The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is considering an extension of their global reach by adding a more robust international student program for district schools to take advantage of.
According to Ministry of Education statistics, there are 112,000 international students studying in B.C. schools, from kindergarten through to university, with 37 districts across the province that have international programs in place currently.
School District #83 does have a small number of international students – less than 10 per school year according to their numbers – and the possibility of increasing these numbers and developing a more robust international student program was discussed at the Jan. 22 board meeting.
It was noted that, in addition to bringing new perspectives and experiences to the school community, hosting international students can lead to an increase in funding and support for schools within a district.
The proposal for an international program says the fees collected from international students could become a profitable venture for the district quickly, if properly managed, potentially creating thousands of dollars in revenue that can be contributed back to district schools. This revenue may, in turn, increase course selection and teaching resources in district schools by lightening the load on budgets. These students pay room and board while staying in the area as well, and contribute spending money to the local economy during their time here.
On the flip-side, some potential challenges were also identified during the presentation to the board. For example, support would need to be provided for children who come to the area without their families, and for non-english speaking students.
It was also noted in the proposal that any profits from an international program would be prioritized towards the construction of a downtown elementary school in Salmon Arm.
Moving forward, it was suggested a staff member should be selected to take the initial steps to start the program, and work to grow it over time. Any international program must fall within the current budget limitations and take steps to reduce costs such as by partnering with other districts. The proposal also makes it clear the addition of international students must fall within enrolment limits and not take classroom space away from local students.