School districts
Secondary Focus
Well respected around the globe, Canada's public (state) education system attracts many international students to its schools. Jane Vernon Smith discovers the secrets of their success.

"The public school system in Canada is one of the best school systems in the world - either public or private," says Glen Tiechko at Chilliwack School District "Parents and agents can rest assured that sending their children to Canada is a highly desirable option," he underlines. "Overall consistency and quality of education here is commendable," adds Dave Ryder at Abbotsford School District "Our schools are well equipped to provide great options for all students, not just those who are headed to university." As he points out, Canada also offers the opportunity to try a wide variety of courses not typically available in other countries, such as animation, aviation and 3D design.


Alongside their academic provision, secondary schools in the Sunshine Coast School District www. also offer a number of clubs and activities. "We encourage students to play on our sports teams. Volleyball, rugby, basketball, ultimate frisbee and mountainbiking are popular student choices," notes the district's Paul Bishop. Meanwhile, the school programme also includes band, performing arts and video production, as well as leadership and outdoor education courses, he points out. Just as importantly, international students can benefit from a number of support services tailored to their needs. At Abbotsford's schools, for example, international students can expect airport pick-up, homestay service, English language support and the services of one of nine international assistants, whose specific job it is to look after the needs of these students.


Similarly, Burnaby School District www. provides an international student assistant in every school, whose full-time job it is to monitor the welfare and progress of the international students in his/her school, says Sally Stacey. She adds, "The Burnaby IE offi ce also offers highly subsidised IELTS and SAT preparation workshops only for its Burnaby students." Additionally, it offers nine optional excursions every year and organises a postsecondary information fair specifi cally for them.


The importance of attention to good English skills is underlined by Glen from Chilliwack. "When students come to us," he says, "they are fully immersed in an English-speaking environment, as 98 per cent of our students are native English speakers and 100 per cent of our homestay families are as well. Studying and living in such an environment ensures students can quickly get to a level of English competency that will allow them to have maximum academic success. We all know how important that is in order to maximise their post-secondary options," he points out, adding, "Our graduating international students go on to good or great universities around the world."


Sunshine Coast schools also support international students in a number of ways. "We start with an orientation for each student," says Paul, "and later provide organised events during their stay with us, aligned with their interests. We take students on tours of Vancouver, explore the Sunshine Coast with biking, canoeing and kayaking trips and expose them to local cultural activities." He adds, "We have evening celebrations at the end of each semester to say goodbye to departing students and to welcome incoming students."


When it comes to accommodation, homestay provision is the norm. Both Abbotsford and Chilliwack districts have their own homestay coordinator. At Abbotsford, this role involves recruiting, training and monitoring families, as well as working closely with the international assistants who support both students and families where needed. At Chilliwack, "We treat homestay to be just as important as the school part of the programme," underlines Glen. "We do our utmost to fi nd the best-matching homestay family for each one of our students. This means we have a wide variety of homestay families with varying family membership confi gurations and interests."


Burnaby School District uses Langara Homestay, British Columbia's longest-standing provider of homestay services, where it has its own dedicated homestay coordinator, Sally comments. Sunshine Coast also works with an external homestay provider, with whom it is in regular contact with to ensure that students are supported both at home and in school. Here, says Paul, families are carefully screened and have regular in-home visits, and all students have their own bedrooms in single-family homes in an Englishspeaking environment.



International focus

It is a characteristic of Canadian public-sector secondary schools that many are actively involved in international recruitment, and they rely heavily on agents to help them with this. At Burnaby, for example, more than 95 per cent of international recruitment is generated through agents. At Abbotsford District, Dave Ryder reports that 418 full-time equivalent students were recruited to its seven secondary schools in 2016, and, at the time of writing, the district was on track to exceed that number in 2017.


The Chilliwack District prides itself on being "somewhat of a boutique programme", according to spokesman Glen Tiechko. "For the current school year we have 140 international students. We cap our international student enrolment at approximately one per cent of our total student population." Similarly, at Sunshine Coast District, "We typically see between 10 and 15 students each year, and are interested in increasing our programme by diversifying the countries from which we draw," comments Paul Bishop.



Yannick Bécu, STS Canada, Canada
"I have been working with public sector secondary schools in Canada for the past seven years, sending about 100 students per year. To our customers, Canada is seen as a friendly, safe place with a quality public education system. All our school partners are selected for their unique offers and location. There is a large choice for every student profi le. Canada really has something special for everyone."

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