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Work-study “co-op” programmes under threat in Canada

Work-study programmes, known as “co-ops” in the Canadian market, face possible cancellation under proposed changes to the Canadian International Student Program (ISP). With this popular study programme under threat, Canada’s language school peak body, Languages Canada, has launched an advocacy strategy to promote the benefits of work-linked study.

ILAC's co-op programmes at both the Toronto and Vancouver campuses have recently been accredited by Languages Canada

"CIC has concerns related to some institutions that are currently eligible to offer work opportunities to their students"

Part of its campaign includes an accreditation scheme that was launched this June, based on standards specifically created for co-op programmes.

“Our efforts are paying off and we are optimistic about positive results,” confirmed Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada.  “Many members have applied and the accreditations are well underway, with over half of those that applied already accredited.”

“One of the proposed changes is to discontinue language co-op programmes and that would be detrimental… to international education at large in Canada”

At the end of last year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) proposed a series of changes to the ISP in order to prevent fraud after findings from a 2011 evaluation revealed weaknesses in the system.

CIC has flagged co-op programmes, which allow students to study a language and then apply it through work for up to 12 months, as providing potential loopholes to enter the labour market.

“CIC has concerns related to some institutions that are currently eligible to offer work opportunities to their students,” a spokesperson told The PIE News. “For example, through co-op or internship programs, where the work opportunity is the main focus of the programme and little time is spent on actual study.”

“Strengthening aspects of the programme that could be abused by fraudulent schools or non-genuine study permit applicants is vitally important to protect Canada’s reputation abroad and to ensure that Canada continues to enjoy the tremendous social and economic benefits that the ISP provides.”

Currently, study permits can be issued to students attending any type of educational institution, regardless of whether it is accredited; regulated or overseen by a provincial or territorial ministry of education; or accountable to a recognised standard-setting body.

There is also no legal framework in place to monitor international students after they arrive in Canada

There is also no legal framework in place to monitor international students after they arrive in Canada to ensure that they continue to be students in good standing.

CIC says its proposed changes will “ensure that the primary intent of an international student in Canada is to study, and that this study takes place at an educational institution designated to host international students”.

Languages Canada says it is supportive of many of the policies included in the proposed new regulations for Canada’s ISP which come into effect in 2014, especially introducing measure for tracking students.

“However, one of the proposed changes is to discontinue language co-op programs, and that would be detrimental not only to language co-op programs, but to international education at large in Canada,” said Peralta.

A decision remains to be made on this point.

One of the country’s leading language schools, ILAC, recently announced that co-op programmes at both its Toronto and Vancouver campuses have been accredited under the scheme.

“We’re very happy to continue offering this programme where students can improve their English in a work environment alongside native speakers,” said Arda Aridasir, Language Co-op Director.

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