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Canada language sector “persevered like nobody else”

After the pandemic caused international student numbers to drop dramatically, Languages Canada says it’s back and stronger than ever.

“Brazil is a great storehouse of opportunities”, Languages Canada members heard. Photo: pexels

There are more Brazilians coming to Canada to learn English or French than any other nationality

Executive director Gonzalo Peralta told the organisation’s annual conference in Ottawa Monday that the sector has gone through a “traumatic period”. Some programs reported enrolment declines of 50% or more and many had to switch to online learning to stay afloat.

However, Peralta says that Languages Canada has successfully lobbied the Canadian government for support. “Canada has survived and persevered like nobody else in the language sector,” he told the attendees.

“Canada has survived and persevered like nobody else in the language sector”

Moving forward, Languages Canada president Cath D’Amico said that the association will continue to focus on diversification, quality, robust partnerships and innovation. “It’s innovate or die,” she said.

By the close of 2021, Languages Canada had more members than at the start of the pandemic. D’Amico told the audience that there are currently 215 programs in the association, 185 teaching English and 30 in French. She credited the hard work of both the staff and board members for growing the membership.

A particular success has been working with Brazil. Peralta noted that there are more Brazilians coming to Canada to learn English or French than any other nationality.

The secretary of higher education for Brazil, Wagner Boas de Souza, told the conference that it is mandatory for elementary and secondary students to learn English in his country. He pointed to a program to train English teachers in Canada as a successful partnership between the two nations.

There is much more to be done, he said. “Brazil is a great storehouse of opportunities” for Languages Canada members, he said.

Meanwhile, Languages Canada is trying to make it easier for students arriving in Canada to get through Canada Border Service Agency checks. Two of its largest member private schools, ILSC and ILAC, have been piloting a database developed by iCent that would be available to CBSA officers.

The issue is the Letters of Acceptance that Canadian programs provide to students. According to Diego Sanchez of Languages Canada, about 10% of LOAs were found to be fraudulent in a recent Canadian government investigation.

Letters of Acceptance are used for students who are in Canada for less than six months and therefore do not need to apply for a study permit. The database allows programs to upload LOAs so that border officials can verify their validity.

Ryan Tremble, a representative of the CBSA based at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, said that officers must make on-the-spot decisions about a student’s eligibility to enter Canada. He said the database would be a valuable tool to approve students quickly, avoiding stressful waits at the airport while an officer calls the school for verification.

Languages Canada hopes to expand the verification service to all members who want to participate.

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