Dave Allen, President and Founder of NILE, presenting the Brazil report.
Brazilian students require "career-relevant" ELT courses
English plus, intensive English and foundation ELT programmes leading to an English-medium taught degree are the study abroad priorities of Brazilian students, according to a study carried out by the British Council and English UK.

The findings of the 10th report in  English Language Market Report series were presented at the English UK Annual Conference & AGM in Bristol last week by Dave Allen, President and Founder of NILE, author of the report, who travelled to Brazil to undertake research and interviews.


He said that general English language programmes were no longer good enough for Brazilian students, who were moving towards added-value courses, particularly those with a career-relevant focus alongside language study.


The report detailed three "worthwhile study abroad markets" in Brazil for UK ELT institutions: those seeking English-medium higher education, therefore needing better English for this purpose; young adults wanting short, intensive programmes; and younger learners whose parents want them to improve their English in a safe and fun environment.


Dave said the contrast of Brazil now compared with four years ago was vast, which he added wasn't surprising given the economic downturn in the country, the collapse of oil prices, plus major political scandals and impeachment of its President Dilma Rousseff in 2016.


"Brazil is holding its breath," said Dave, quoting an interviewee in the report. With such uncertain times ahead he noted that a serious level of commitment and support from the UK's ELT sector could be fundamental in ensuring Brazilian students continue to choose the UK for English language study in the future.


According to findings by a British Council report in 2015 called English in Brazil - 'An examination of policy, perceptions and influencing factors', 82 per cent of Brazilian respondents who had not learned English would do so to improve their employment prospects, while 61 per cent said they had not learned English because it was too expensive.


"The prices for the UK were very high for things you can now get elsewhere," said one Belta agent in the 2017 report, interviewed in January this year, while another said, "I think the UK left a gap. At a time of economic difficulty and when things were chaotic in Brazil we needed more help from the UK to make offers more attractive."


In an article on school discounting in the September 2016 issue of StudyTravel Magazine, Maura Leão, President of Brazilian agency association Belta, said, "The need of a better price for Brazilian students is now a reality and a survival tool, more than a cultural aspect of asking for discounts only."


With the wild fluctuation of the Brazilian currency (real), the potential impact on both agencies and schools could be huge if school don't adapt accordingly, as Dave noted when presenting the report.


He added that due to the size of Brazil (a map in the report compares it to the size of Europe, of which it is a similar size), schools shouldn't treat it as if the country is all the same, as there are huge variations between urban and rural settings.


Another area with "significant potential" for UK providers is teacher training and teacher development. The Brazilian government recently announced that the teaching of English as a foreign language in high schools would become mandatory, while Spanish would be demoted to non-mandatory.


According to the report, "The strong, long-term implication of recent government decisions about the status of English can only be the need for many more teachers, and for them to be more effective at all levels within the curriculum."


The current popularity of Ireland and Canada for ELT study should not be ignored. The success of both destinations in recent times is detailed in the report and was also confirmed by anecdotal reports from agents at ST Alphe Brazil in March 2017. While the number of Brazilian students declined for English UK schools in 2016 by 33.7 per cent on the previous year, the number increased for members of Marketing English in Ireland (MEI).


While some factors (immigration policy, exchange rates, etc.) cannot be controlled, the report states, "What matters is what is within the powers of UK providers to do in order to open up new business possibilities in or from Brazil."


Partnering with good agents is "almost certainly" necessary, along with a strong website, visits and fam trips, and use of social media (Brazil has 97.7 million unique users), as well as schools finding their unique selling point within their own region in the UK.


Despite the current difficult times, investment in the Brazil market now as part of a long-term marketing strategy could pay dividends in the future. As the report concludes, "In the long term there is little doubt that the demand for English in Brazil is going to grow and with it the study abroad market for English."


By Georgina Deacon
Staff Journalist