The number of foreign students arriving in Malta to learn English dropped by more than 80 per cent in 2020 as the coronavirus took its toll on the sector.

Data from the National Statistics Office shows there were around 16,500 students at local licensed English Language Teaching schools, down from more than 83,600 the previous year. 

The sector was among the first to feel the impact of COVID-19 last year, reporting cancellations from March, a month before a temporary flight ban was introduced to curb the spread of the virus.

January was the busiest month for students, accounting for a fifth of the entire language student population last year. 

The Malta Chamber has previously estimated that English language school sector usually leads to a cumulative student expenditure of around €145 million - a considerable amount considering that this is a niche market.

Students from Germany accounted for the largest number (2,761) followed by France (1,760) and Italy (1615). In the previous year, students from Italy accounted for the largest number at 18,335 people.  

While there was a sharp drop in students of all ages, the under 15s were the worst affected. There was an almost 90 per cent fall in this group, which in the previous year accounted for the largest proportion of all students. 

In 2020 the largest share of language students were aged 18-25, accounting for 26.4 per cent of the total students following ELT courses.

Female students continued to outnumber males and accounted for slightly over 60 per cent of the entire ELT student population..

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.

There were 584 teaching and academic staff in the schools in 2020.

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