The Vancouver School Board has attracted a record number of international students for the school year, with 1,300 students, mainly from China, studying at Vancouver public schools.
Last year the VSB enrolled 1,135 international students, more than half of them from China, 154 from Korea, 53 from Hong Kong and 34 from Germany.
Barbara Onstad, manger of international education for the school board, says the proportions are similar this year. Students hail from 30 countries, with 16 each having sent at least three students. Increasing numbers of students are coming from Brazil and Vietnam.
International education surpassed the board’s goal of growing its program by 125 students, or an additional gross revenue of $1.6 million, for the 2013-2014 school year.
International students pay $13,000 to study in Vancouver from September to June, and the international education program brings about $15 million into the district every year.
“Obviously, this is a multimillion dollar program for all of the school districts in B.C. and Canada,” Onstad said. “As funds dwindle, this has become an important source of additional revenue for school districts.”
The total influx of international students added 65 teacher positions to the district this year.
“That means that more elective courses can be offered at that school,” Onstad noted.
International students attend each of Vancouver’s 18 secondary schools. Eric Hamber near Oak Street and West 33rd Avenue has the highest number of international students with 123 of its approximately 1,550 students coming from other countries. The international student population per school ranges from one per cent to 15 per cent.
“We’re very much affected by Fraser Institute report ranking of schools and we find that because parents in a lot of the Asian countries are used to the concept of ranked schools they often want to look for a similar ranking here,” Onstad said. “We know that all of our schools are excellent and shouldn’t be judged on the basis the Fraser Institute report uses, so we are always trying to point out the variety of programs that all of our schools offer and we’ve had quite a bit of success.”
International students are usually 15 or 16 years old. Students from Germany, Brazil and Mexico typically study in Canada for a year, whereas students from China, Japan and Korea are more likely to graduate from high school in Vancouver and pursue post-secondary education in North America.
Students usually live with relatives, family friends or through Langara College’s homestay program.
The board added money to its budget last year to bring in an international education principal for secondary schools to help with promotion, more counselling time and another Chinese-speaking multicultural liaison worker. These positions began at the start of this school year.
NPA school board trustee Fraser Ballantyne opposed additional spending to hire a principal during budget talks in April. He argued the money should go straight to classrooms and students.
Vision Vancouver school board chair Patti Bacchus said in April that recruiting additional international students provides more resources for the entire district and the successful recruitment of 20 additional students would probably cover the cost of the position.