Hopes of a post-COVID-19 return to normalcy this summer for the hard-hit language school sector are under threat due to the teacher shortage, industry figures have warned.
The successful vaccination program and low virus rates have led to an increase in inquiries from schools with bookings of over 11,000 through September, increasing daily since the area fully reopened on June 1.
Caroline Tissot of FELTOM, the Federation of English Language Teaching Organizations in Malta, said the signs were “encouraging” with schools reporting increased interest and last minute bookings from countries such as Poland , the Czech Republic, Japan, Germany and the Baltic region.
Tissot noted that the successful way in which Malta has fought the pandemic has attracted a lot of international media attention and that the island is chosen over countries like Spain and Germany.
But optimism over global demand has been tempered by concerns about whether there will be enough teachers to meet student needs.
“We need to double the number of teachers for the same number of students due to social distancing in classrooms,” a school spokesperson said on condition of anonymity.
“The availability of teachers is a major problem for us,” he said.
“Many teachers have left the industry for good over the past few months, so we are in desperate need of teachers. If local teachers are not available, Malta should perhaps consider inviting teachers from the UK to fill this gap, ”he added.
The spokesperson also suggested that the ELT board organize immediate and intensive promotional campaigns to attract teachers of English into mainstream education, former ELT teachers and others who hold a minimum standard. “A” in English so they can take crash courses to have them available when the teaching season peaks.
To protect students and the wider community, schools have increased disinfection and cleaning procedures, conduct daily temperature tests of students and staff, apply hand disinfection, and continue to adhere to social distancing rules in the classrooms.
Students and staff must also continue to wear masks.
Regarding reservations, he said, the response has been encouraging.
“We are far from 2019 levels, but the short term outlook for July and August looks very good and we are seeing great interest in several last minute bookings, mostly from Italy, Poland, Germany, from Belgium and the Czech Republic. “
Another major problem mentioned by a representative from another school was the lack of air connections. For example, an airline recently canceled a round trip flight to Milan, which caused some problems.
English-language schools experienced cancellations at the start of the pandemic in March last year, with schools reporting 20,000 reservations canceled.
At the time, the industry said that the financial impact of cancellations is expected to result in an estimated contribution loss of € 8.8 million and an estimated financial loss to the economy of € 23.7 million.
In an effort to boost the industry, the government will offer students traveling to Malta to learn English this summer up to € 300 in vouchers to spend anywhere on the island.
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