The Centre for International Policy Studies and the Munk School of Global Affairs are pleased to present the Report of the Study Group on Global Education. This report constitutes an important and fresh look at the state of global education in Canada by an independent group of policy experts and post-secondary and private sector leaders, under the leadership of Roland Paris and Margaret Biggs.
The report sounds an urgent warning that we are not preparing young Canadians to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and it urges a meaningful investment to ensure that Canadian students study abroad. Our peer nations – the United States, Australia, France and Germany – are investing heavily in initiatives similar to the one proposed here, and these countries’ students are building networks and opportunities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. If we fail to act, these nations rather than ours will produce the next generation of leaders across all sectors.
Far from a luxury or an indulgence for the affluent few, the report convincingly demonstrates that studying abroad brings the greatest benefits for the least-advantaged students and that it is a vital public good that is essential for Canada’s future success.
We welcome the recommendations of the report and commend the group on its exceptional work.
Director, Centre for International Policy Studies
University of Ottawa
Director, Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Rapid global change poses both a challenge and opportunity to Canada. Technological innovation is changing the nature of work and the skills required for the 21st century economy. Emerging countries are playing an ever-larger role in world affairs and relationships with those countries and their people will become increasingly important for Canada’s prosperity and international influence. The next generation of Canadian private- and public-sector leaders will need certain skills, experience and understanding to succeed in this more complex and competitive world.
International academic mobility for young Canadians could be an important part of Canada’s response to these challenges. Many peer countries – including Australia, the United States, and members of the European Union – have made international learning a national priority, with impressive results. In Canada, by contrast, global education has not been a major topic of discussion outside our academic institutions, and even they have focused more on attracting international students to Canada than on providing Canadian students with international experience.
The Study Group on Global Education was formed in May 2017 under the auspices of the Centre for International Policy Studies (University of Ottawa) and the Munk School of Global Affairs (University of Toronto) in order to take a fresh look at Canada’s approach to global education. Its diverse membership included university and college presidents, private sector leaders, people with senior government experience, and individuals directly involved with students and outbound learning, drawn from across the country.
To get answers to these questions, the group reviewed existing resources and consulted with a wide range of experts and stakeholders in Canada and in other countries. It also benefited enormously from multi-sectoral roundtable discussions in June and September 2017.
The Study Group’s conclusion is that Canada needs a more strategic and ambitious approach to global education. There is a compelling Canadian interest in significantly expanding the number of young Canadians who go abroad for study and work-integrated learning. This report explains why, and offers recommendations for achieving this goal.
Matthews Fellow on Global Public Policy
Professor and University Research Chair
University of Ottawa
Margaret Biggs – Matthews Fellow on Global Public Policy, Queen’s University
Roland Paris – Professor and University Research Chair, University of Ottawa
Ann Buller – President, Centennial College
Lisa Butler – Chief Talent and Diversity Officer, Manulife
Marie-Claude Dumas – Dumas Executive Vice-President of Global Human Resources, SNC-Lavalin Group
Robyn Fila – Program Manager, Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, University of Victoria
Claude Généreux – Executive Vice-President, Power Corporation and Power Financial
Zabeen Hirji – Chief Human Resources Officer, Royal Bank of Canada
Nicole Lacasse – Associate Vice-Rector, Academic and International Activities, Université Laval
John McArthur – Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, and Senior Advisor, UN Foundation
Santa Ono – President, University of British Columbia
Katie Orr – Director, NSCC International, Nova Scotia Community College
Sue Paish – President and CEO, LifeLlabs
Morris Rosenberg – President and CEO, Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation
Robert Summerby-Murray – President, Saint Mary’s University
Rebecca Tiessen – Associate Professor, University of Ottawa
Stephen Toope – Former Director, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
Valerie Walker – Vice President, Policy, Skills and Talent, Business Council of Canada
Stephen Wallace – Secretary to the Governor General
Canadians pride themselves on their open, diverse and innovative society. But is Canada really prepared for the challenges that lie ahead?
Young Canadians need knowledge, skills and experience to succeed in a more complex and competitive world. Technological innovation is changing the nature of work and the skills required for the 21st century economy. Relationships with emerging countries are becoming increasingly important to Canada’s prosperity. The current generation of young Canadians will need to be comfortable working with people from different backgrounds. They will need self-awareness and self-confidence, a willingness to take smart risks, and knowledge of the world and other societies.
Without a carefully crafted and adequately funded national strategy that sets clear targets and responsibilities, Canada will continue to fall behind.
These are not luxuries in the 21st century; they are vital skills.
