Foreign Students Absent from London Schools

CHATHAM — Global economic forces are making it tougher for area schools to attract foreign students.

A total of 67 foreign students attended Lambton Kent District school board schools last year, which trustees were told is a

“significant decrease” from previous years, during a recent board meeting.

Jim Costello, the board’s education director, in a report attributed the decline to concerns about the H1N1 virus and the effect of the high Canadian dollar on the cost of sending students to Canada.

Another recruitment challenge the board faces is competition from larger boards, such as Toronto, York Region and Niagara, which have the appeal of large urban amenities.

Costello said the board is trying to promote the fact it’s located in the “sunny south,” is safe with low crime and has high student achievement.

The Chatham Christian School doesn’t have any new foreign students.

Linda Wolting, business development director at the school, said “we typically have several new (international) students start at the beginning of the year and we didn’t this year.”

She said the agent the school works with to bring in Korean students said the high Canadian dollar was the main reason, along with a minor lingering concern over H1N1 virus.

Wolting said the school typically has eight to 10 international students begin in elementary school and seven or eight start in high school.

Paul Wubben, director of the St. Clair Catholic District school board, said, “it’s not an issue for us,” noting the board doesn’t have a lot of international tuition students.

Tuition from international students generated a net income of $137,000 for the Lambton Kent board , which was up from the $108,000 the previous year, because the focus has been on attracting secondary school students, who pay higher tuition.

A few years ago, the Lambton Kent board had a net income of $390,000 from tuition fees.

The board is considering having the director of education and board chairprson take another trip abroad to China to meet with school officials to help attract more international students.

Trustee Scott McKinlay, who took part in a similar trip to South Korea, said, “this is a relationship-building experience.”

He saw first hand how important it is to the Asian culture for school officials to visit and make that face-to-face contact.

“I would strongly encourage the director to pursue this trip,” he said. “I think it will only reap benefits.”

Chatham Daily News

The London Free Press

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