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MVSD’s International Student Program Enjoys Success Throughout Its 15 Year


By Marc Kunza
International Education

The International Student Program (ISP) is now in its 15th year in Mountain View School Division.

International programs have been in place for many years in and around larger cities and in post-secondary institutions. There are not as many programs in rural areas but that did not stop the MVSD board of trustees from agreeing to fund a three-year pilot in 2007, with financial viability beyond the pilot years determining whether it would continue past the 2009-10 school year.

In year one we received four students, 40 students in year two and 73 students in the final year of the pilot. In those first three years, the program lost $142,000 but recorded a small profit in the third year. The program did continue and over the next 12 years, the division has welcomed over 1,200 additional students.

There are three primary benefits to the program, with the first being the introduction of students from several different countries and cultures to our schools and communities. The multicultural aspect of the program is a learning experience in itself, as staff and students can collaborate with those attending our schools from abroad to understand firsthand the differences between our countries.

The second benefit is the long-term relationships built between local and international students, as well as the relationships built with homestay families. Homestay parents share stories of connections they still have with students who stayed with them when the program first began. Other homestay families have been invited by very appreciative parents to visit them in their country. Our program appreciates our homestay families for accepting international students into their homes, but the appreciation of a student’s parents while their child is studying abroad may very well be greater.

The third benefit is economic. The revenue generated through the program is 100 per cent private funds received from families or government programs from outside of Canada. The revenue funds three program support positions, provides some compensation to homestay families in our communities who graciously accept these students into their homes, and the additional enrolment supports two additional teaching positions.

Since the program began in 2007, total revenues generated exceeded $8.7 million. Almost half of this revenue is retained by the division through tuition fees to support the program, while the remaining $4.5 million has been spent within the communities where these students reside and attend school.

The exciting aspect of the program is that it continues to evolve. In the early years, we were attracting larger numbers of students from a few countries, with the majority of the students attending for less than a full semester. It was disruptive to schools and difficult logistically to co-ordinate arrivals, departures and homestay arrangements for 100 to 200 students per year.

Fast-forward to 2021-22, and the change is significant. With an established and recognized program, we have 34 students attending from 12 different countries, and almost all of them are here for at least one semester. We are now receiving students planning to complete their secondary education with us so they can graduate with a Manitoba High School Diploma before moving on to post-secondary opportunities.

The attraction of our program for many students is living in our safe, inviting and active communities. As a smaller international program, students can easily immerse themselves in Canadian culture and english language. We have also had students interested in staying with families with horses and students who want an opportunity to play hockey, or some other sport. Whatever the reasons, the success of our program is unlike anything seen in other rural school divisions.

We began this journey 15 years ago with an idea to bring a unique opportunity to rural Manitoba. With the support of the board of trustees and our schools, and through the efforts of those individuals entrusted to grow the program, it has been a success for our division and our communities.