Global education fosters these skills. Enabling more Canadians to gain international experience as part of their university or college education would be an investment in their – and Canada’s – future. It would equip young Canadians, including those from less-advantaged backgrounds, to succeed in the new economy. It would expand Canada’s links to important trade partners and investment centres, including emerging economies, and strengthen our educational institutions’ connections to global research networks, which are vital to innovation in Canada. It would also reinforce the values of openness and inclusion that are essential to Canada’s success as a diverse society, particularly at a time of rising intolerance.
An individual who travels abroad may be changed in highly personal and sometimes intangible ways. But when we look at the population as a whole, we know that global learning matters, because the evidence shows that it does.
Studies indicate that international education is associated with higher academic scores and degree-completion rates as well as higher employment rates and salaries after graduation. Moreover, these benefits appear to be strongest among students from less-advantaged backgrounds; the opportunity to study or work in another country can be a great social and economic equalizer.
Many other countries, including some of Canada’s closest partners and competitors, have already recognized the importance of sending their students abroad. The United States, Australia, and members of the European Union, for example, have pursued ambitious strategies to increase the number of post-secondary students gaining international experience, because they believe that it gives their own citizens and societies an advantage. All of these strategies have resulted in striking increases in outbound student mobility.
Canada has no such strategy – and it shows. Not only do we send a smaller proportion of our students abroad than do most of our peer countries, but this gap has been growing. Moreover, the relatively few Canadian students who engage in international learning overwhelmingly travel to only a few places – the United States, Western Europe, and Australia – and study in their native language. We are not preparing young Canadians to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Although Canadians tend to pride themselves on their open, diverse and internationally connected society, even the United States, which many Canadians view as more insular, is doing a better job at expanding the horizons of its young people through international education. The diversity of Canada’s population does not automatically translate into worldliness, or into the skills that Canadians – and Canada – will require to succeed. These competencies and values are not given by nature; they have to be cultivated.
In recent years, the Government of Canada has worked with educational institutions and other levels of government to increase the number of international students coming to Canada. What’s needed now is a coordinated effort to ensure that more young Canadians gain their own international experience. The record elsewhere shows that national strategies – led by national governments, but based on a partnership between government, educational institutions, and the private sector – have worked. Without a carefully crafted and adequately funded national strategy that sets clear targets and responsibilities, Canada will continue to fall behind.
International education may once have been viewed as an optional luxury. Those days are gone. Now it must be seen as a vital tool to equip young Canadians from all walks of life for success. Their future, and Canada’s future, depends on it.
This report explains why Canada needs to treat international learning as a national priority and sketches out the elements of a Canadian strategy.
Section 2, “Why Global Education Matters – Now More than Ever,” highlights the importance of outbound student mobility in a rapidly changing world.
Section 3, “Canada – Stuck in Neutral While Others Race Ahead,” looks at what other countries are doing and shows how Canada is falling short.
Section 4, “A Global Education Strategy for Canada,” suggests elements of a Canadian strategy based on the Study Group’s key findings from Canadian and other countries’ experiences.
Section 5, “Taking Action: A Pan-Canadian Approach,” outlines what government, educational institutions, the private sector and other stakeholders must do to put the strategy into effect.
A summary of recommendations is provided at the end.
When the subject of international education comes up in Canada, it most often refers to foreign nationals who study in Canadian schools, colleges and universities. Seldom does the conversation extend to Canadians studying abroad. Why is this?
Part of the reason may be that the benefits of international students coming here are more visible. They pay billions of dollars in tuition fees, helping to support our educational institutions and providing an important source of revenue to government; they bring their ideas, perspectives and energies to our classrooms and our research labs; and they are a pool of talented prospective immigrants upon graduation. Encouraging international students to come to Canada remains important for all these reasons.
But the benefits of sending Canadian students abroad for learning experiences, while less immediately visible, are even more important for Canada’s future. Global education generates the skills, understanding, outlooks and relationships that can help our country at a time of rapid change in the world and at home (Figure 2.1).
Consider three of these challenges:
There is, in short, a compelling Canadian interest in equipping our youth with the skills and competencies they will need to navigate these challenges. In turn, we need them to help Canada in many ways: by building global networks and relationships that will strengthen Canada’s voice and influence in the world; by expanding Canada’s knowledge and reach in new, fast-growing markets; by succeeding as workers and entrepreneurs in a changing workplace and economy; and by becoming champions of diversity and inclusion at home and abroad.
Students who go abroad gain important, measurable benefits from the experience. Studies in the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, and the European Union have found that international education is associated with higher degree-completion rates and higher academic scores, as well as higher employment rates and larger average salaries after graduation.2
International learning also enhances the employability skills and competencies that are increasingly in demand (Figure 2.2). One study of 78,000 European students, for example, found evidence of improved problem-solving, communication and teamwork skills, as well as resilience and adaptability, among those who studied abroad.3 There was also evidence of heightened cultural awareness and an interest in other societies.
