Tatsu Hoshino, Executive Secretary of Japanese agency association JAOS, advised there was a 159 per cent increase in students heading to the Philippines between 2011 and 2013, according to annual surveys of member agencies.
In the JAOS 2015 member survey - recently unveiled at the annual gathering of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca) in the UK - the Philippines was the fourth largest destination behind the USA, Australia and Canada with 11 per cent market share.
The findings echoed StudyTravel Magazine's Agency Survey Japan in 2014, which found the Philippines to be the fourth largest destination with 10.3 per cent market share, despite having previously barely registered in agency polls.
Tatsu said there were a number of reasons for the increase, including the fact that several schools in the country were Japanese owned and that more agencies were promoting the country. He added that universities and high schools had begun to send students there, while corporations were using schools in the Philippines for executive English training.
Yoshikazu Ueoku, General Manager of Global Study Language Corporation and Board Member of JAOS, told StudyTravel Magazine that the Philippines had become a major destination for the agency, with price as a particular attraction. He said students could purchase a one-to-one course for less than a regular group class in some other destinations.
Jim Forsyth, Regional Marketing Director at SMEAG Global Education - an ELT provider which recently established its fourth ELT campus in the Philippines, raising capacity to 1,000 students - was previously a Japan-based agent and first started promoting the country in 2010.
"As an agent, I was surprised by the positive feedback from customers upon their return, with better reports than the traditional destinations," he said.
Jim explained the main reasons were the mixture of 1:1, 1:2 and 1:4 lessons rather than the larger classes expected in the UK and Australia, intense programmes and the dormitory-style accommodation.
A new Study in the Philippines magazine has been launched by Tokyo-based publishers Tomorrow Inc., adding to its existing titles profiling education options in the more traditional destinations of Australia and New Zealand.
A Tomorrow Inc. press release regarding the new publication states, "The Philippine education and study abroad market has seen explosive growth in recent years, and the Study in the Philippines magazine explores the now-enormous market to find, and highlight, what it is that makes the Philippines such as an attractive study abroad destination."
Tatsu welcomed the launch of the publication and said it would assist the work of Japanese agencies. "There are still many people who are not aware of the Philippines as a study destination. Agencies here mainly use the internet to promote study abroad in the Philippines. Therefore, there is a limit that agencies can reach.
"This will surely reach more and different kinds of people and increase awareness of study in the Philippines. As there are more people who realise it is a destination, there are more business opportunities for agents."
Japan is not the only market increasing for the Philippines, according to Jim. He explained that China, Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan were also prominent source countries, while Saudi Arabia has become a recent market addition.
"The school relies on agents for around 95 per cent of students from Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China," he said, adding that social media recruitment contributed more of a share in newer markets such as Russia, Mongolia and the Middle East.
By Matthew Knott