After a fast-growing 2017, the signs of the slowdown came as early as July 2018, when the FELTOM ELT barometer, produced in collaboration with Deloitte, revealed that student numbers were down 8.4% and student weeks 6.6% compared to the same period in 2017.
Italy is still the top source country for the Maltese ELT industry, but its numbers were down 8% in 2018
“While 2017 showed a substantial increase in student arrivals, predictions from FELCA are showing that 2018 is a year where numbers might go down for language learning across the board,” FELTOM CEO James Perry told The PIE at the time.
But the new statistics from the NSO Malta are not as dramatic as those from July 2018: figures seem to have merely flatlined, with a 0.1% decrease in student numbers and a 12% loss in student weeks. The average stay was 2.5 weeks, down 0.3 weeks compared to 2017.
Italy is still the top source country for the Maltese ELT industry, but its numbers were down 8% in 2018. Similarly, Germany and France, the second and third source markets, both showed a 3% decrease.
While the top sources show a minus sign, growth lies elsewhere.
For example, Russia, in fourth position, grew 12% from 2017, while Austria in sixth shows a 40% increase. Spain and Japan, in eighth and ninth position, grew 10 and 20 percentage points respectively.
For Perry, this is the result of diversification efforts undertaken by the association’s members.
“I think this is what our schools are trying to achieve – the right mix”
“This year, the schools were looking at different source markets, so I think that the reduction of the Italian market came organically as FELTOM members were seeking to go to Japan for example,” he told The PIE.
“The importance for the ELT industry is to have the right mix of students within a school. And I think this is what our schools are trying to achieve – the right mix.”
Perry explained that marketing efforts and trade missions are yielding results.
Russia, Spain and Sweden and Czech Republic also have more direct flights with Air Malta, he said. “This is facilitating the marketing activities of our schools,” Perry commented.
Who are Malta’s EFL students?
The next three graphs outline some further details about the Maltese EFL industry’s students: the proportion of age groups across the top six source markets, what students from the top-20 source countries choose to study, and how long they stay in the country.