Global education can also serve as a tool for creating economic opportunity for young people from less-advantaged groups, promoting inclusive growth and economic fairness within Canada. Research suggests that the benefits of international learning, including improved academic outcomes and employment after graduation, are strongest for students from less-advantaged backgrounds.4
Realizing the full potential of global education requires tailoring programs to ensure that they are accessible to groups that require the greatest support, and who stand to benefit the most, such as Indigenous Canadians, students from less affluent households, students who are the first in their families to enroll in post-secondary education, underrepresented minorities in the educational system, and people with disabilities.
In addition to its societal and economic benefits, international learning can change students’ lives, profoundly and personally. It is, above all, an educational experience that brings students in direct contact with the world and what they are studying. “Experiential” or “applied” learning is widely recognized as a powerful pedagogical tool; a range of experts, the Ontario government, and the Business Higher-Education Roundtable, among others, have recently called for more emphasis to be placed on experiential learning at all levels of the education system.5 The federal government also pledged in its 2017 budget to support student internships and other work-integrated learning programs in order to give students “real world” experience while they are in school. Experiential learning within Canada is important, but well-designed global education programs are exemplars of experiential learning – and should be recognized as such.
Rather than seeing global education as an indulgence for the affluent few, we ned to recognize that it offers essential skills to all our young people — especially those from less-advantaged backgrounds
Global education initiatives can also help expand Canadian participation in international research networks and foster innovation in Canadian universities and colleges. These networks are increasingly important in a world where research and innovation transcend borders. For example, Mitacs Globalink sends Canadian students abroad (and brings international students to Canada) to work with leading researchers and industries. These types of international research collaborations benefit students and faculty researchers, educational institutions and industry alike.
Learning abroad may have once been seen as an optional extravagance. It now needs to be recognized as a national imperative. Providing students with international experience is a smart investment in their future success – and Canada’s.
Many countries, including some of Canada’s closest partners and competitors, have developed ambitious student mobility strategies because they understand that international learning provides important advantages to their students and their societies. These strategies have had striking results, sharply increasing the number of their students going abroad as part of their education. Meanwhile, Canada has been stuck in neutral.
In 2009, the US government launched a public-private initiative – 100,000 Strong China – aimed at increasing the number of American students studying in China to 100,000 within five years. The rationale for this program was “to strengthen US-China relations by investing in a new generation of leaders who have the knowledge and skills to engage with China.” The program covers a broad range of for-credit study, internships, volunteering, service-learning, research projects and other educational travel.
Not only did the United States meet this target; it exceeded it.
In 2011, the US government launched a second national program – 100,000 Strong in the Americas – to increase the number of American students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000 by 2020. Within four years of the program’s launch, the number of US students studying in the region had increased by 26 percent.6
In 2014, another major initiative, Generation Study Abroad, spearheaded by the Institute for International Education, set a goal of more than doubling the overall number of American students participating in international education (from 283,000 to 600,000) anywhere in the world by the end of the decade, while also focusing on providing opportunities for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. Under this initiative, 84 percent of US institutions have pledged to reduce financial barriers and to create learning-abroad funding and scholarship opportunities for students in these groups.
Launched as a pilot program in 2014 and expanded in 2015, Australia’s New Colombo Plan aims to support 10,000 students per year on learning experiences – academic study, internships with organizations and businesses, mentorships, practicums, or research – in the “Indo-Pacific” region (i.e., designated countries in South Asia, East and Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands).
The program’s stated goal is to “deepen Australia’s relationships in the region, both at the individual level and through expanding university, business and other links,” as well as “to increase the number of work-ready graduates.” To this end, the program explicitly aims to effect a culture shift in Australian higher education: “to establish study in the Indo-Pacific as a rite of passage for Australian undergraduate students.”
Early results are striking: the number of undergraduates studying in Indo-Pacific countries increased by 32 percent during the New Colombo Plan’s first year of full operation.8
The EU established its Erasmus program in 1987 to support international study and traineeships for European youth in order to cultivate “skills required by the labour market and the economy” and to promote “common European values, foster social integration, enhance intercultural understanding and a sense of belonging.” Erasmus encompasses a broad range of education opportunities, from full time for credit study to student integrated work experiences and internships. In recent years, Erasmus has broadened its focus beyond Europe to include emerging economies.
Since its inception, the program has provided over 3.3 million European students with the opportunity to go abroad and study at a higher education institution or train in a company. The Erasmus program has become a recognized brand and “credential” for students, and it has been a catalyst for European teaching institutions to make international mobility an integral part of post-secondary education.
