By Robert Frank
Strapped for cash by provincial government austerity measures, two of Quebec’s largest English school boards intend to fill the gap by selling vocational training to third-world students.
“In times of budget cutbacks, we have to grow revenue,” Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board (SWLSB) chair Nick Milas said, Sept. 15, after signing a ten-year pact with Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) to attract students from India to study health care here.
“Yes, it is all about the money we get,” Milas acknowledged, “[the profits of] which will be coming back to our [Canadian] students.”
“We intend to bring in the first cohorts in January,” LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day announced. “SWLSB will be hiring all the staff because [the new international school will be on] their territory.”
LBPSB director general Robert Mills thanked the Quebec and Canadian governments “for agreeing to help [the prospective students] obtain study visas and a small ability to work during the course of time that they are studying here.”
Mills said that the program’s initial students will learn nursing- and pharmacist-assistant skills and that there is a “possibility for expansion”.
Stein Day explained that the SWLSB-LBPSB partnership is a new legal entity that will be overseen by both school boards as well as Edu-Edge, a Toronto-based private corporation that is the third party to the new international education pact.
“It will be subject to audits by both school boards and Edu-Edge will have the option to look at the numbers with their own auditors,” she said of the new arrangement.
Edu-Edge president Naveen Kolan commended the “two large school boards which decided to cooperate rather than compete.”
“We have opened discussions with English Montreal School Board,” Stein Day told The Suburban, “but we are nowhere near any agreement yet.”
“It’s a possibility,” she added. “We’re very willing to work with partners. It helps us to manage the operation without having to hire more staff and the like, and still reap the benefits.”
“At this point we haven’t talked to other school boards, but we’re certainly open to it,” Stein Day continued. “We hope that this agreement sets the stage for all of us to get together and cooperate.”
She emphasized that LBPSB’s existing international campus downtown, which teaches accountancy- and computer-related courses to third-world students is a completely separate operation that is not part of its new partnership with SWLSB.
According to LBPSB Commissioner Barbara Freeston, the school board’s moneymaking deal with Edu-Edge “surpassed objectives” last year.
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