Agencies and Agreements
by Marlene Bylenga, SCSBC International Education Coordinator ◊
In the last few years, British Columbia’s K-12 schools have seen significant growth in international student enrolment. As spaces become limited in some of the larger urban areas and agents become more knowledgeable about the educational options in British Columbia, many schools that previously had challenges recruiting students are now being approached by agencies or agents to enroll students. Although there are many reputable agents who provide excellent services, school leaders should make careful considerations before signing with an agent or agencies.
It is very important that boards and school leaders view international students and parents as an integral part of the school community, and that these parents meet the same enrolment criteria as domestic families. When working with agents, it is imperative that they understand your school’s mission and vision and are able to communicate the vision to the parents of the students who are hoping to enroll in your school.
Be cautious when signing agent agreements. Signing an exclusive agreement is generally not a good idea since it limits you as you grow your program. Read the contract very carefully, remembering that your international program is another expression of the mission and vision of your school and therefore any contract should reflect the character of your school.
Reputable agents will understand the BC education system and will be able to explain to overseas applicants the requirements for graduation in BC. They will be able to screen students and determine which students will be able to flourish in an educational environment that may be different from what they are accustomed to. Unfortunately, some of the documentation provided may not be credible. Requiring the results of an ITEP Slate score or an IELTS score as a part of your application package is one way to determine the English proficiency of the student. Being deliberate about the admissions and screening process is extremely important for the health of your school’s program.
Even though agents are able to provide many support services, it is important that your school have your own established guidelines and policies in place. Ultimately, your school is responsible for the students in your care and it is wise to ensure that you have established policies. The BC government published a Homestay Guidelines document in 2015. Take the time to review this document to see if your program complies with the guidelines. It can be found online at www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/kindergarten-to-grade-12/internationaleducation/home_stay_guidelines.pdf.
In addition, SCSBC has developed an International Program portal with many resources and policies for member schools to access and use in their programs.
Please do not hesitate to contact SCSBC with any questions or concerns you may have about agents and agencies.