Dan Thomas, in his article for The Pie, an online publication for educators, looks at the factors behind the growth of the junior language market. Major players in language education have seen sustained, sometimes rapid, growth in recruitment over the last few years; opening new campuses and increasing the diversification of nationalities on their courses.
Driving the phenomenon is an ever more competitive job market in which having a second language – and having studied abroad – gives young people a distinct advantage. For this reason, say educators, during a period of economic austerity in many language learning markets, parents are willing to continue spending on their children’s education while making savings on their own.
It appears the demand is not only for English courses. In Europe, Italy’s Linguaviva says it sees around 5% growth each year for its Italian classes, while Germany’s DID says interest from students wanting to learn German in Berlin has increased.
Another success story is Azurlingua in the South of France, which has expanded from 20-30 students to 2,500 students in the last 10 years. Director, Jean Luc Librati, says the French market is coming to maturity, with junior courses becoming an educational rite of passage for language learners and being taken more seriously.
“Let’s say that 10 years ago, it was more like ‘let’s have fun and at the same time learn French’. Now it’s more ‘let’s learn French and at the same time we’ll have fun’,” says Libreti.
Students on Azurlingua’s courses now take exams recognised not only by the French Government, but also the Common European Framework of Reference for languages which enables qualifications to be recognised across European borders.
“This new way to recognise language ability is becoming better and better known,” says Libreti. “It is also proof that the market is reaching a more professional level.”
While the need for a second language is certainly the fuel for growth, other factors are catalysts. One such is visa conditions. As junior courses are generally short haul and rarely year round, students can usually enter a country far more simply than adults, often on a tourist visa.
Increased awareness of junior products is also helping providers. The relationships an educator builds with his agents around the world helps drive “word of mouth” marketing. Consumers have also changed their attitudes. Teachers and students are more knowledgeable about the courses available and parents are more trusting and willing to allow their children to travel.