Mission or Money?
by Marlene Bylenga, SCSBC International Education Coordinator ◊
In a time when schools are facing declining enrolment and budgets are difficult to balance, schools are looking for different ways to continue to provide quality educational services for students and fill empty seats. One of these ways is to enroll international students. However, balancing a budget or filling empty seats should not be the primary motivation for enrolling these students.
The enrolment of international students provides school communities a chance to experience what it means to live in a global community. It also enables us to learn from each other’s perspectives and come to appreciate the beautiful mosaic the Lord has created in humankind.
The students coming from overseas need unique support. Adjusting to a new school system, learning English and living in a homestay family are special challenges that these students face. Schools are responsible for caring for them, keeping them safe and ensuring that their needs are met.
As you review your current program or are in the process of developing a program, I ask you to consider the following:
Is your ELL support program meeting the needs of students whose first language is not English? Are students receiving the support they require so that they are able to function in a regular classroom? Are the services provided to English language learners similar in quality to the other support services provided in your school?
Are students in safe home environments? Do your homestay families understand the mission and vision of the school and support it? How do you select your families? What is their motivation? The success of your program will be largely be determined by the quality of care students receive from their host families.
Providing additional services requires expenditures, and the tuition rate set for international students should reflect the expense of the services being provided. Providing services to international students costs money and therefore the tuition should not be viewed as a way to balance a school budget. It is important to be transparent regarding the fees you are charging. There are too many stories of trusting people being taken advantage of because of their lack of knowledge.
Parents who send their children from overseas to study in Canada believe that giving their child this option results in better opportunities in the future. Many also want their child to have a Christian education with the freedom to worship God without fear of reprisal. Decisions to send their children overseas are not taken lightly. Both personal and financial sacrifices are made so that their children will have opportunities they may not have in their home country.