From the field: EF continues to build new markets, products, and systems

Editor’s note: We are updating our video channels and the videos linked below are temporarily unavailable.

EF Education First is one of the world’s leading language schools. Based in Lucerne, Switzerland, it operates 500 schools and offices in 53 countries and has a complement of 40,500 full- and part-time staff. EF students pursue studies in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese in 44 global destinations and, through the Englishtown website, can also study English online.

We recently sat down with Anders Ahlund, EF’s President of International Sales and Marketing, to get his perspective on the industry and on some of the new initiatives at EF. Currently based in Dubai and Zurich, Mr Ahlund is a 25-year veteran of the company whose experience at EF spans a variety of departments, divisions, and countries. He is currently responsible for business development including the management of the company’s worldwide agent network.

We began our discussion by talking about how the language industry has changed in recent decades. In the following video segment, Mr Ahlund highlights a number of important shifts, including the increasing integration of language programmes with academic studies, the importance of emerging markets, the ongoing priority of diversifying enrolment, and the increasing role of technology in EF operations.

In our second and final interview segment below, Mr Ahlund introduces an important new initiative for the company: the EF Standard English Test (EFSET), a proprietary language test designed to allow students to more frequently test their progress and to receive results right away. “EFSET is a tool to improve students’ learning,” he says. “So it is more a complement at the moment, rather than a replacement of the established language tests.”

EFSET plays a part as well in the annual EF English Proficiency Index, a global ranking of English skills across 63 countries and territories. Millions of people are tested worldwide during the EPI process each year and the EFSET will be the standard test used for the EPI going forward.

The EFSET course is delivered online and reflects in part the important role of online learning in EF programmes. The company now provides tools to allow parents to better track the progress of their students online, and increasingly emphasises blended learning where students combine online learning with classroom instruction – to the extent that students in EF schools typically complete as much as 15% of their studies online.

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