Canadian students have one of the lowest numbers for studying abroad or student exchanges.
The global perspective and broadened viewpoint of students who study abroad could be an invaluable addition to the country’s economy, if only more businesses realized this fact. At least that’s the conclusion of a recent report from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), as well as those who’ve capitalized on an international education and have subsequently climbed the corporate ladder.
One such proponent of studying abroad is Dr. Myers, the president and chief executive officer of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, who spent nine years doing graduate work in England. Not only was the experience an eye-opener in his opinion, but the contacts he made while studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Oxford definitely contributed to the success he’s achieved.
The challenge now is to help Canadian students, parents, postsecondary institutions, and businesses realize the economic benefits that come from personal networks fostered by studying abroad. Young employees who have this edge can bring great advantages to the table, especially when it comes to trade deals between governments.
It’s not an easy task ahead, considering Canadian students have one of the lowest numbers for studying abroad or student exchanges, at only 3 per cent. While the numbers continue to rise for foreign students coming to Canada, the CBIE report says that the percentage going abroad must increase fivefold to ensure success in dealing with global markets.
CBIE’s president Karen McBride states, “If we don’t increase the number of students studying abroad, we won’t be involved in the trade deals that Canada is putting into place now, or in meeting global challenges.”
Canada falls behind more ambitious countries such as Australia, who is spending millions to send thousands of students to study in Asia-Pacific economies. The United States is looking to up its percentage to 20, and Germany, already at 30 per cent, is aiming at 50 per cent for students studying abroad. Canada’s target of sending 15 per cent of postsecondary students abroad seems paltry in comparison.
One problem in changing the status quo actually comes from the success Canada has had in luring foreign students to study here. The multicultural environment of many postsecondary schools has led some to wrongly assert that they are already benefiting from an international experience.
Of course, another hurdle is the price tag. Many students feel it’s just too expensive to leave Canada to study abroad and their parents may agree.They may not see the opportunity as a worthwhile investment.
Judging by their meager initiatives, or lack thereof, the country’s officials and businesses seem to have the same difficulty with longterm vision. However, investing in study abroad programs may be an economic strategy they can’t afford to miss out on.