The Canadian government has announced a wide range of programs throughout the global pandemic, but none of these programs addresses the critical issues facing language programs geared towards international students. Simply put, international language education is falling entirely through the cracks, and unless action is taken, it's headed towards total devastation. A recent survey determined that without immediate government action, 68% of Canada's finest English and French programs will close permanently in the next six months.
"We're not just falling through cracks - this is the Grand Canyon. While the government programs implemented to date have been of some support, there is yet to be a program that truly addresses the challenges our members have faced. And now even as international education is already beginning to take off again in other parts of the world, Canadian policy won't allow us to work responsibly to save the sector," says Gonzalo Peralta, Executive Director of Languages Canada.
Conditional Visas, Essential Travelers, and No Discrimination Please
Languages Canada has requested three actions from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): provide conditional visas to qualified international students so they may confidently enrol in Canadian educational institutions; declare international students essential travelers so they may come to Canada through the Study Safe Corridor to ensure the safety of Canadians and international students; and to not discriminate international students according to type of visa. Every day without a response from IRCC is a blow to Canadian language educators and has deep repercussions for the post-secondary institutions that count on international students not just for financial well-being, but as a foundation to quality and internationalization. Registrations in language programs geared toward international students is virtually non-existent.
"Canada's rising reputation as a premier education destination has resulted in consistent year-over-year growth to the international education sector in recent years. English and French language programs, both public and private, prepare international students for academic success in advance of their studies. Our industry relies heavily on appropriate visas for international students entering Canada. Completely closed borders are, quite frankly, devastating to our sector. Without federal commitment, support, and decisive action, the entire language education sector could be decimated, which will have a domino effect on higher education, as students turn to countries where they can complete all of their studies seamlessly," explains Cath D'Amico, Director, Trent International.
Languages Canada members, whether universities, colleges, or private sector schools, are proposing a special—and safe—process to be implemented so that they can start welcoming back international students as quickly as possible through distance and in-person programs. Government cannot afford to abandon an industry that brings billions of dollars in exports, attracts 150,000 foreign students every year, provides students for post-secondary education, contributes to tourism, and supports Canadian immigration objectives.