The English language teaching sector will lose between €35 and €40 million in revenue as a result of the government’s decision to close schools, which also spells uncertainty for the 12,000 students currently in Malta to learn English.

A spokesperson for the federation that represents them said schools saw a massive 15,000 cancellations worth a total of around €15 million over the weekend.

Around 2,000 jobs, including those of teachers and support staff, are also in peril.

The federation will be meeting Prime Minister Robert Abela this morning to discuss the matter.

“We asked for the meeting because we want to work the problem not pull the plug on it. Let’s sit down and discuss how we can save the little that’s left,” the spokesperson said.

“The decision is nothing short of insane and illogical. It has potentially wiped out a sector that has been built over the past 40 years,” Sean LeGault, the chief executive of the European School of English, said.

This was echoed by Rebecca Bonnici, the owner and CEO of BELS English Language Schools, who believes that the situation is dire.

“We’ve already scraped the bottom of the barrel in order to secure our ability to operate this year, with nothing more left to scrape,” she said as she expressed her frustration at the lack of consultation with stakeholders.

She said they learned of the development through Times of Malta and did not know what to tell students now in Malta, especially those who are fully vaccinated. She predicts serious repercussions.

Schools saw a massive 15,000 cancellations worth a total of around €15m

“This decision will have an unquantifiable effect on Malta’s reputation,” she said.

“We got the numbers here because we hung on and worked hard to attract people and because England and Ireland were closed to language learning. This will effectively wipe out the ELT sector in Malta,” she added.

LeGault said that, by keeping the country open only to people with EU-recognised vaccines, the language teaching sector has lost long-term students from countries like Japan, Korea, Columbia and Turkey, which are usually Malta’s strongest winter markets.

Andrew Mangion, CEO at EC English Language Centres, was equally frustrated at the lack of consultation.

“The industry has been on its knees for 18 months and when the first problem came along  the decision was to shut schools.

“What we have been seeking to do from day one is to work and collaborate with the government in the interest of the country and the industry,” he said.

“And this recent announcement left us feeling scapegoated,” he added.

Asked how he would have approached the issue, Mangion said that the first thing that had to be done is distinguish between adult learners, who are all double vaccinated, and the juniors.

The adults should have been allowed to continue their courses and the health issue should have been tackled in a better way, perhaps over a longer period of time.

“If the government took the decision to open up the tourism industry, including to those who come here to study English, then it must have surely expected an increase in cases because people are the vectors of this virus and it must have also had a backup plan.

“What we saw instead is a knee-jerk reaction,” Julian Cassar Torreggiani, owner of AM Language School, said.

He explained that, while language learners were the school’s responsibility when on the school premises, schools did not have the legal authority to enforce the laws on mask wearing and social distancing in public places.

“All schools adopted a mask-wearing policy, regular sanitising and temperature checks, as guided by the health authorities.

“However, outside school premises, it’s only the authorities who have the power to enforce,” Cassar Torreggiani said.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us