News for International Educators Across Canada
January 2020
Coronavirus outbreak causes worry;
Risk Management Workshop in Vancouver

Happy New Year! Hopefully, 2020 will be another banner year for international education in Canada. However, there are storm clouds on the horizon. As we discuss in our feature article this month, the sector faces risks associated with the Australian wildfires and the outbreak of the coronavirus in China. 

We have two workshops coming up soon, both in Vancouver. International educators from across Canada are invited to attend for professional learning, sharing ideas and networking: 

We will be announcing additional workshops across Canada in the near future. Stay tuned!

For those of you attending the Languages Canada meeting in Vancouver in February, I look forward to seeing you there. In part, I will be representing the iTEP (International Test of English Proficiency). Please see below for a case study on how the Seneca College English Language Institute is using the test to place students quickly, efficiently and accurately. 

Finally, the new year is a great time to look for a new career. Scroll down to see the latest international education opportunities on our IntEdCareers job board. 

Best wishes for a wonderful 2020. 
Risk Management in International Education Workshop - Vancouver                       
International education managers at colleges, universities, school districts and private schools are invited to join us for this one-day workshop on April 29. Lawyer and risk management expert John Boon will be discussing how to identify, manage and mitigate risks in international education. This is a "must attend" for programs across Canada. 

Smoke from wildfires blankets Sydney, Australia
Australian wildfires, coronavirus deaths raise international concerns                         
A haze of smoke hung over many parts of Australia, caused by the summer wildfires that burned out of control this month. The University of Sydney and Wollongong had to close some of their satellite campuses due to fire danger. The Australian National University closed its main campus due to heavy smoke. 

However, international education officials in the country are worried about more than a haze. The wildfires, with videos and photos of a haze over Sydney, were shown on media worldwide. 

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper pointed out that the fires posed a serious risk to international education - Australia's third largest export at AUS $34 billion in revenues annually. 

"The smoke haze has emerged as a particular concern among many Asian students and their families," the newspaper reported. 

"It's a competitive marketplace," commented Phil Honeywood of the International Education Association of Australia. "Obviously, if they can send people to Canada or elsewhere, perceptions of smoke haze will play into decisions they make." 

Of course, international education programs in Canada have no desire to attract students based on Australia's misfortune. However, the wildfires should serve as a warning to Canadian educational institutions that rely on international tuition fees to keep the lights on. This includes colleges, universities, school districts and private schools. 

External factors can threaten the Canadian international education sector too. For example, in C hina, there are growing fears about the spread of the coronavirus. If the outbreak takes a turn for the worse, travel to and from China could be cut off. It could have a huge impact on the number of students coming to Canada. 

This is more than a minor worry. Canadian educational institutions have come to rely on international students to fill their classrooms and meet their budgets. Without international students, some Canadian educational organizations are in big trouble.

As we have reported in the past, Cape Breton University is the first college/university in Canada to enrol a majority of international students. Since internationals pay higher tuition fees than domestic students, the budget implications are even more powerful. 

At colleges, school districts and private schools across Canada, thousands of international students are needed to meet budget targets. Again, their higher fees mean that the college would be in big financial trouble if international students stopped coming. 

Hopefully, the health crisis in China is resolved without damaging international education. This is not about doom and gloom. It's about managing risk. Colleges, universities and school districts are publicly funded and have an obligation to the taxpayer to be fiscally prudent.  
Seneca College English Language Institute
places students quickly, accurately with iTEP                 
The Seneca College English Language Institute (ELI) is a major Canadian ESL program with between 400 and 500 students depending on the time of year. The ELI prepares students from more than 65 countries to enroll in the Toronto college's academic programs, which range from fashion management to engineering technology. 

The ELI has eight levels, from beginner to advanced. In order to place students in the appropriate level, Director Martine Allard needs a test that is easy to administer, flexible and valid in the eyes of the students. 

Since early 2019, she has relied on the iTEP Academic (International Test of English Proficiency) to assess her students' English abilities for placement into the ELI levels.

"We wanted a computer-based academic test that would be appropriate for a program like ours since we prepare students to study at the college," she says. "It was important that it assess speaking and writing - in addition to listening, reading and vocabulary."

As well, Allard wanted to consider the students' view of the assessment tool. "We sought a test that they thought was fair and accurately measured their English-language skills," Allard says. 

The ELI runs seven-week sessions and has six start dates per year. Each session features five testing days - a main placement test and four additional dates for latecomers who may have been delayed receiving a visa or missed their flights.
In addition, students who want to enroll in the program and are already in Toronto can take the test anytime, instead of having to wait for the next testing session. 

"While group testing is more efficient, we love the flexibility of being able to test a single student if necessary," Allard says. 

Once students have taken the iTEP, Seneca instantly receives the results for listening, reading and vocabulary. Seneca has chosen to administer the speaking and writing sections of the test, but to save time and money by choosing the unscored option. 

While iTEP expert raters score speaking and writing within 24 hours, Allard prefers to be able to immediately review the student responses. 

The iTEP system is easy to use, allowing test administrators to easily email teachers to share results and gather feedback. 

In order to get started with iTEP, Seneca conducted pilot testing with students from all eight levels in the program. There were three goals:

  1. Determine whether the test would accurately assess the English ability of incoming students at all levels
  2. Gather feedback from students about whether they felt the test was fair and appropriate
  3. Benchmark test scores to each ELI level so that students could be easily sorted in the future

The iTEP hit the mark on all three counts. "The student comments were positive, the results were accurate and when the teachers begin classes they believe that students are generally placed appropriately."

The face validity of the test is important for Seneca. Students appreciate taking a recognized and standardized assessment. As a result, very few complain that they have been placed in the wrong level. This saves the Seneca ELI considerable time in dealing with student requests to change classes, a problem that plagued the program with a previous in-house test.

During the piloting, students in the lowest levels - one and two - found the test to be quite difficult. However, Allard is pleased that the iTEP takes only 90 minutes so most students do their best to respond to all of the questions and don't get frustrated.

For the Seneca English Language Institute, placement testing is important in helping students successfully begin their academic journey at Seneca. About 92 percent of ELI students pursue academic study at the college, joining 97,000 full-time and part-time students from both Canada and more than 130 other countries. 

"The iTEP meets our needs very well," Allard says. "It's an academic test, places incoming students accurately and is respected by the students."  
For more information about using the test for placing students, measuring progress and determining outcomes, please contact Doug Ronson or call 613-888-9560.
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