By Marina Romanova
Online education industry, also known as e–learning, is growing fast in Russia, and according to the experts forecast, is expected to grow by 25 percent a year, Russian daily Kommersant reports. Statistics reveal that the world e-learning market is worth around US$107 billion and one of its major markets – Eastern Europe – is driven by Russia.
Although Russia, according to the J’son & Partners Consulting research, is responsible for only about US$162 million market share, nation e-learning market has a vast potential and continue to grow despite of the current economic crisis. Quite the contrary, the economic crisis is prompting more and more Russians to learn foreign languages. As many as 7.2 million Russians at least ones were enrolled in e-learning, Stanislav Korolkov, head of the Russian e-learning center Unibrains, told Kommersant daily.
“Business-themed courses are enjoying increasing popularity during a crisis, because knowledge of a foreign language is one of the ways to boost one’s competitive advantage on a sluggish labor market,” Anna Berkovich, the owner of Alibra Schools network of foreign language operates in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Kazan explained to the RBTH.
Anna Gaivan, head of Business Development & Communications at online school Skyeng, which offers customized language courses via Skype, points to a poll conducted among Skyeng clientele, showing that 2016 saw a sharp rise in demand for English for work purposes: 59 percent of students said they are learning foreign language for professional reasons.
Despite the drop in oil prices, Russia is still among healthy markets for business English and other specialized forms of English. According to the Ambient Insight report “2015-2020 Worldwide Market for Digital English Language Learning Products” in terms of online foreign language learning, Russia is the 10th biggest market in the world.
“One interesting pattern is that even in countries with severe economic downturns like Brazil, Venezuela, Finland, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and Greece, the revenues for digital English language learning products have remained steady (so far),” the report, covering 120 markets, reads.
Overall, according to Ambient Insight, over the last five years the global market of online language learning rose nearly four-fold, to US$2.8 billion in 2015. The worldwide five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 6.0 percent and revenues will surge to US$3.8 billion by 2020.
Another important recent trend in e-learning in Russia is the rise of the interest to study Mandarin. According to some expert estimation, since 2014 Mandarin became the fourth most popular foreign language in Moscow schools after English, German and French. According to leading Russian recruitment agency HeadHunter, the number of vacancies for Chinese speakers rose from 993 in 2011 to 3,910 in 2015.
More traditional methods of training or education are not going away in Russia, not yet, but organizations of all types, from public schools to corporations, are opting to train and inform via the web.
The private language school market is a US$450 million industry in Russia. There are over 200 language schools operating in Moscow alone. All the major digital English language learning suppliers compete in the Russian Federation including EF’s English First, Berlitz, and Pearson’s Wall Street English. Some of the bigger Russian companies, like LinguaLeo, online English language learning in Russia and CIS, break into a world market.
According to company press release, as of 2015, over 11 million users worldwide learn English with the help of LinguaLeo. Most of its users are from Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries, but more than a million students live in Brazil and Turkey.
Overall, LinguaLeo has attracted over US$3.7 million in investments. In 2010 – the year the company was founded – the startup received US$200,000 from Russian angel (private) investors Igor Ryabenko, Egor Rudy and Sergey Kuznetsov. In spring 2012, the company closed a round with US$3 million from the venture capital firm Runa Capital.
E-learning growing in Russia is strongly linked with the country catching up rapidly with other European nations over the past few years in terms of Internet penetration. In late 2015, according to a market research firm GfK poll, Internet penetration exceeded 70 percent, with 84 million users nationwide. The web penetration rate in Russia back in 2010 was as low as 37 percent.
Total Russian-speaking Internet audience nears 110 million users, taking into account an approximate 25 million Russian-speaking users in the former Soviet republics, Western Europe, Israel and North America, according to an EWDN estimate.