Pandemic batters English language schools as number of students decreases by 80%

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The Covid-19 pandemic battered English language schools, with the number of students coming to Malta to learn English decreasing by 80.3% in 2020 when compared to the previous year.

Statistics published by the National Statistics Office showed the effect that the pandemic, and the restrictive measures that were implemented as a result, had on the English language school industry.

In 2020, foreign students attending English language courses at local licensed English Language Teaching (ELT) schools numbered 16,491, equivalent to a decrease of 80.3% over 2019.

As a result of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the busiest month for local licensed ELT schools during the year under review was January, accounting for 21.1% of the annual total students. July and February followed at 18.4% and 16.9% respectively.

April and May were the worst months for business respectively: only 109 students came to Malta in April and an even lower number of 46 students came to Malta in May.

July – traditionally by far the busiest month for English students – saw 1,124 students arriving in Malta: far less than the 7,019 students who came to Malta in July of the previous year.

The majority of students attending English language courses in Malta came from Germany (16.7%), followed by France (10.7%) and Italy (9.8%).

Overall, 63.1% of total students originated from EU countries.  Japan, Brazil, Colombia, and Russia were the most represented non-EU nationalities in the student cohort.

The largest share of language students fell within the 18-25 age bracket, accounting for 26.4% of the total students following ELT courses. Students aged 50 years and over were in the minority and numbered 1,189. Female students outnumbered males, and accounted for 60.3% of the entire ELT student population.

The most popular course uptake in local licensed ELT schools was ‘General English: Standard’, whereby a total of 9,782 students, or 59.3% opted for this course. This was followed by the ‘Intensive English’ course, with 25.7% of total students.

Foreign students enrolled in local licensed ELT schools attended a total of 48,876 tuition weeks, a decrease of 74.8% when compared to 2019. The average number of tuition weeks during the year under review stood at 3.0 weeks.

With an average of 7.7 weeks, students from Colombia recorded the highest number of tuition weeks, followed by Venezuelan and Chinese students with average tuition weeks at 6.9 and 6.5 weeks respectively.

In 2020, teaching and academic staff in local licensed ELT schools numbered 584, with the largest proportion (28.6%) being aged 55 years and over. Female teachers accounted for 70.9% of the total. Non-teaching staff amounted to 468, of whom 61.8% were employed on a full-time basis.

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