More Chinese students go to Canada for high school

Updated: 2014-09-10 07:00

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York and Li Na in Toronto(China Daily USA)

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Students from the Chinese mainland are increasingly looking to Canada for their high school education as they seek a safe, clean and vibrant region for an English-language education abroad. They are particularly attracted to Toronto and Vancouver as each metropolitan area has a thriving and well-established Chinese community.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal in 2012, the most recent year for which numbers are available, there were more than 80,000 Chinese students in Canada from elementary school through the college level. That represents a 296 percent increase from 2001.

Barbara Onstad, manager for international education for the Vancouver school board, said in the last school year (2013-2014), Vancouver public schools enrolled 1,252 international students, and of those 884, or nearly 71 percent, were Chinese.

"We are overwhelmed with inquiries from China," said Onstad. "The trend is definitely rising with most applicants from China seeking a place in Vancouver or Toronto."

Sissi Qiu, 17, came to Canada two years ago from Beijing and completed her high school education in Vancouver. Now she is studying finance at the University of Toronto.

"I consider myself lucky to study in Canada," she told China Daily. "I love Canada for its high quality education system, peaceful environment and friendly people."

Qiu's parents immigrated to Canada and she attends the university on a scholarship. She believes her high school education in Vancouver helped to "develop a strong ability to live independently."

James Cheng, 16, came to Canada a year ago from Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei province. He attends Richmond Hill High School in the Toronto area. He and his parents became familiar with Canadian schools from a seminar hosted by an agency in Shijiazhuang.

"My parents sent me to Canada because they think it is a safe place for studying abroad," he said. Last year Cheng attended a school in Hamilton, Ontario, about 38 miles south of Toronto, to brush up on his English.

"Through my volunteer work in the Chinese community in Toronto, I have gained knowledge of the local resources that are available," Cheng said. He will be living with a host family this year and expects to spend some of his free time socializing with other Chinese students in the area. Upon completing his high school education, Cheng said he hopes to attend the University of Waterloo in Ontario and major in finance and mathematics.

According to Onstad, the students and their families are responsible for paying for their education. In Vancouver tuition, which includes books, is C$13,000 ($11,938) for this school year. Students are also responsible for their living arrangements.

"Most have either an in-house arrangement or they work with a home-stay coordinator to find a host family," Onstad said. "Since Vancouver and Toronto have large Chinese communities, many stay with family or close friends."

Students who apply and are then accepted must also obtain a student visa from the Canadian embassy in China. "Several years ago it was hard for students to get that visa. Now we rarely hear of a rejection," said Onstad.

Onstad said she and her support staff encourage Chinese students to become active in after-school activities so they can make new friends and experience the Canadian lifestyle.

"Some of the students are under pressure from their parents to perform well academically and many of the parents are more interested in the students working with an after-school tutor than joining a club or other activity. We want the students to do well in school but we also want them to make friends and enjoy their time here as well," she said.

Sam Sotiropoulous, a trustee with the Toronto district school board, also has noticed the increase in Chinese students.

"We saw a significant increase in Chinese student enrollment from last year. Ninety Chinese students were accepted by a school in Ward 20, Scarborough-Agincourt last year and there will be continued growth this year. We are a welcoming society and our cities are clean and safe. I believe that Chinese students feel comfortable here," he said.

Nelson Chan, president of the International Education Development Association, said that he is concerned about Chinese students in Canada.

"I don't think our educational system has enough concern about the students from abroad. Education is more than an industry and the economy; education is built on love and human relationships. How much does the system care about the students when they are so far from their home and in many cases, their families and close friends. Society should realize that we need to establish special plans and programs to help the students become familiar with our community," he said.

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