Cana­dian high schools wel­com­ing more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, boards say

Truro Daily News - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pub­lic high schools across the coun­try are wel­com­ing a grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in an ef­fort to build valu­able re­la­tion­ships and — in some cases — boost rev­enue.

Though in­ter­na­tional stu­dents make up only a small frac­tion of high school­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors in On­tario and Bri­tish Columbia say they’ve seen a spike in re­cent years, with some school boards re­port­ing their ranks have dou­bled.

The Toronto District School Board, which has one of the largest such pro­grams in the coun­try, says it sees an in­crease in its in­ter­na­tional pop­u­la­tion of five to 10 per cent each year, with close to 2,000 for­eign stu­dents at­tend­ing last year.

The Thames Val­ley District School Board in south­west­ern On­tario has ex­pe­ri­enced growth of “more than 100 per cent” since launch­ing its in­ter­na­tional pro­gram three years ago, go­ing from 133 stu­dents to 293, it said.

In B.C., the Sur­rey school district says some 1,000 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents are en­rolled in its fa­cil­i­ties — roughly twice as many as in 2009.

School boards say they are mak­ing con­certed ef­forts to draw more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents to their halls, par­tic­i­pat­ing in re­cruit­ing events around the globe, part­ner­ing with ed­u­ca­tion agents and work­ing to iden­tify emerg­ing markets.

“Ev­ery prov­ince, in­clud­ing the ter­ri­to­ries, they have in­ter­na­tional stu­dent pro­grams,” said Smita Sen­gupta of the Toronto District School Board. “This is a trend in school boards in On­tario as well as through­out Canada.”

Van­cou­ver, Sur­rey, B.C., and Co­quit­lam, B.C., are among the most pop­u­lar school dis­tricts for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, with Toronto and nearby York Re­gion also rank­ing high, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic Schools - In­ter­na­tional, an or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing 133 pub­lic school dis­tricts across Canada with in­ter­na­tional stu­dent pro­grams.

Boost­ing di­ver­sity is part of the ap­peal for school boards such as the Thames Val­ley, said Sarah Noad, the board’s in­ter­na­tional busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer.

“Our lo­cal stu­dents ben­e­fit so much by learn­ing about new cul­tures, be­ing in­tro­duced to stu­dents from other coun­tries,” Noad said. “They gain new com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and learn dif­fer­ent global per­spec­tives and ideas and these are all needed to suc­ceed in a more glob­ally in­ter­con­nected world.”

While forg­ing last­ing con­nec­tions is a top mo­ti­va­tor, some boards say there are also fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits to bring­ing in in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, who pay be­tween $11,000 and $14,000 each year in school fees and in­sur­ance.

“It ob­vi­ously cre­ates a num­ber of teacher jobs, it cov­ers the costs of the pro­gram ... but it does leave be­hind a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money to the school district,” which sup­ports other school ini­tia­tives, said An­gela Ol­son, man­ager of in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion for Sur­rey Schools in B.C.

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents poured $5.21 mil­lion into the cof­fers of Ed­mon­ton pub­lic schools in the 2015-16 school year, an in­crease of 22 per cent over the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to the school board’s bud­get.

“The bulk of the fi­nan­cial re­sources, specif­i­cally 67.3 per cent, were dis­trib­uted to schools serv­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, thereby em­ploy­ing teach­ers and en­sur­ing strong English lan­guage and other pro­gram­ming for all stu­dents,” it said.

David John­son, an ed­u­ca­tion econ­o­mist at Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity, said the ex­tra rev­enue may, in some school boards, help off­set the ef­fects of dwin­dling do­mes­tic en­rol­ment.

Not all in­ter­na­tional stu­dents pay fees, how­ever. Some come on stu­dent ex­changes, or as refugee claimants. What’s more, some only stay for a year or two.

Tra­di­tion­ally, most have come from Korea or China, but re­cently more have ar­rived from Viet­nam, school boards said. Some coun­tries that were pre­vi­ously more dis­posed to send stu­dents to the United States have re­fo­cused their at­ten­tion on Canada after the U.S. elec­tion, said Ol­son, of the Sur­rey school board.

For stu­dents, en­rolling in a Cana­dian high school may be part of a broader plan to seek an ed­u­ca­tion — and a life — here, ad­min­is­tra­tors and ex­perts say, not­ing many go on to ap­ply to Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties.

“You im­prove your English and you prob­a­bly have eas­ier ac­cess to Cana­dian post-sec­ondary if you put in a year or two at a Cana­dian high school,” said John­son.

“The post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tion has lots of ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­pret­ing those stu­dent records, whereas if you ap­ply from out­side the coun­try... it’s just a whole lot harder to fig­ure out what they’ve taken and what they’ve not taken and what their grades mean,” he said.

“Our lo­cal stu­dents ben­e­fit so much by learn­ing about new cul­tures, be­ing in­tro­duced to stu­dents from other coun­tries. they gain new com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and learn dif­fer­ent global per­spec­tives and ideas and these are all needed to suc­ceed in a more glob­ally in­ter­con­nected world.” Sarah Noad, Thames Val­ley District School Board in­ter­na­tional busi­ness de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer

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