Protesting language students march to Dáil
Published 06/05/2015 | 02:30
Hundreds of foreign students who lost thousands of euro when their English-language colleges closed have demanded more regulation of the sector at a protest outside the Dáil.
The 200-strong crowd of students chanted "more regulation for better education" as they marched from Merrion Square to protest against the recent closure of 14 private English-language schools.
The protest was organised by Ciara Lane, who taught at the Modern Education Centre (MEC) on Harcourt Street until the school closed a few weeks ago.
"I have worked as an English-language teacher all over the world and these schools are poorly regulated everywhere. But Ireland is the worst in the world. We need regulation," she said.
"We are marching today to bring this to the attention of the Government. It is no good inspecting things like attendance and class size. They need to look at the viability of a business as well."
MEC lost its Accreditation and Coordination of English Language Services (ACELS) last year. Ms Lane said the college made every effort to amend the issues raised in the evaluation, but said Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) never returned for a follow-up inspection. However, Sue Hackett from the body disputed this claim and said the school lost its appeal to remove the non-statutory accreditation.
She said the ACELS was an optional programme and will soon be replaced by a new statutory scheme.
"We are not in the business of closing schools," she added. "We are simply trying to uphold a standard."
Ms Lane said the teachers had been made aware of the school's fiscal problems, but students had not been.
Johan Garcia (28) from Venezuela said he showed up for class to find it closed and has since been left in limbo.
"I have lost €1,350. How will I pay for a new course?," he said.
A spokesperson for the Education Department said the "vast majority" of private providers of English-language training operate to a high standard.
However, they said the recent closures of some private colleges have highlighted some concerning practices. The department said they had worked closely with the Justice Department to assist a taskforce set up to help the students.
Both departments said a package of reforms to the student immigration system for international education will be brought to Government for its approval in the next two weeks.