In a normal year, thousands of international students would be arriving in the next couple of weeks to start fall classes. Of course, 2020 is anything but normal. All three sectors - K-12, post-secondary and language programs - are facing big challenges during the pandemic.
The language sector is perhaps the hardest hit. St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, would normally be running ESL classes for 60 to 70 students. In-person classes have been suspended for the fall and the school has created an online English-language program to allow students to study from their home countries.
Ining Chao, associate dean of St. Lawrence, says the online program is going well, even though the enrollment was small this summer and classes must be scheduled at 7 pm local time to meet the needs of learners in both Canada and overseas. Chao says feedback has been very positive. "The balance between live sessions and self-study really boosts their language learning."
Languages Canada, the sector's association, says that 75 percent of its member schools may permanently close by the end of the year without some form of assistance. It has put together a Study Safe Corridor plan to ensure safe student departure, safe travel and arrival and safe study at member schools. It hopes to bring in 40,000 students between now and March 2021.
Language programs are worried that the downturn will extend into next year. "I don't think we have a clear picture of what will happen in 2021, but we are trying to be innovative and responsive to stay ahead," says Chao.
In K-12, most provinces are reopening their schools in September. Domestic students will be back in class but the number of international students will be down dramatically. Here at ESQ Educational Services, we recently launched a survey of international education programs - preliminary data indicates that most K-12 programs expect less than half the usual number of students.
Returning K-12 students can come back on their current study permit - provided they complete the 14-day quarantine. The parents of new students are more reluctant, with many opting to defer until fall 2021. For those students who wish to come this year, it may be difficult to get a study permit. For example, Brazil has more than 3.1 million cases of COVID (the second highest in the world) and the Canadian government may be reluctant to accept students from that country.
And then there's the risk that students could book travel and then not be allowed in. The Canada immigration official website states: "Government representatives will make the final decision on your entry to Canada at the port of entry."
In post-secondary, the vast majority of colleges and universities will be running classes online. New international students will not be allowed into the country unless they can demonstrate that they need to be in Canada.