website.

In this blog I will explain the five most important changes and how they will affect students who want to work and study in Ireland.

1 – Change to 1-year visa

Under the current system, non-EEA students can apply for a one-year visa to study in Ireland. In order to qualify for this visa, the student must enrol on an English language course for a minimum six months in duration, with at least 15 hours of class per week. This would allow a student to study for six months and then stay in Ireland for an additional six months to work legally or to travel in Ireland or the EU. This programme has become known as ‘One Year Academic’ or ‘Work and Study in Ireland’.

New regulations now state that eight-month visas will now replace the one year visa. This means that students who enrol on a six-month/25 week course will only be permitted to remain in Ireland on completion of the course for an additional two months. Students will still be entitled to three permissions but the minimum requirement of a six-month course will still be in place.

2 – Implementation of the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP)

At present, Irish language schools are included on an international register. This will now be replaced by the more restrictive ‘Interim List of Eligible Programmes’ (ILEP). Only those schools who can demonstrate that they have reached an acceptable quality standard will be permitted to appear on the list following the introduction of the new regulations. Schools which are not on this list will no longer be able to accept non-EEA students and will no doubt close. In addition to this Further education and vocational education and training programmes will no longer feature on the list. English language schools which offer business and tourism diplomas will no longer be able to offer these to non-EEA students.

“Schools which are not on this list will no longer be able to accept non-EEA students and will no doubt close”

3 – Accreditation of Courses

At present many schools advertise accreditation on their websites from such UK bodies as LCCI, NCFE and EDI. These will no longer be recognised by immigration authorities and visas will not be issued to students wishing to study in these colleges unless they also have accreditation from Irish awarding bodies such as ACELS.

4 – End of Course Exam

It is compulsory for all students studying English on an international student visa to sit an externally assessed end-of-course examination at the end of their 25 weeks of English language classes.

5 – Learner Protection

Several schools currently offer learner protection with no real policy in place. In the past, students have paid fees to these schools and have been left out of pocket when the school closes. New regulations will require that schools to have a transparent policy in place and provide written details of this policy alongside Irish accreditation. We recommend that students should consider looking for schools which are part of MEI (Marketing English in Ireland) and at a minimum have ACELS accreditation.

We would also advise students to be careful when choosing a college and to be cautious of:

•    Colleges with no Irish accreditation. Accreditation from such UK bodies as LCCI, NCFE and EDI will no longer be accepted.

•    Colleges offering cheap one-year programmes. Many colleges are aware that they will close and are using lower prices to attract students and to generate as much money as possible before closing.

“Many colleges are aware that they will close and are using lower prices to attract students and to generate as much money as possible before closing”

•    Colleges which delay or defer start dates, or expel students with no real reason. Colleges which are destined to close have now filled their classes with students who paid for cheap courses with no remaining places left. In order to recruit more students, they are still accepting money and delaying or deferring start dates. We recommend students carry out as much research as possible, contact students presently in these colleges and find out if these practices are taking place.

•    Colleges with no information of who the management is. In some cases, management and marketing teams from some colleges which closed are now involved in several colleges still in operation.

•    Colleges with a high level of non-EAA or South American students. As with some colleges, their business model has been based on the recruitment of non-EAA students due to the ease of generating a large amount of money in one transaction as opposed to recruiting European students for short, two-week courses. Once the new regulations come into place, this business model will result in some schools losing a large majority of their target market and will ultimately close, leaving the student out of pocket. / /

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Making e-learning a force for social inclusion at a global level

“E-learning is different. It’s about creating tools that simultaneously engage the learner and challenge their ways of thinking”

Jeremy C Bradley is the Director of Academic and Student Affairs at InterActive, a global e-learning service provider. He has experience working in an educational hedge fund that provides scholarship and resource capacity to historically black colleges and universities; at an independent day school; and as Creative and Development Director for a multi-state educational and social services organisation.

‘We need to bring learning to people instead of people to learning.’ – Elliot Masie

Learning has never been so easily accessible and flexible as it is now. Thanks to online learning, today’s students, professionals and corporations enjoy a completely different relationship with education than the previous generation did less than two decades ago. But, certainly, there is a lot more to it.

