Justin Quinn, Chair of Eaquals
Eaquals considers changes to language education landscape

Language school innovation, digital marketing techniques, updates to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and 21st Century skills were among the seminar topics at the Eaquals International Conference 2017 in Latvia last week.

Eaquals, the international language school accreditation body, welcomed around 250 delegates to the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija in Riga for three days of professional development sessions, covering academic, management and sales and marketing strands.  


Justin Quinn, Director of UK and Ireland-based Centre of English Studies (CES) and Chair of Eaquals, considered what a language school will look like in 2025 in one presentation, where he emphasised the importance of the whole school experience and argued that providers will have to invest more in customer service.


He said students were becoming ever-more tech-savvy and that blended learning would be more integral to delivery, with students commencing and being level checked before arrival, and that students' own devices would be more frequently used in class. "Language is communication; technology is communication. Bring them together," he advised. "Students will believe what other students say," he said on the value of peer approval and social media networks.


Justin argued that adult students will become less common, a point echoed by Jonathan Dykes, Chief Executive of the IHLS Group, which includes International House Barcelona, in a session entitled 'Stick or Twist?' He said that the core business of adult general language courses was unravelling fast and was not likely to grow in the future, before leading attendees in a workshop of plotting potential risk versus reward on innovations in course delivery that might eventually replace the core business.


During a seminar on digital marketing strategies for language schools, Philippe Taza, CEO of Higher Education Marketing, advised that techniques can increase direct enquiries but also complement other channels including agents by building brand awareness. He gave tips on areas such as google analytics, SEO, client persona development and keywords, and advised that if schools place adverts in target languages, they must be able to handle enquiries in that language.


In the conference closing plenary, Jacqueline Kassteen, Owner of Jackfruit Marketing, highlighted the key assets that young people will require to excel in future business, including critical thinking, emotional intelligence, negotiation and cognitive flexibility. "Language schools are already teaching 21st century skills, but they are not selling them," she argued.  


Jackie, who recently launched FruitFame as a free platform to "showcase international education industry success stories in marketing, branding, recruitment, enrolment and retention", urged schools to "never underestimate the power of emotions in teaching and marketing".


Other sessions at the conference included plenary discussions with Brian North of Eurocentres on recent updates to the CEFR, such as filling gaps in the descriptor series scales for areas not originally covered; mediation strategies in language; and descriptors for young learners. The session was followed by an introduction to The Global Scale of English (GSE) by Mike Mayo, Director of GSE at Pearson. Developed by Pearson, Mike said the GSE takes the original CEFR research and extends the set of learning objectives to address the needs of more learners.


Speaking to StudyTravel Magazine, Lou McLaughlin, recently appointed as Executive Director of Eaquals, said the conference provided a platform for people from all elements of the industry to discuss quality service. "Best practice will encourage more students, which benefits everybody," she said.


Eaquals also marked the conference as an opportunity to showcase the first volume in a series of Eaquals books being published in partnership with the Open University: Language Teaching Competencies by Richard Rossner, a Co-Founder of the association. Further editions on language course management and language course planning will follow.


This year, the Eaquals conference featured sessions delivered by agents and an agent association panel discussion. A separate report will follow on these.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor