It’s tough out there. When the pandemic hit, international student enrolments at Canadian educational institutions fell dramatically. However, there’s worry that a temporary hit may last well into next year as a second wave of Covid lashes Canada and many other countries.
The language sector has been particularly hard hit, with post-secondary and K-12 also feeling the impact.
“Overall, there are about 65 percent fewer students attending K-12 programs across Canada this Fall,” says Bonnie McKie, Executive Director with the Canadian Association of Public Schools – International. Prior to the pandemic, there were about 45,000 international K-12 students; this year there are only 15,000.
Some provinces, including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, will not be enrolling any new K-12 international students for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
“We have about 150 students this fall, which is about 10 percent of what we normally have,” says Paul Millman, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia International Student Program.
On the other hand, in Ontario the Ministries of Education and Health are still reviewing readiness plans and publishing a list of ‘approved’ K-12 private schools and school boards
. Of course, the federal government controls study permits and has its own list of approved designated learning institutions.
Too complicated for international students? Definitely. Surely, students just want to come to learn – not get a constitutional lesson in provincial versus federal responsibilities.
Short term international students face an additional barrier – they now must have study permits even if they are staying for just one semester. Previously, students could study for up to six months without needing a permit.
Nevertheless, McKie is optimistic about the post-pandemic future – she says virtual recruiting is going well. “There’s really strong interest from agents, including many that have not sent students to Canada before.”
In the language sector, Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director of Languages Canada, says the situation is extremely challenging. Some schools have already closed and others are at risk of running out of money.
“Our survey in the spring indicated that up to 75 percent of our members could close by year end – a frightening figure,” he told the International Education Times. The federal government’s decision to begin allowing students to return will help, but more needs to be done to save the sector, he says.
“And by more, I mean more needs to be done by government in both policy and funding realms.”
Many private language schools rely on the language tourism sector, which has been particularly hard hit – these students can easily postpone their trips. However, Gonzalo notes that some LC members at colleges and universities, which focus on English for academic entrance, are in trouble too.
In post-secondary, there are no official figures on declines in international student enrolment. However, higher education Ken Steele has analyzed the data and found that some institutions suffered greatly. For example, new enrolments at Sheridan College in Ontario were down 42 percent; University of Regina fell 50 percent.