K-12 bullish as Canada seeks to rebuild reputation

 In News

Canada’s school districts are feeling optimistic about the international education sector – despite the federal government imposing a cap on study permits for post-secondary students.

More than 300 representatives of 90 school districts attended the annual Canadian Association of Public Schools – International conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario, this week for professional development and networking.

School districts are busy, said Bonnie McKie, executive director of CAPS-I.

“Coming to Canada for K-12 is as popular as ever. Some programs are already full for September, while others still have some space available,” she told The PIE News.

McKie is hopeful that the confusion caused by the cap is now in the past. “Although it didn’t directly impact the K-12 sector, it took a lot of time to explain to our partners abroad, including international agents, what it meant.”

In order to cope with continued strong demand by students, districts across the country have stepped up efforts to recruit more homestay hosts; a large number quit during the pandemic.

Mike Rosson and Jeff Holder of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick programs urged attendees to put supports in place to ensure that new hosts stick with it – currently, a number of them stop hosting after just a year or two.

Worries about the time and cost of transporting students are deterring some hosts, the pair noted. Students from some countries arrive expecting robust public transit systems – but those just aren’t available in rural areas of the two provinces. As a result, hosts often drive students to basketball practice or to meet with friends.

In Canada’s big cities, hosts are asking for higher compensation to deal with the rising cost of housing and groceries. The host shortage has eased in the past year, but school districts are spending more time on recruitment to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

At the conference, a university representative encouraged international education programs to work together to repair the reputational damage caused by the study permit cap.

“Coming to Canada for K-12 is as popular as ever. Some programs are already full for September”

Joe Stokes, registrar and associate vice-president of Ontario Tech University, said that the abrupt move “has tarnished Canada’s reputation as a study destination”.

Even though he works at a university, Stokes said he wanted to attend the K-12 conference to discuss the importance of all international education sectors cooperating to press their case with federal and provincial governments.

“There has been a lot of scapegoating of international students on the part of the federal government, in particular blaming them for the shortage of housing,” he told The PIE.

He criticised Ottawa for imposing a cap with very little consultation with educational institutions and provincial governments.

“This was a snap decision – that’s clear,” Stokes said. “This will follow Canada from a reputational standpoint for the better part of a decade.”

The study permit cap has caused confusion and turmoil among both agents and students, Stokes said.

“In fact, a recent survey found that Canada has dropped behind the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom as a potential preferred destination for students.”

Currently, a number of international students attend Canadian high schools, with plans to go on to post-secondary education in the country. Those applying onshore for study permits are exempt from the cap.

“Hearing that there is an exemption for international students now studying at high school programs in Canada – and intending to transition to post-secondary – was certainly positive news and beneficial for our sector,” McKie said.

Barring changes to the cap or shifts in international markets, she is optimistic: “our K-12 sector is looking healthy and strong for the next three to five years,” McKie added.

The post K-12 bullish as Canada seeks to rebuild reputation appeared first on The PIE News.

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