My ambition here is to ask why we should consider the benefits of e-learning as a tool for social inclusion. What, in other words, led Elliot Masie to make this claim and what value is there in tracing that evolution further, particularly with regards to how e-learning affects the most diverse range of people – working adults, school-leavers, executives looking to sharpen their skills, stay-at-home mums?

Granted, these questions could simply be avoided if education’s interpretative communities remain more-or-less homogenous and not subject to input or effect from sections of society likely to be deeply, or even subliminally, disillusioned with education’s fundamental doctrine or practices. If this condition were to be satisfied, normative educational theory could avoid engaging with questions about ‘the social.’ But that’s not the reality.

Given that the communities on which education has an impact are anything but homogenous, we are left with the task of exploring how e-learning can bridge that gap, how it can be used as tool for social inclusion, bringing together people from different walks of life and creating accessibility to education.

I would propose that we centre interpretative communities at the heart of e-learning. On this notion, community is personified as ‘education-makers’, which I would define as those leading the charge to develop learning materials that are malleable enough to meet the needs of diverse learners and at the same time sturdy enough to meet any test of quality assurance.

“Such a durable e-learning method can only be developed when an organisation understands how its community of learners functions”

Such a malleable/durable e-learning method can only be developed when an organisation understands how its community of learners functions. That this central question depends on a strong conception of community suggests that e-learning’s nature is rooted in the interpretative community.

But how integrated or fragmented is this community? Who is included in the community and who is excluded from it? Does the composition of the community shape the way it interprets the learning process?

One issue is that traditional modes of education are often not interested in directly answering these questions. While some schools – particularly charter schools and those designed for exceptionally-gifted students – understand education as an interpretative practice, questions as to who engages in that practice do not, on the whole, seem to affect the practical way in which those institutions deliver instruction. E-learning is different. It’s about creating tools that simultaneously engage the learner and challenge their ways of thinking.

E-learning serves a vast array of people within a given heterogeneous society. There is, of course, a difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ e-learning.

The approach to content that focuses on the creation of short and intensive learning segments is often what works best. The philosophy behind this is to provide the most efficient dissemination of information to the learner using digital media. The aim is to create a robust and easily scalable solution to link a range of learning segments together for the purpose of creating a coherent syllabus structure for a variety of subjects.

The structural advantage is that each piece of content can serve as a stand-alone learning segment, but more importantly, can be combined with other pieces of content in order to form a wider delivery structure composing sessions, units, modules, or even entire academic programmes.

This in turn allows for a scalable increase or binding of content, as a wide range of educational topics can be covered utilising a consistent delivery mechanism. That creates structure in the mind of the learner and ticks a number of boxes for different kinds of learners.

Good e-learning is inclusive: you can make use of it whether you’re running a corporation or looking after children, whether you have advanced education or just want access to something more mobile.

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Recruitment agencies are the good guys in the UK’s teacher shortage crisis

“Britain has a teacher recruitment crisis. So far, so uncontroversial”

Rob Grays, Managing Director of Prospero Teaching, writes about the role that teaching agencies provide in addressing teacher shortages – despite the bad press they might get.

Britain has a teacher recruitment crisis. So far, so uncontroversial. It’s had one for years, but the government has suddenly decided that Something Must Be Done.

And it’s a global problem. The US has a teacher shortage, as do Australia and New Zealand. Even Hawaii!

In England, in a range of key subjects, the number of trainee teachers recruited for 2015 is significantly below the target figures, with some disciplines (especially maths and some sciences) attracting barely half the numbers sought.

The influential cross-party Commons Education Select Committee has now announced that the issue will be examined in an inquiry.

You might think that teacher recruitment agencies, which work so hard to provide schools all over the country with top-calibre candidates to fill their teaching vacancies, would be welcomed as partners in addressing this important issue. But you’d think wrong.

Last month, one of the biggest UK teacher unions, the NUT, went so far as to arrange a picket of agencies: ‘Supply teacher agencies are making millions while supply teachers’ pay continues to plummet,’ said NUT leader Christine Blower.

This anti-agency narrative is inaccurate in so many ways.