Canada has a national strategy to attract international students to Canada. It has no national strategy to enable Canadian students to go global.9
Most Canadian universities and colleges do have their own programs to support and encourage student participation in international learning, and some provinces have policies to promote the “internationalization” of education, including outbound mobility. However, taken together, these efforts have been modest in scale and ambition, and they are largely uncoordinated. Tellingly, the percentage of Canadian post-secondary students who went abroad for part of their education has not increased in recent years.10 This is not to say that individual study-abroad initiatives have been unsuccessful – on the contrary, many have been quite effective and innovative, as we shall see – but their net impact on the percentage of young Canadians studying abroad has been indiscernible. Unlike peer countries that have used national strategies to significantly boost outbound education, Canada has stalled.
Worse, Canada’s numbers have flat-lined at a relatively low level. Although comparing outbound mobility figures is notoriously difficult because jurisdictions often track international education differently, the best available data indicate that Canada lags behind many of its peer countries on the key measure of how many undergraduate university students go abroad for part of their degree programs (Figure 3.1).11 This gap will likely widen as the newest mobility strategies, including the US and Australian programs, achieve their full effect.
Other figures tell a somewhat different story. The percent of Canadian students who leave Canada for their entire degree is higher than that of some peer countries.12 However, it is unclear how many of these individuals ultimately return to Canada. Besides, the vast majority of Canadian post-secondary students are enrolled in degree programs in Canadian universities and colleges – boosting their mobility even by a few percentage points would represent a large absolute increase in the number of young Canadians who benefit from global learning.
Among the Canadians who do study abroad, moreover, most travel to a few traditional destinations – with western Europe, the United States, and Australia topping the list – and they study in their native language (Figure 3.2). Just three percent of learning-abroad students went to China in 2016, according to one survey.13
Although studying in traditional destinations will continue to be valuable, current patterns are not aligned with the goal of preparing the next generation of Canadians to succeed in a complex and increasingly multipolar world. Economic growth in emerging countries outstrips that of Canada and our principal trading partners (Figure 3.3). By 2050, Mexico and Indonesia are likely to have larger economies than the UK and France, while Vietnam, India and Bangladesh could be the fastest growing economies over the period to 2050.14 China’s gross domestic product is already the largest in the world, measured by purchasing power parity.15 In addition to their growing economic weight, many of these countries are becoming influential actors in international affairs, a trend that will likely continue.
In summary, relatively few students at Canadian post-secondary institutions are going abroad for learning experiences, and those who do go abroad are still overwhelmingly traveling to traditional destinations of diminishing relative importance in the world.
Why aren’t more Canadian students participating in global learning? Even more puzzlingly, why are some study-abroad programs in Canadian universities undersubscribed?
In surveys of students, by far the most commonly cited barrier is cost.16 Inflexible curricular or credit transfer policies, and concerns about delayed graduation, come next, followed by several other impediments: lack of commitment from faculty members to education abroad; lack of knowledge about international learning opportunities; discomfort with cultural and language differences; and health and safety concerns (Figure 3.4).
The obstacles to global education, in other words, are multiple and systemic. Adequate funding for international learning is clearly the most important factor, but far from the only one. More money, alone, will not create the conditions for a step-change in Canada’s approach to global education. Only a coordinated and collaborative effort involving government, educational institutions, faculty, partner organizations, and sponsoring entities can create these conditions, because they each are responsible for parts of the solution.
In short, Canada needs a national strategy of its own.
Piecemeal efforts are not enough to boost the number of Canadian university and college students gaining international experience. Under the status quo, Canada will continue to dawdle as other countries take bold steps to equip their young people for tomorrow’s world. Only a well-crafted and adequately resourced national approach that sets ambitious targets and defines clear responsibilities will enable Canada to meet this challenge.
Global learning is a vital instrument to achieve national priorities, including economic growth and trade, social and economic inclusion, and Canada’s influence in the world.
Rather than sidelining global learning as a sub-issue, orphaned from foreign and domestic policy, we need to recognize it as a vital instrument to achieve national priorities, including economic growth and trade, social and economic inclusion, and Canada’s influence in the world (Figure 4.1). Instead of focusing narrowly on attracting international students to Canada, we need to provide Canadian students with their own international experience. Rather than seeing global education as an indulgence for the affluent few, we need to recognize that it offers essential skills to all our young people – especially those from less-advantaged backgrounds.
