Growth for South African ELT schools in 2019

Growth for South African ELT schools in 2019

By Matthew Knott,  News Editor, Study Travel Network

English language schools in South Africa experienced an increase in international students and student weeks in 2019, according to data from association Education South Africa (EduSA), with agent enrolments growing and strong growth from Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Member schools of Education South Africa  hosted 10,068 international students in 2019, a 5.8 per cent increase compared with the previous year and almost matching the association’s peak of 2014.

Student weeks, meanwhile, increased by 3.4 per cent to 66,300 in 2019, EduSA said, a new record high for the association.

By student numbers, Brazil remained the top source country for EduSA schools in 2019, increasing by 13.4 per cent to 2,278. Second-placed Saudi Arabia also registered strong growth of 25 per cent to 1,615 students.

Torrique Borges , Chief Executive Officer of Education South Africa (EduSA), told StudyTravel Magazine that marketing activities by schools in Brazil were paying off.

EduSA schools increased students and weeks in 2019.

“It seems that the strength of the Brazilian market is finally filtering down to our smaller members, whereas Brazilian students usually tended to study at the bigger, more established schools in the past. ICEF Africa being hosted in Cape Town during 2018 and 2019 has also given smaller schools more exposure to agents than they may usually have, with South Africa being a long-haul destination which is quite out of the way at the base of Africa.”

As previously reported by StudyTravel Magazine, Brazilian agency asscoiation BELTA  reported an increased market share for South Africa in the preliminary results of its market research on the outbound sector in 2019.

The top five was completed by Germany (778 students, -3.5 per cent); France (704, +22.9 per cent); and Congo (598, -0.8 per cent).

Other notable growth markets in 2019 for EduSA schools were: Italy (+79.2 per cent); Japan (30.6); Colombia (24.2) and Mozambique (28.6).

By student weeks, Saudi Arabia was the largest source country with 14,421 weeks, a 31.3 per cent increase compared with 2018. In weeks, Saudi Arabia was followed by Brazil (9,689), Congo (6,075), Angola (5,248) and Yemen (3,498).

“The winter in Cape Town is a huge advantage for the Middle Eastern market, as these students look to escape the heat of their own summer, while our winter is fairly mild compared to the Northern Hemisphere,” said Torrique. “There is also a steadily growing network of local agents, who are marketing South Africa in the Middle East. This provides a local contact for students, which comforts many parents sending their students to the country.”

Torrique Borges, CEO of Education South Africa.

Indeed, agents accounted for 84.4 per cent of enrolments from the Middle East region in 2019, an increase of around six percentage points over the previous year.

Overall, agents provided two-thirds of students at Education South Africa schools in 2019 (67.76 per cent), a slightly higher ratio than the 64.9 per cent recorded in 2018. Recruitment via agencies was highest for the Middle East, Europe (80.3) and Latin America (79.3 per cent), but lower in Africa (25).

While the COVID-19 outbreak will doubtless impact on enrolments this year, Torrique explains that South Africa was coming out of its summer and heading into what is usually a quieter period anyway, and that most students have deferred rather than cancelled.

“There are still a number of students from the rest of Africa based in South Africa, waiting for their courses to resume, as they continue to prepare for their first academic year of tertiary study in January 2021,” said Torrique.

Photo – Arno Smit/

“The pandemic has brought about serious challenges, as it has in all destinations. Our saving grace may be our source markets from the rest of Africa, as South Africa is a key tertiary education destination for the rest of Africa and will continue to be, so students from Francophone and Portuguese-speaking African countries will continue to need English courses for their post-school studies.”

With regards to government support, Torrique advises that the ELT sector does not qualify for Department of Tourism funding, and the Department of Higher Education and Training has not announced any relief measures.

“The government has a number of support packages in place, but these are mainly aimed at SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises). Most packages are aimed at short-term relief, such as paying staff who may not earn an income over the next few months. There are also many private sector-led initiatives which have come to the fore, where businesses can apply for relief through these private sector funds. For example, two of South Africa’s richest families each provided a fund of R1 billion, whereby businesses could access funding or interest-free loans which are repayable in the future.”

He continues, “Our association forms part of a greater private sector tourism services association, SATSA, which has given us representation on the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and a much stronger voice in terms of lobbying with government. This has already paid dividends, as we have been able to present a return-to-operations protocol, which has made its way up to government and is currently being reviewed.”