There are studies saying that international students – with China being the top sourced country -- are increasingly becoming a boon to our schools, our economy and tax base. Since the Liberal government came into power, it has been aggressively courting international students, proclaiming they are the assets to the country and extremely valuable to Canada. The Liberal government, which criticized the express entry system for shortchanging international students, is looking at easing the path for internationals students to become permanent residents in Canada.
“We must do more to attract students to this country as permanent residents,” John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration Canada said early this year. “They are the cream of the crop, in terms of potential future Canadians.”
Indeed, with their large expenditure on tuition fees, accommodations and lifestyle costs, international students have contributed significantly to the Canadian economy that can support jobs and generate taxes. But their value to our economy might be over exaggerated. In fact, other studies, media reports and anecdotal evidence have painted a grim picture of this demographic in Canada that are struggling academically in schools and facing challenges in the labour markets.
Studies point out that language fluency is the largest academic challenge affecting international students. Lacking English language skills, many international students from China are struggling to meet the academic requirements at Canadian universities. According to a media report, an English professor at the University of Regina told CBC that students are being admitted with poor English proficiency, with some even lacking verbal comprehension skills to understand classroom discussion.
The deficiency in English writing skills also prevents them from presenting complex and logically sophisticated arguments in course essays or exam papers. A friend of mine who has marked the exam papers for a business school in Ontario said that international students in general were unable to answer the exam questions with the same level of quality, accuracy and proficiency as the local students, leaving them faring much worse in grades than their Canadian counterparts.
Even though most of them have graduated from Canadian schools, many international students have gained relatively fewer valuable skills from the Canadian schools and have not benefited as much from the Canadian education system. A MacLean’s article has expressed the concern that if a large number of international students in Canada cannot conduct themselves well enough in English, it will eventually affect the quality of Canadian education, resulting in falling course standards and lower-quality degrees for graduates. “Canada’s reputation for high-quality universities would suffer and we would miss out on the culture and economic rewards international students bring.”
International students also face a bleak job prospect after graduation. An internal report from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has found that from 2008 to 2014, the majority of international students employed through a work permit program were in low-skilled jobs in the service sector, and had median earnings that are less than half of other recent university and college graduates. Anecdotal evidence also supports these findings, as stories circulating international students lacking required job skills or failing to fulfill job functions have started surfacing.
Apparently, international students may not be as valuable to the Canadian economy as the Liberal government proclaims. The CIC secret report might have provided evidence that contradicts the Immigration Minister’s claim, raising concerns about its plans to attract more international students and ease the path for them to obtain Canadian citizenship.
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