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Why more Canadians should study abroad

Source: Dan Newman/Unsplash

The rewards in crossing borders in the name of education are well-known. We see youth from developing economies return from their studies with new ideas to be implemented in their home countries. Many use the skills earned overseas to become future leaders.

Going the other direction to countries less wealthy, peaceful or fortunate, holds its own sets of virtues too. We gain perspective, have ample opportunity to practice a new language and re-evaluate everything we thought we knew, from something as simple as getting water to adapting to different social hierarchies.

These factors, and many more, underscore a submission by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) to the Ottawa parliament. The proposal calls for the government to invest more in the outward mobility of young Canadians in a bid to multiply its export markets and expand its international networks

“Few Canadians are better positioned to capitalise on these opportunities than our youth, already members of the most diverse cohort in our country’s history and accustomed to living in a multicultural
society in an increasingly globally connected world,” the report wrote.

The report touts benefits such as increased participation in global research networks, extending Canada’s influence to emerging economies and reinforcing the country’s values of openness and inclusion.

A 2014 survey of small and medium businesses from a several industries across Canada also found that 82 percent believed employees with intercultural and global marketplace knowledge
enhance their company’s competitiveness.

Study abroad students stand to return as globally-minded individuals, more adaptable to changes as they bridge the socio-economic gap that often keeps students from low- and middle-income families from achieving their full potential.

Yet, the statistics don’t show high participation in international placements among the country’s youth.

Countries like Germany see as many as 30 percent of students travel abroad during their studies, but the report notes that the global education participation rate of undergraduate Canadian students is a “paltry” 3.1 percent. This is despite nearly all (97 percent) of Canadian universities offering such opportunities.

Money is the main obstacle preventing more Canadians from going abroad.

“A CBIE survey of 7,000+ Canadian students revealed that 86 percent of respondents are interested in a learning abroad experience but 80 percent would require financial assistance to do so,” the report wrote.

Less than five percent of Canadian undergraduates go abroad to study, a survey found. Source: Shutterstock

The CBIE is calling on the Canadian government to invest CA$10m to support a minimum of 100 opportunities per key region per year (a maximum of $5,000/student). It recommends a five-year programme to begin with, but the end goal is to see a quarter of all Canadian students undertaking international studies by 2028.

This funding should be open for K-12 students and beyond and not just exclusively for postsecondary students, as this may be too late for them to make the necessary arrangement, financial or otherwise.

“Canada must move decisively in nurturing global leaders who hold the key to our country’s continued
competitiveness, prosperity and social cohesion,” the report wrote.

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