In short, we need a sea change in Canadian thinking, ambition and approaches to global education. Within a generation, ideally, Canadian students, their educational institutions and professors will consider international learning to be an essential part of post-secondary education. Corporate leaders and hiring managers will come to expect it from their recruits. Government officials will see it as essential to policy. That culture of educational mobility – a widely shared view among Canadians that global education is important – should be the goal. The more immediate imperative, however, is to recognize that the status quo does not serve the interests of our students or our country – and to start thinking about global learning as a vital public good.
To achieve a breakthrough in international education, Canada needs a strategy with clear objectives, priorities and targets. Setting “stretch” targets is essential to foster ambition, galvanize action and provide a focal point for a wide range of stakeholders. Targets also allow tracking of progress.
The Study Group recommends that Canada’s approach to global education should be guided by the following strategic objectives, all of which can be advanced through global learning:
Foster long-term economic growth and innovation in Canada, including by:
Strengthen Canada’s open and inclusive society, including by:
Strengthening Canada’s global links, including by:
Canada’s global education strategy must aim to generate changes in how students, parents, faculty and business value international learning. It must create new partnerships between business, government and educational institutions. It must marry the rich diversity of study-abroad opportunities across Canadian campuses with a more unified approach to norms, credentials and data collection. All these changes will reinforce each other.
Students identify costs as the principal barrier to participating in international programs, and this barrier is highest for the least well-off students. Scholarship and grant opportunities are therefore particularly vital for these students. Students who identified as aboriginal, visible minorities and disabled are also underrepresented within the population of students who go abroad for part of their education.18
International education can offer a unique opportunity for indigenous students to gain vital skills and experience that can help them succeed as employees, entrepreneurs, and leaders. It can also contribute to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for greater intercultural communication by providing Indigenous youth with the opportunity to study and work with Indigenous students and communities in other countries.
Indigenous youth are among the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population, and Indigenous people’s share of the Canadian workforce is expected to double by 2036. Investing in global learning for Indigenous youth could pay huge dividends.
At present, Indigenous students are underrepresented in international learning programs, reflecting their unique challenges: to the student population as a whole, they are more likely to come from low-income backgrounds and to be the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education. They are also more likely to be reluctant to leave their home communities.
Helping Indigenous students capitalize on the benefits of global learning therefore requires programs specifically targeting their needs, including support before, during and after an international experience. At a May 2016 gathering in Ottawa, senior administrators in post-secondary institutions, tribal college representatives, faculty members in Indigenous studies departments, and representative from study abroad offices in Canada and the United States concluded that there was a “need for new programs that will encourage and support Indigenous students in both countries to participate in study abroad opportunities.”
At present, few learning-abroad programs in Canada are specifically geared towards Indigenous students, although there are some promising initiatives that might be built upon, including the University of Victoria’s Indigenous International Work Integrated Learning Exchange Program, Queen’s University’s involvement in the Matariki Indigenous Student Mobility Programme, and Memorial University’s Labrador Institute International Indigenous Internship.
Sources: Fulbright Canada, “Summary Report: Promoting Study Abroad for Indigenous Students in the United States and Canada: A Capacity Building Workshop” (2016); Don Drummond, Andrew Sharpe, Alexander Murray and Nicolas Mask, “The Contribution of Aboriginal People to Future Labour Force Growth in Canada, “ Centre for the Study of Living Standards (October 2017); Canadian Bureau for International Education, “A World of Learning 2016: Canada’s Performance and Potential in International Education” (2016).
Experience in Canada and elsewhere provides useful lessons for design of a Canadian global education strategy. It can show us what types of international experiences yield the best results, what preparation and support students need, and the importance of offering a range of academic and traineeship opportunities.
Supporting different types of global education is important to ensure that programs deliver relevant learning experiences, that they are affordable for students, and that they fit curricular needs of different programs. While traditional year- or semester-long study abroad for credit is a time-tested method of international learning, it does not work for all students, nor does it always fit the academic programs of their home institutions.
In recent years, a new generation of study-abroad options has become more prominent, including international service learning, organized research visits and field seminars, co-op placements and internships. A growing body of evidence indicates that the benefits of an international experience depend more on the experience’s quality than on its duration. Well-designed and well-supported short-term study abroad opportunities can have lasting effects, particularly if they are treated not as one-off experiences but as gateways to continued learning.
One stream of the New Colombo Plan, for example, offers scholarships to students pursuing full-time study abroad for periods of three to 19 months. Scholarship applicants may include an internship and work experience (with a registered private or public organization in the destination country) within their program of study. Students are also encouraged to undertake language training covered by their scholarship funds.
A second stream of the Australian program offers international mobility grants to Australian universities to enable their students to participate in short-term (up to one semester) international learning opportunities, including study, practicums, clinical placements, internships, mentorships and research.
