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Canadian education exports rise to $8billion

Canadian education exports grew healthily between 2008 and 2010 from CA$6.5billion to $8billion, a government-commissioned report on the tertiary, pre-secondary and language sectors has shown. It recommends international education should be better “recognised and supported” relative to other similar sized exports in future.

Canadian education exports grew from $6.5billion to $8billion in 2008-10 (photo Victor Magdic)Canadian education exports grew from $6.5billion to $8billion in 2008-10 (photo Victor Magdic)

"We applaud the government’s efforts to better track Canada’s ‘hidden export’"

“While the benefits of hosting international students go far beyond the financial, it is critical to know their economic value for Canada,” Karen McBride, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, commented on the study. “We applaud the government’s efforts to better track Canada’s ‘hidden export’.”

The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada report found total international student spending in 2010 surpassed $7.7 billion, generated $445 million in government revenue and created 81,000 jobs. An additional $336 million can be attributed to tourism in Canada by international students and their friends and family.

This means international education outsized aluminium ($6 billion) and helicopters, airplanes and spacecraft ($6.9 billion) in its contribution to the economy.

The report also highlights the contribution of individual sectors. Short-term study at language schools was said to account for $788 million of the total (and supported 10,780 jobs), although industry body Languages Canada said that the figure should be $1.4billion including long-term study.

IE spending surpassed $7.7 billion, generated $445 million in government revenue and created 81,000 jobs

“It is evident that Canada continues to grow in this sector, and government is now very aware of the impact,” Gonzalo Peralta, executive director said. “Indeed, our embassies now have staff dedicated to education and international education and this is for the first time a component of the international commerce strategy for the country.”

The report calls for “a more robust, coordinated approach to data collection and reporting” to chart the sector’s worth and ensure its rightful recognition. One idea is an Australian style survey method where a sample of visitors leaving the country are surveyed regarding their activities in Canada.

Another is working with stakeholders (including Citizen and Immigration Canada, Statistics Canada, and universities, colleges and other institutions) to develop a consistent system of record-keeping to track international student expenditures.

“Politicians will make the final decisions and the government machinery will take a while”

The industry will hope these and other issues, such as unifying diverse provinces in policy making, will be covered by the country’s first national strategy for education to be unveiled later this month.

However, Peralta said only time would show if the strategy was effective. “This is only the report and recommendations. Politicians will make the final decisions and the government machinery will take a while, at least until late this year or early next year, to begin implementing what the cabinet decides.”

Altogether there were more than 218,200 long-term international students (staying for at least six months) in Canada in 2010, with a majority from China and Korea. Ontario and British Columbia hosted nearly two thirds of students while Quebec was a distant third.

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