Pathways to Canada for international students.

Demand from international students for education in Canada is growing and language providers have developed a wide range of pathway courses to help them transition into post-secondary institutions, says Gillian Evans.
"Getting a good score in a language gauging exam, such as TOEFL or IELTS is great, but it does not guarantee the student is capable of doing a presentation in public, writing a research paper, is aware of cultural norms, etc.," observes Dimitrios Papadakis, Director of International Partnerships at McKenzie College in Moncton, NB. "More and more students prefer pathways because they provide a clear, straightforward road-map into a university or college." 

Demand for pathway programmes in Canada is growing in tandem with demand for post-secondary education from international students. And as Anthony Stille, Director of the English School of Canada in Toronto, ON, notes, there are lots of draws to a Canadian post-secondary education. "With a quality education, reasonable tuition, postgraduate work permit options and the possibility of becoming a Canadian citizen at the end of all the hard work, investing in a Canadian education [has] advantages. Currently, with the contrasting immigration policy in the USA, the appeal of a Canadian education has become even more significant."

Lucy How, Pathway Programmes Director at Oxford International North America, Eurocentres Canada & San Diego, says pathways is "absolutely a growth sector", fuelled by the growing number of international students looking to complete either their undergraduate or graduate education in Canada. "Rather than applying directly to university from their home country students are realising the benefits of experiencing life in Canada for a period of time while gaining crucial language and academic skills."

To fulfil this growing demand for programmes that prepare international students for post-secondary education in Canada, many universities, colleges and language schools have created specific pathway courses. These courses go beyond just language learning, as Diana Mockute at ILAC in Toronto, ON, points out. "What really makes ILAC's University Pathway Program so successful and different from a regular English course is the focus that is placed on essay writing and research building, academic reading, time management, critical thinking, as well as, note-taking strategies for academic lectures, sophisticated grammar, advanced vocabulary and high-level pronunciation techniques emphasised in improving speaking skills." Indeed, ILAC's Pathway certificate is accepted by many Canadian institutions in lieu of TOEFL or IELTS scores.

At the University of Saskatchewan Language Centre in Saskatoon, SK, two types of academic pathway programmes are offered: the U-Prep, which teaches advanced English along with academic skills; and the Bridging programme, which as well as English language tuition, enables students to participate in a university undergraduate course in either Anthropology or Sociology, and earn undergraduate credits. "The main benefit of the Bridging approach is that it gives students a gradual introduction to the realities of academic study but with the benefit of integrated English instruction designed to support their work in meeting the requirements of the academic courses," explains Dale Yellowlees.

Like the University of Saskatchewan, the English Language Institute (ELI) at Renison University College in Waterloo, ON, offers a Bridge to Academic Success (BASE) programme that allows students to continue to learn English and obtain academic support while at the same time earn a credit in their subject area. Elizabeth Matthews, Assistant Director at the ELI, adds, "This programme focuses on integrating BASE students with other first-year students in their disciplines. The distinctive feature of this programme is that it fully immerses learners in the academic culture of the University of Waterloo."

Sheila Nunn, President and CEO of East Coast Language College (ECLC) in Halifax, NS, highlights the importance of keeping their pathway course content relevant. "We are in close contact with our partner universities and colleges so have many discussions about whether our curriculum is meeting the current needs of the students when entering the post-secondary institutions. At ECLC, we also believe that a curriculum is a living thing - it's a bit like the Forth Bridge and is never finished! We are constantly doing internal reviews based on student, instructor, and partner feedback."

Student nationality trends in the pathway sector largely mirror those in the international undergraduate and postgraduate education sectors. Diana at ILAC reports, "As Vietnam broke into the list of top 10 countries sending students to Canada for the first time in 2016, ILAC witnessed a sudden jump in numbers of Vietnamese students enrolling at ILAC's University Pathway Program and becoming one of the top five countries in enrollment." 

Looking at pathway student nationalities at Heartland International English School in Winnipeg, MB, Jenni Danino reports that most are from China, Brazil, Ukraine, Vietnam and India, while Donna Daly, Vice President of Global Village Toronto, cites their top nationalities as being Brazilian, Russian, Mexican and Colombian.


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