Quality assurance before, during and after an international experience is essential. It ensures successful learning outcomes. It protects the long-term integrity and benefits of a global education strategy. Most importantly, it helps keep students safe.
Australia offers an interesting example. Partner-country programs and internship or work-study experiences are vetted and pre-approved; outbound students undergo preparation from New Colombo Plan support staff and from their own home institutions. Each scholarship student is assigned a “case manager,” who keeps in regular touch with the student and serves as the student’s primary point of contact on all matters relating to the study-abroad experience, except emergencies.
Students and educational institutions have consistently cited concerns about academic progress – delayed completion, difficulty obtaining academic credit, mismatch with Canadian programs of study, and incompatible grading – as serious impediments to considering, or participating in, international learning. (These concerns are second only to the costs of studying abroad.)
Many Canadian universities and colleges encourage their students to study abroad, but few have taken the necessary steps to revise degree programs across a range of disciplines to address these concerns so that students can pursue international learning experiences as an integral part of their studies. Too often, students have been left to navigate these waters on their own. Canadian educational institutions have a responsibility not only to encourage, but also enable, their students to benefit from global education. Greater flexibility in credit recognition and more portability are essential. Learning experiences in international contexts need not be identical to program requirements in the sending institution in order to warrant recognition.
“Advice and support from academic tutors is essential to legitimize and promote all types and durations of mobility.”
Some studies have also identified support and encouragement from faculty members as an important factor in encouraging students to pursue such opportunities. Conversely, students have cited lack of support as a reason for not pursuing international experiences.
Removing obstacles and creating opportunities for Canadian post-secondary students to learn abroad is only part of what’s needed to make significant progress on global education. Students must themselves be interested in pursuing such opportunities. Stimulating student demand for such programs will need to be part of a global education strategy.
A coordinated and sustained communications effort will be needed to help students understand the value of international learning for their future careers. Providing special credentials and honours to give extra recognition and value to those who participate in global educational experiences (such as the “diplôme supplémentaire” in the EU) would also reinforce the message to students and others that international learning is valued.
Following the example of Australia’s New Colombo Program, alumni networks should be established for Canadians who have returned from learning abroad experiences. The New Colombo Plan network links alumni with each other and with private- and public- sector organizations that are seeking recruits with specific international experience. The Australian government also hopes that the alumni group will grow into an “influential and diverse network of Australians with direct experience in the Indo-Pacific, strong professional and personal networks across our region, and a driving force in Australia’s future prosperity.”
One of the key roles that alumni could play in Canada is that of “ambassadors” for international education, particularly by sharing the importance of global learning with their peers and by making presentations to groups of secondary and primary students. These visits should be part of an organized outreach to younger students preparing them to consider international learning opportunities when they reach college or university and highlighting the value of global education.
Careful tracking is essential to monitor progress towards the goals of an international learning strategy and ensure the quality and integrity of the Go Global Canada initiative.
One impediment to tracking the outbound mobility of Canadian students and assessing impact, however, is the absence of coordinated data-collection across Canadian universities and colleges on students going abroad. Many institutions define international learning experiences differently and collect different types and amounts of data. More precise mapping is imperative.
Monitoring the progress of Go Global Canada, in particular, should include evaluating the learning outcomes of students at pre-determined intervals after their return. Mitacs, for example, which manages Globalink awards for Canadian students to undertake research projects abroad, surveys award recipients upon their return and maintains a database to facilitate analysis of program performance.
to assess and improve the program’s impact and to begin building a stronger evidence base across the country.
In addition to effective administrative and coordinating mechanisms, and national goals and targets, peer-country experience indicates that a number of other ingredients are critically important:
To create unity of purpose amongst shareholders, knit together different programmatic elements, and build recognition across the country and abroad (e.g., Erasmus in the European Union, 100,000 Strong in the US, the British Council’s “Generation UK”).
To tap expertise and networks, build awareness in diverse constituencies and serve as ambassadors both within Canada and abroad (e.g. the New Colombo Plan’s Reference Group and Business Champions)
To provide “one-stop shopping” for program participants and sponsors, including an online resource centre featuring, for example, co-op and work placements (e.g. the New Colombo Plan has a portal for students and employers); program champions; and peer-to-peer outreach and alumni networks.
Some moments call out for leaders to set national goals and do what it takes to reach them. This is one of those moments; global learning is a national imperative. Governments, educational institutions, employers and students, all have essential roles to play.
A pan-Canadian approach should set a national ambition, define collective targets and goals, and galvanize action across sectors. It should also provide a means for specific stakeholders to share best practices, to establish their own commitments, to track progress, and to expand public awareness of the importance of international education.
