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Canada’s Graduates Would Greatly Benefit from More Opportunities to Study Abroad

Canada has achieved remarkable success in attracting international students. Currently, more than 570,000 international students now study abroad in this country. This is an outstanding increase of sixty (60) per cent from three (3) years ago.

International students are a main economic driver; in 2016 alone they brought more than $15.5-billion in the form of investment capitals into Canada’s economy. Graduates who stay in Canada, have continued to contribute to strength of our economy, starting businesses and becoming major assets to Canadian companies with their global perspective and connections to international markets. Those who return back to their home country act as ambassadors for Canada, strengthening our ties with those countries and encouraging more students to study here.

However, the same can’t be said. Canada gets a performed low when it comes to opportunities to learn or study abroad. Only Eleven (11) per cent of Canadian citizens who are undergraduates have a study-abroad experience during their degree. Comparatively, thirty-three (33) per cent of French students, twenty-nine (29) per cent of German students, Nineteen (19) per cent of Australian students and Sixteen (16) per cent of U.S. students head abroad at some point during their studies.

In addition, those few Canadian students who do go abroad are still incline to choose “traditional” destinations like the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Australia.

Of course, there are lessons to be learned from these countries, but the highest opportunities for Canada are in high-growth countries: places like South America and Asia, where the federal government is already engaged in developing trades and investment/capital agreements. Developing economies today make up roughly Sixty (60) per cent of the global GDP: To strategically position Canada to better compete on the world stage and exploit its trade agreements, we need to motivate and encourage our students to go to these regions.

The Canadian government has announced its commitment to expanding trade, increasing the number of sectors that do business internationally and increasing our markets abroad. We need to bring the same diversification or expansion mindset to higher education, especially since 50 per cent of all Canadian jobs are expected to pass through a major skills shift in the next decade as technologies like automation and artificial intelligence take root.

If we’re going to get it right — for learners, the future work force and our economy as a whole — we need to be consistent and strategic. Creating a pan-Canadian plan for international post-secondary study — one that sends many more of our learners abroad while continuing to attract top talent from around the world to our campuses — will allow us to do that.

Canada requires a more internationally savvy population to pan out well. About 80 per cent of Canadian employers say graduates with cross-cultural knowledge and  understanding of the global economy are great competitive assets to their companies. Employers want workers who are skilled at problem solving, team work, communication and who are flexible and able to meet shifting demands.

The international study creates global-mindset and these in-demand skills. Studies abroad also plugs students into explorable international networks, thereby strengthening Canada’s ties with destination countries and directly supporting our trade aspirations.

Budget 2019 is the perfect opportunity for the Canadian government to create a bold, ambitious strategy that will help secure the country’s economy and set up our people for success in the knowledge economy.

Our strategy should capitalize on the important work done by the Study Group on Global Education like the centre for international policy strategy, and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Its 2017 report on Global Education for Canadians, set a vision of seeing twenty-five (25) per cent of Canadian post-secondary learners acquiring international learning experiences in the next decade. It’s an ambitious project, but the potential benefits to our economy and workforce make it well worth aiming for.