A lack of understanding on the part of Maltese health authorities about the way in which English Language Schools operates could put the livelihood of thousands at risk, according to industry representatives.
The CEO of Malta’s Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations (FELTOM), Caroline Tissot, was a guest on today’s episode of Lovin Daily, which discussed the challenges being faced by the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FELTOM represents 18 of the 35 English language schools currently operating in Malta.
Tissot noted that both Prime Minister Robert Abela and Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci had recently responded to questions about English language schools’ operations by saying that they were in fact closed.
“This a big misconception,” Tissot said, explaining that Malta offered a unique experience that combined tuition with an immersion in the Maltese way of life.
“Students come to Malta for a fully immersed experience. Coming to Malta and having to stay at their residence and do online tuition, while at the same time being allowed to mingle in society is a contradiction.”
Malta allowed schools to reopen earlier this month and has said it will be welcoming tourists back to the island on 1st June. However, despite this, English language schools have been told that their students cannot return to school.
Tissot said that the situation had become a very serious one that was risking the livelihoods of thousands, stressing that it needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
She said that in 2019, there were roughly 1,800 people employed as academic and non-academic staff in English language schools. The number had dropped to just over 1,000 by the end of 2020.
“There is also a hemorrhaging of staff who are feeling the insecurity of the situation and are thinking that they’re better off finding other employment,” she said.
This would be catastrophic for the industry getting back up and running, with competing markets standing the gain as a result.
“If the industry fails it is going to affect many other Maltese people whose income is dependent on the industry,” she explained, pointing out that it went beyond those directly employed by the schools and included everyone from host families to service providers. “It will be a whole domino effect.”
In a statement, yesterday FELTOM said that some 11,000 bookings had already been made for students to start learning in June, but this has now been called into question given the lack of clarity on the part of the authorities.
The industry, Tissot said, was different from regular tourism since it involved a lot of planning, especially given that students normally come to Malta for relatively long periods of time.
Delaying the start of their operations beyond June wasn’t an option she said, noting that five schools had already closed their doors as a result of the pandemic.
She appealed for the government to ensure that the industry, which in 2019 generated over €200 million, to ensure that it safeguards workers’ livelihoods and protects the industry.
Do you think English language schools should be allowed to reopen?