Examples of mobility programs in Canada and in other countries underscore the multi-sectoral character of global education (Figure 5.1). The constellation of stakeholders supporting and delivering these initiatives varies from one example to the next. Many arrangements are possible, but they all involve some form of collaboration across sectors.
Canada has a clear and compelling interest in diversifying the skills and experience of young Canadians and in building the international knowledge and connections that will help Canada succeed in a more complex and competitive world. National imperatives demand national leadership, particularly when progress requires cooperation among multiple stakeholders.
The federal government has a critical role to play in facilitating this cooperation. As Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth recently wrote in relation to economic policy, the federal government should play the role of convener, catalyst and lead investor on matters of national importance.19 This is equally true for global education. Ottawa cannot design, fund and implement a national strategy on international learning on its own, but the federal government’s leadership – as convener, catalyst and investor – is indispensable. There will be no major breakthrough in Canada’s approach to global education – a step-change in the number of Canadian students going abroad, boosting the number of those students who are traveling to emerging countries and regions, and using global learning to advance the goals of inclusive growth and social mobility within Canada – unless the federal government leads.
While major mobility programs have depended on multi-sectoral partnerships, the central leadership role of national governments (or, in the case of Europe, the European Commission) has a defining feature of all these initiatives. The champion of Australia’s New Colombo Plan, for example, was and remains that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the support of other ministers of the Australian government. Similarly, the 100,000 Strong China initiative in the United States was incubated in the US Department of State.
Ottawa’s leadership is needed: to define the strategic intent of a Canadian approach to global education; to set national goals and targets in consultation with partners; to convene and mobilize a multi-sectoral partnership to meet these objectives; to achieve greater coherence and connectivity across Canadian post-secondary institutions on global education; and to create a national platform to monitor and evaluate performance and outcomes.
The strategy should embrace the specific goals and targets set out in the previous section of this report, including the creation of a flagship Go Global Canada initiative.
The council should be comprised of representatives of the federal and provincial governments, Canadian universities and colleges, experts on international education, representatives of the business sector, student groups, and other stakeholders.
A global education strategy will require a major investment of public funds that goes well beyond the modest and episodic investments that Canadian governments have made to date. Costs are the single biggest barrier to international education, especially for less-advantaged students.
Most major student mobility strategies in other jurisdictions have included a substantial investment of public funds, although amounts vary widely depending on the size of the program. At one extreme, the budget of the European Union’s Erasmus+ program, for example, which finances the mobility of hundreds of thousands of young Europeans, is €18.2 billion (CDN $26.7 billion) for 2014-20. By contrast, the annual budget of Australia’s New Colombo Plan, which aims to support 10,000 students on international experiences per year, is just over AUS $50 million (nearly CDN $50 million).
Private philanthropy and corporate sponsorships are also sources of funding for international learning. Among many examples, a private foundation established by the managing partners of Cansbridge Capital in Vancouver recently committed funds to support the Asia-Pacific Foundation’s program for Canadian undergraduates pursuing internships in Asia.
However, achieving a breakthrough in global education for Canadians will require a major public investment. Such a commitment would catalyze investments from other sources.
Administration of Go Global Canada could be vested in a third party, which would also facilitate investments from multiple parties and create an independent platform for data collection and evaluation. Dedicated resources would be required to sustain a secretariat administering Go Global Canada.
Provincial and territorial governments will be critical partners in any pan-Canadian effort on global learning. As policy-makers on post-secondary education and labour market programs, provinces have encouraged the “internationalization” of their universities, colleges and institutes. The Council of Ministers of Education has also called for more opportunities for Canada’s students to study abroad – and for good reason: global education complements provincial efforts to build a skilled workforce and to expand trade and investment links, among other things. Ontario, for example, has highlighted the importance of experiential learning at all levels of the educational system in order to build a highly skilled workforce. The Atlantic Growth Strategy seeks to expand that region’s links with international markets. British Columbia’s Asia Pacific Initiative emphasizes the need for Asia-related high school curricula and Asian learning opportunities for BC students.
In short, a national global education strategy would help provinces and territories achieve their economic development, international trade, and skills and learning goals.
Canada’s post-secondary institutions have done a great deal over the past decade to adopt comprehensive internationalization strategies and promote international education, but they have more work to do. In recent years, they have focused primarily on increasing the numbers of incoming international students and relatively less on increasing opportunities for outgoing students. In cases where post-secondary institutions have made the most progress, the leadership level has set priorities and targets, put administrative supports in place, identified innovative funding mechanisms, and experimented with “mobility windows” in the academic calendar.
