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CBIE calls on federal government to invest in outward student mobility

The Canadian Bureau for International Education has submitted a proposal to the Ottawa parliament calling on the government to invest CA$10m to support outward student mobility.

A “very limited” number of Canadian students access an international education experience during their studies. Photo: Brian/Wikimedia Commons

CBIE called for a swift coordinated action and strategic investment

The long-term goal, in line with the Global Education for Canadians report, would be to see a quarter of all Canadian students undertaking periods of  government supported mobile study by 2028.

CBIE called on the federal administration to support a minimum of 100 opportunities per key region, per year, to help finance studying abroad for academic credit. The council recommended a five year program to begin with.

“We recommend that the government initially invest $10 million in a five-year program allowing Canadian high school, college and university students to take advantage of international learning programs,” Larissa Bezo, CBIE Interim President and CEO told The PIE News.

“The next generation of Canadian leaders will require international experience”

“Most educational institutions offer learning abroad opportunities, but the overall uptake is low.”

A “very limited” number of Canadian students currently access international education experiences during their studies – 3% per year, or about 11% of undergraduate students over the course of a degree.

In the submission, CBIE referenced the success of other countries through programs such as ‘100,000 Strong’ and ‘Generation Study Abroad’ in the US, the ‘Proyecta 10,000 /100,000’ in Mexico, the New Colombo Plan in Australia, the EU’s Erasmus program and the UK Strategy for Outward Student Mobility.

Developed with input from members and stakeholders across the industry, the document is a response to the consultation launched by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on the priorities for the 2019 budget.

Stakeholders were invited to submit evidence on how the government can support economic growth “in the face of a changing economic landscape.”

Low outward student mobility is an important issue for many industry stakeholders in Canada and a frequently debated topic. Director of internationalisation at Memorial University of Newfoundland Sonja Knutson for example recently told The PIE that she was concerned the country doesn’t take the issue seriously enough.

“CBIE, along with other key stakeholder groups across the sector, believes that Canada urgently needs to cultivate students with open minds and global competencies that can help to advance Canada’s diplomatic and trade relationships abroad,” Bezo explained.

“The reality is such that the next generation of private and public-sector Canadian leaders will require international experience, intercultural understanding and skills to excel in tomorrow’s inter-connected and interdependent world.”

The Global Education for Canadians report has served as a rallying point for key stakeholders to advocate for strategic investment in outward student mobility, Bezo explained, and she anticipates advocacy on this topic will continue in the future.

However, there is a sense of urgency to the submission, which insists on the need for a swift coordinated action and strategic investment, explaining that Canada is lagging behind its competitors in a “race” the country “cannot afford to lose.”

“Business as usual is not an option,” the document reads.

“The time for action is now. CBIE would welcome a catalytic investment in learning abroad as part of the next federal budget,” Bezo explained.

The submission also focuses on the need to widen access to an international education experience for students from all backgrounds, citing evidence that educational mobility often produces he greatest results for students from disadvantaged background.

It also recommends that access to funds and international education opportunities should be made available across the full spectrum of education, for K-12 and beyond.

“Business as usual is not an option”

“Funding should not be exclusively for postsecondary students, as it is often too late for individuals at this stage on their education path to make the necessary personal arrangements or pull together required financial resources,” the submission warns.

Randall Martin, executive director of British Columbia Council for International Education, told The PIE that he thinks the government will agree with the recommendations in principle. However, if the federal government is not able to fully meet the funding recommendations, other sources can be tapped into.

“[Funding can come from] a coordinated approach with and supported by the government to tap into the private sector, especially the multi-nationals benefitting from a globally-literate workforce,” he explained.

But beyond funding, there are other factors that have slowed down Canadian students’ participation in international education, Martin explained, and that need to be addressed.

He said study abroad experiences need to be integrated in the core curriculum, and appropriate messaging needs to be delivered to families explaining the value of an international experience for personal and academic development.

Ease of academic credit transfer and flexibility of education programs are other areas worth investing in, Martin added, as different systems may cause students to delay graduation if they choose to study abroad for a period.

Universities Canada’s own pre-budget submission also called for support for outbound student mobility in the 2019 budget, a spokesperson told The PIE.

The organisation advocated for the same national target set in the Global Education for Canadians report, and recommended the government supports 15,000 Canadian postsecondary students per year go abroad within five years, rising to 30,000 per year within 10 years.

“Only 11% of Canadian university students take part in international study over the course of their degree, and at the moment Canada does not have a plan in place to increase these numbers,” the spokesperson explained.

 

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