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B.C. announces $150,000 in scholarships for Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign students

B.C. announces $150,000 in scholarships for Chinese, Japanese and South Korean students

The B.C. government will launch this year an international student scholarship program totalling $150,000 for Chinese, Japanese and South Korean students looking to enter schools in BC, officials said Friday.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG

A provincial government plan to fund scholarships for Asian public school and post-secondary students to study in B.C. is facing sharp criticism from education officials and student groups.

During a news conference with Vancouver’s Chinese-language media on Friday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced the province will offer 120 students from China, Japan and South Korea scholarships of $1,250 a year to study in B.C.

The international students must still pay the rest of the high fees to study in Canada, so the scholarships would only alleviate some of their costs.

But a spokesman for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) said there are many local students from low-income families who would benefit greatly from such funding.

“We often talk to students who are not able to go to post-secondary (schools) right away because of the cost. In many cases, when they do get into school, they get in late, and they struggle with balancing work and school,” said Simka Marshall, chair of CFS-BC, noting the average B.C. post-secondary students graduate with $27,000 in debt. “It’s very common these days. The (student) debt level here is very bad.”

According to Statistics Canada, students from low-income families are half as likely to attend university or college than students from wealthier families. A Mustel Group report in 2009 found that cost remains the biggest barrier to post-secondary education in B.C.

Vancouver School Board trustee Patti Bacchus said money in the education system should be going to seismic upgrades for school buildings and other necessities that “would provide safe and optimal learning conditions” for B.C.’s students.

“When B.C. residents pay taxes, they expect adequate funding to go to all B.C. students, for them to have access to the education they need to be successful,” Bacchus said. “They are not getting that right now.”

Friday’s announcement follows Fassbender’s five-day mission to Beijing and Tokyo two weeks ago, where the province signed agreements to expand educational interaction between B.C. and Asia. The agreements centred on student and teacher exchanges, and increased offerings at Canadian schools abroad.

The teacher exchanges could involve English teachers from B.C. going to China, as well as more Mandarin teachers coming into the province to mentor language education, Fassbender said.

“What we heard from the Chinese while we were there was that our teachers are considered some of the best in the world,” he said, adding that Maple Leaf schools (Canada’s top international school system in China) will look to leverage that reputation. “I know that they have aggressive plans to expand, because they know that the demand for the Dogwood Certificate (B.C.’s high-school diploma) and our education programs is huge and growing.”

Fassbender added the improved language education from more interaction with Asia will help young British Columbians compete better in the global market environment once they enter the workforce.

He said that increased educational exchanges will help international students contribute as productive members of Canadian society.

“When we look at the growth in local communities in B.C., many parents say they want their children to maintain their cultural heritage,” Fassbender said. “We can help these students reinforce the cultural heritage of those communities at the same time as they receive the best education they can get.”

The details of the scholarship program are still being worked out, officials said, but current plans call for the exact eligibility requirements to be announced by the end of the year, with the first wave of awards issued next spring for students to start their B.C. studies in the fall of 2016.

 

chchiang@vancouversun.com

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