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Nova Scotia first in Canada to regulate language schools

Nova Scotia has become the first Canadian province to regulate language schools under law, in a move that sector association Languages Canada hopes will be emulated across Canada. It aligns with the federal government’s requirement that all schools be “designated” by their province to recruit overseas from January 2014, but goes a step further, applying not just to schools recruiting students on long-term study permits, but also those on short-term visas.

The new TESL Centre at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, is now subject to provincial oversight like all schools in the province.

The move is also likely to calm nerves about the federal designation process

The legislation, enacted April 23, now means that all local language schools need to be approved by the province in order to accept international students to their courses.

Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada said: “We congratulate the Nova Scotian government on their timely action to address the issue of designation.

“Not only does this protect the international students, it also ensures business continuity for the accredited schools that receive them”

“Not only does this protect the international students, it also ensures business continuity for the accredited schools that receive them, preserving a sector that contributes significantly to the economic competitiveness of Canada and Nova Scotia.”

The move is likely to calm nerves in the province about how the federal designations will play out next year – something yet to happen in other provinces. While language schools across Canada welcome Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s attempts to squeeze out bogus operators, they worry that the provinces – which determine education policy in Canada – do not have the expertise to approve them fairly.

Many argue that Languages Canada’s accreditation should be used as a benchmark instead. Moreover some worry that the provinces will not have decided on systems to designate schools by the January deadline, causing uncertainty. Any school not approved would be able to receive students for less than six months on visas such as the temporary resident visa, but would lose all their long term students – potentially crippling their business.

Peralta praised Nova Scotia for taking the initiative but called on the province to make its designations in a measured way.

“Legislation and regulation need to be robust yet lightweight,” he said. “Good governments provide an environment where institutions are able to thrive, invest, and grow and at the same time protect students.”

“Good governments provide an environment where institutions are able to thrive, invest, and grow”

He was also positive that other provinces would meet the January deadline and were listening to the sector’s concerns about designations. “To give credit where credit is due they have certainly demonstrated to date their commitment and willingness to consult.”

There are 12 language schools in Nova Scotia with about 4,500 students. According to research firm Student Marketing, language student weeks across Canada increased by 8% from 2009-2011 and growth continues steadily.

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