First, ‘supply’ agency is a misnomer. Over 80 percent of our business is placing teachers in posts lasting two years or more. The idea that we’re just a quick fix for when Miss Jones has flu and there’s no one to take Year 8 geography is a million miles from being an accurate representation of our work.

And, for us, placing candidates is only the beginning: our priority is developing a long-term relationship with our teachers, inspiring them and enthusing them. We provide a free accredited programme of CPD so that they can develop their skills, and acquire new ones. Recent sessions have included Behavioural Management, Effective Differentiated Learning and Literacy and Numeracy Strategies.

And with many of our candidates coming from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, we put enormous effort in helping them settle into life in the UK. We’re there for them when they’ve had a bad day at work or they’re feeling homesick. Without us, they would probably be on the first plane home, but with support and encouragement they settle into school life and become assets to the UK teaching profession.

And our overseas candidates provide fantastic PR for the English education system when they return home – thereby encouraging more candidates to come over. Many of our teachers tell us that they’ve heard horror stories about British schools, their friends tell them they’re mad to work here – to London in particular. But they love the variety of experience they get, from academies to faith schools, from comprehensives to free schools, and they thrive on the challenges presented by working in inner cities.

“We’re busting a gut to help schools access the inspirational, motivated, highly skilled teaching staff they need”

At Prospero Education, we believe it’s important to give something back to our partner schools. We’ve spent over £250,000 on an anti-bullying campaign led by legendary former Wales rugby skipper Gareth Thomas. He works alongside teachers to build children’s esteem and explores a range of issues including equality, diversity, leadership, aspiration and how to achieve goals.

There’s no single cause of – or solution to – the teacher shortage. Workload, pay, political meddling, a fixation on exams and league tables and low morale all play a part. And we need to keep the teachers we have. Last year a record 50,000 quit. And more than 300,000 qualified teachers are not working in schools.

But while politicians debate and bicker, we’re busting a gut to help schools access the inspirational, motivated, highly skilled teaching staff they need.

And if Christine Blower of the NUT would like to drop in for a cup of tea, she’d be very welcome!


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ALTO pricing initiative and the threat of commoditisation. Is there really a risk?

“Plenty of schools nowadays fall into the trap of making assumptions about what students need, offering the broadest range of options possible”

The language travel industry is trying to get a step ahead by standardising the method schools use to deliver pricing to agents across the globe. Caetê da Silva, social business designer at Taea ry, writes about how ALTO’s plan for an industry standard for language travel bookings could help schools to innovate.

I remember a few years ago I was discussing this issue with some industry colleagues, including Mr. Carlos Robles (former BELTA president). By the time my main question was: Why do agents have to, one by one, input several pricing systems for the same school, many times during the year, manually?

Finally – and I have to give credit – followed by an initiative by ALTO board member Thiago España, ALTO is on the way to having language schools standardise their pricing system. The output shall be a one-fits-all file that allow agents to implement these pricing systems easily to their operations.

I could spend time here going over the operational advantages that this initiative brings, such as fewer mistakes, agility to agents operations and broader distribution range to schools.

But I won’t.

I want to use this space to discuss a possible issue raised by language schools regarding this innovation: commoditisation.

Said a language school owner during our recent conversation: “Listen, Cae: As great as it sounds to agents, what is being proposed here is that my school will just be another language school in a listing space. Why would I want that?”

“Is your school the same as the others?” I asked him. Of course, it is not.

Every school has its own sets of capabilities and strengths that are exclusive to it. If schools are not exploring these capabilities in full, there is where danger is.

Plenty of schools nowadays fall into the trap of making assumptions about what students need, offering the broadest range of options possible and more of these generic approaches.

What this new pricing policy and API from ALTO addresses for the industry is the true need to provide real and unique value to students.

Schools that currently fail to grow due to this generalist approach will face an opportunity to finally stop worrying with the insane process of educating agents about pricing policies.

They will finally be able to focus 100% of their efforts on creating real value and educating students and agents about what really matters about schools. Questioning their own assumptions about the market, go back to the drawing board and start to build the new reality of language schools: A reality that brings growth and profit back to schools based on delivering products that capture the needs of students and add huge value to them and to agents at the same time.

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