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Review positive about Comox Valley international student program

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS new to the Comox Valley School District head over to the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island each year for two days of bonding and teamwork. - Photo submitted
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS new to the Comox Valley School District head over to the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island each year for two days of bonding and teamwork.
— image credit: Photo submitted

An independent review of Comox Valley School District's International Student Program (ISP) shows the program is headed in the right direction.

'"What we really appreciated was that they validated that our focus was on quality first," says program principal Rob Moore, who requested the in-depth external review of the program. "That was one of the things that came through, that our district has had the right approach from day one, that it was about multiculturalism and diversity."

The report will be posted on the program's website at www.sd71.bc.ca/international/home.php for public viewing. It outlines four main five-year goals: increase ISP enrollment to 175 to 200 full-time equivalent (FTE) students; strengthen the organization to manage this growth; provide enriched program offerings to the district; and provide Canadians exchange opportunities.

Moore notes the last goal to expand on exchange opportunities is a very important goal, and he points out district organized student exchanges are rare.

"We set up opportunities for local students to go on exchange to other countries and live in the homes of other students — that doesn't happen very much," he says, adding oftentimes organizations like Rotary Clubs or private companies organize student exchanges — and private company rates are usually very expensive compared to school districts, which only charge enough to cover their costs.

He also notes the ISP plans to expand on short-term school-to-school student exchanges, and is working to embark on something new, teacher exchanges.

"We're getting close to the point where we have partner schools who really want to do (teacher exchanges) with us," adds Moore. "It could mean a teacher from here living for a short time in a teacher's home in another country, working in their classroom for a few weeks, and then hosting that same teacher back here in one of our schools."

Meanwhile, the report notes Comox Valley ISP recruiters should focus on Asian countries like Thailand, Korea and Japan to help the program reach its 175 to 200 FTE student enrollment goal by 2018.

Moore explains students from Asian countries are more likely to enroll in the Grad Program and stay here long-term, with many of them attending post-secondary school here, too.

He notes long-term international students mean stronger connections with teachers, classmates and the community in general.

Also, long-term students raise the FTE student enrollment number higher than students who come for shorter programs. He points out that the ISP's enrollment goal of 175 FTE students roughly translates to a headcount of 300 to 350.

The report also recommends continuing to strengthen the ISP's homestay program in the Valley, and Moore notes host families are an integral part of international students' experiences here.

"The people who volunteer to be homestay families are not doing this for the money," says Moore. "If you analyze their honourarium, after they've spent the money on groceries and etcetera for the kids, and some events, what they might net at the end of the day is minuscule compared to the responsibility that goes along with hosting a child from another country.

"We can't say thank you enough to the people of the community that step forward to be host families."

For more information on the Comox Valley ISP, including information on becoming a host family, visit the program's website or call 250-703-2904.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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