EXCLUSIVE: The Federal Government wants aspiring English learners to play an even bigger part in Australia’s international education market through a new strategy to diversify the sector.
The Federal Government wants to expand the English language teaching sector in Australia as part of a push to diversify the international student market.
Education Minister Dan Tehan will release a draft road map towards making Australia the “destination of choice” for aspiring English learners by 2025 and grow the sector already worth some $2.4 billion each year.
The strategy sets out a guiding framework to secure access to new markets and maintain the nation’s reputation as one of the world's leading English teaching providers.
It also wants to encourage students coming to Australia to learn English to undertake further studies here to bolster the nation’s international education sector.
Mr Tehan said greater diversification would help secure Australia's future in an increasingly crowded international market.
“The more we can bring students from countries right across the world, the more we can secure the sector for the future,” he said.
“It’s absolutely fundamental that we can bring students from right across the world here to study English.”
There are almost 180,000 international students from 150 countries studying English at mostly private training providers across Australia with the nation currently the world’s third-leading provider of this education.
But although the draft strategy wants to increase the number of foreign students coming to Australia to learn English - it is yet to lay out any concrete action to achieve this.
For many foreign visitors English language courses are their first exposure to the local education system and provide a pathway to future studies.
About a quarter of all international higher education students access English language courses as part of their studies in Australia.
CEO of national peak body English Australia, Brett Blacker, said the recent coronavirus outbreak which sparked a China travel ban, has highlighted the need to diversify the market.
"Diversification is critical and I mean we've seen just now - we've had impact from the coronavirus,” he said.
“When issues like this do impact us, that diversity of students ... is really part of our ongoing sustainability.”
The ban on foreign nationals entering Australia from China has blocked thousands of international students from returning to their studies.
Chinese students dominate the international student market and there are fears denying them access could deliver a significant blow to the economy.
“The coronavirus has provided difficulties - there's no question about that,” Mr Tehan said.
“I think if it has emphasised anything it is that the more diversified you are the more secure your market is."
While Chinese nationals are the largest cohort of English language learners in Australia there is also growing demand from emerging markets like South America.
The second highest number of students learning English in Australia come from Colombia, followed by Brazil, Thailand and India.
Colombian national Christian Orlando Avila Reyes is one of many students who have been lured by the prospect of studying English in Australia.
Ten months ago the Colombian travelled to Sydney to learn the language in the hope it would improve his employment prospects back home.
“I know Australia is one of the most modern cities around the world and I like to meet many different people from parts of the world, so for that I choose Australia,” he said.
“English is the business language, so in many countries if you are going to be in a big company or your own company you will need the English to communicate.”
English teacher Santina Sculli, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, said these teaching programs have helped connect Australia to the world.
“These students learn about each other's cultures as well as the Australian culture and they leave with this global network,” he said.