Thursday, June 13th, 2013
There is nothing like spending a week talking to students in India’s Punjab to bring a focus to what a mess Canada has made in a market that has spilled over to international recruiting around the globe.
Prospective students in Punjab are like sheep in how easily they follow advice on study abroad, whether from a sincere expert or from a charlatan. For those education agents who are smooth and slick – it’s relatively easy to sell a student on the most lucrative destination – for the agent.
When the Canadian government introduced the Student Partner Program (SPP) a few years ago, to smooth the way for thousands of foreign students (and particularly those living in the Indian state of Punjab) to enter Canadian colleges via their contracted overseas agents, they invited the mediocre en masse. Now Canada has taken over from Australia as the patsy who sucks in low-end students from this Indian state, where how to “get out of the country” is a passion and a pastime.
Thousands of students who lack basic academic skills, and scoring in the 40 and 50 percentile are now flooding Canadian colleges in Toronto and Vancouver. That’s established the new baseline now, as the academic standards are so low, it brings huge numbers of weak students under the umbrella of admissibility to Canada. A focus on attracting weak students is legitimate, but commonly excellent students who should be targetting strong university programs, are manipulated and convinced to go to a college, where agents can collect commissions where they might not otherwise.
All of this in the last couple of years comes at a period when the UK is turning back foreign students, Indians are still fearful of racism in Australia, and they are wary of an American society often in the news for violence on campuses and schools.
So as Canada has mushroomed in attractiveness as a study destination, education agents have had a field day in Punjab. Facts and fictions flow freely in terms of the preparation of applications for studies and visas. So what is Canada’s response to cap an overflow of the accompanying growth of visa abuse? To throw out the baby with the dirty bath water.
The recent Bill C-35 appears to limit well meaning individuals at schools, colleges and universities from providing any direction on immigration matters for Canada – which simply can not be cut off from academic counseling, as they go hand in hand for a prospective foreign student. While I laud Canada’s efforts to try and rein in visa abuse which its own policies (SPP) has added to the morass, it might better focus on institutions’ relationships with unscrupulous agents, rather than on the very personnel most trusted to give free, earnest and largely expert advice.