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PRIORITIES FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

A Brief to the Ministry of Education from the BC Teachers’ Federation, August 2017 

BC Overseas Schools

The issue

BC overseas schools have grown in the past decade to include some 46 schools in several countries, although five of those schools in South Korea are at risk.

When the first overseas schools were created, there was a connection with school districts. In the early years of the BC Liberal government, legislation was passed that created School District Business Companies. Operating overseas schools was one of the expectations, with the business companies expected to earn funds that would be applied to supporting education in BC schools.

School District Business Companies failed to take off. School boards and administrators, with a few exceptions, are not entrepreneurial. They are elected or hired to offer education to BC students. For some that did try their hand at education as a business, they turned out to be money losers. In addition, recruiting international students to study in BC schools was a money-maker and districts could incorporate these students into the existing system without needing businesses. Tuition paid by international students increased to some $212 million in the 2015–16 school year.

Background

However, the province did not abandon the idea of overseas schools. Overseas schools became part of a provincial jobs strategy to “export” education through franchising overseas K–12 schools and international students at both the K–12 level and post-secondary. The BC overseas schools became private schools in other countries run by private owners, primarily from the countries where they operate. The gain for BC is estimated at about $15–20 million for use of the BC curriculum and having the right to issue BC diplomas. The gain for students is education in English and easier entry to BC and other North American post-secondary institutions.

The quality of the diplomas is supposed to be based on classes using the BC curriculum offered by teachers with BC teaching certificates, along with a system of inspections and reports by BC evaluators on behalf of government, primarily drawn from BC private schools. The Ministry of Education created a department to supervise the overseas schools.

Not surprisingly, not all has gone swimmingly. Recruiting staff has sometimes been difficult. It has helped that in BC the number of teachers being produced has been larger than the number of positions open in BC schools. They have also attracted some teachers from other provinces or the US who have gotten BC certification to be eligible for the overseas jobs. However, with the number of teaching positions being added in BC schools as a result of a Supreme Court of Canada decision, finding BC-certified teachers may be more of a problem in the future.

Over the years, some teachers from several of the schools have contacted the BCTF to ask for assistance in employment issues and conflicts with administrators or school owners. The BCTF is not in a position to represent these teachers because they are not members, but it has sometimes been possible to make some suggestions.

The largest problem since the creation of the overseas schools has been with schools in South Korea. BC overseas schools, it appears, are in conflict with Korean government aims of protecting their students from foreign institutions operating outside of Korean education.

In order to run a school based on the BC curriculum, it appears that the owner of the Canada BC International School (CBIS) arranged for visas for the BC-certified teachers that only allowed them to teach in cram schools, not schools offering secondary education. The Korean government decided to crack down on this illegal status and ordered the teachers deported. Other schools have faced the same action.

The CBIS teachers believe that the BC Ministry of Education was aware that the Korean schools were being operated outside of the legal framework, without the teachers knowing the precarious situation they were in. The situation of these teachers is explained clearly in a story and video that can be published by the Vancouver Observer.

Key recommendations

Recommendation 1

That the Ministry of Education carry out a review of the purpose of running overseas schools.

Recommendation 2

If BC overseas schools are to continue, ensure that the schools meet the regulations of the country in which they are based and that BC certified teachers of those schools are appropriately protected.

Further reading

Specific recommendations from the teachers at CBIS can be found on the Vancouver Observer website.

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