As well, many of the impediments to outbound student mobility are administrative and curricular. Faculty play a critical role in encouraging (or discouraging) academic mobility, in designing academic pathways and ensuring credit recognition. Universities and their faculty should undertake curriculum changes across a wide range of disciplines to enable students to engage in international learning opportunities as an integral part of their programs of study.
Leading members of the Canadian business community say they are looking for the skills that global education provides, and are calling on Canadian educational institutions to offer more experiential learning as a way of preparing the workforce of the future. Canada’s business sector — from small- and medium-sized enterprises to large firms with global operations — needs to play its part in turning a global education strategy into reality.
Students, themselves, need to become more aware of the challenges they will face and the importance of gaining the global competencies they will need to meet them. They, too, have a critical role to play in advancing this strategy and preparing our country for the future. In particular, peer-to-peer mentoring has proven to be a powerful tool in encouraging students to sign up for study abroad and for supporting them while they are on their placements.
Rapid global change is presenting remarkable opportunities and challenges for Canada’s future. As we have seen, economic and political weight is shifting to emerging economies, technological change is altering the nature of work, and intolerance is on the rise. The next generation of Canadian employees, innovators, entrepreneurs, and public- and private-sector leaders needs to be equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge and outlooks to succeed – indeed, to thrive – in this rapidly transforming world.
Global education is a matter of national importance because it can help to accomplish this goal. International learning provides these skills. Enabling more young Canadians to gain international experience as part of their education would be a long-term investment in Canada – in the growth and innovativeness of its economy, the openness and inclusiveness of its society, and its ability to advance Canadian interests and values in global affairs.
Experience elsewhere has demonstrated that national strategies with ambitious targets – led by national governments, but based on a partnership between government, educational institutions, and the private sector – can produce striking results. Now is the time to invest in Canada’s young people. Their future – and Canada’s future – depends on it.
The Study Group owes a debt of gratitude to the many people and organizations – in Canada and abroad – that made this report possible. We particularly wish to thank:
The core objectives of the proposed global education strategy are to:
International Monetary Fund, “World Economic Outlook” (April 2017). GDP measured at purchasing power parity.
Universities UK International, “Gone International: Mobility Works – Report on the 2014-15 Graduating Cohort” (March 2017);Davina Potts, “Understanding the Early Career Benefits of Learning Abroad Programs,” Journal of Studies in International Education 19 (2015), 441-459; Wei Shi Lim, Yong Min Ho, Andrew T.S. Wee and Junhong Chu, “The Impact of Study Abroad Programmes on Graduate Employment Outcomes: A Propensity Score Matching Analysis,” National University of Singapore (December 27, 2016); European Commission, “Erasmus Impact Study: Effects of Mobility on the Skills and Employability of Students and the Internationalization of Higher Education Institutions” (Sept. 2014).
European Union, “Erasmus Impact Study.”
Universities UK International (2017).
Government of Ontario, “Community-Connected Experiential Learning Policy Framework” (Winter 2016); Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel (Ontario), “Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Shared Responsibility” (June 2016); Business Higher-Education Roundtable, “Taking the Pulse of Work-Integrated Learning in Canada” (2016).
Institute of International Education, “Host Regions and Destinations of U.S. Study Abroad Students” (2016), http://www.iie.org/opendoors.
Government of Australia, “New Colombo Plan Guidelines: Scholarship Program” (2018).
Government of Australia, Department of Education and Training, “International Mobility of Australian University Students: Research Snapshot” (January 2017), https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/Research-Snapshots/Documents/Outgoing%20international%20mobility_HE_2015.pdf.
The 2012 report of the Advisory Panel on Canada’s International Education Strategy made two main recommendations: (1) doubling the number of international students choosing Canada by 2022 and (2) the introduction of an International Mobility Program for Canadian Students to serve 50,000 students per year by 2022. The Government of Canada’s response in 2017 – Canada’s International Education Strategy – adopted the first recommendation but disregarded the second.
Universities Canada’s surveys reported an increase from 2.2% to 2.6% between 2006 and 2014 in the number of students studying abroad per year for credit. However, this difference falls within the margin of error.
Mobility for university undergraduate students is a proxy indicator of overall national performance. Cross-national mobility comparisons for college and institute students are lacking due to a shortage of data. According to one estimate – Canadian Bureau for International Education, “A World of Learning 2016: Canada’s Performance and Potential in International Education” (2016) – approximately one percent of Canadian college and institute students went abroad for a learning experience in 2014-15. However, the percentage that go abroad over the course of their programs of study is less clear.
According to UNESCO, 2.0 percent of tertiary-aged Canadians were studying abroad for their entire degree in 2014. This places Canada behind Norway (5.3 percent), Germany (2.6 percent) and France (2.1 percent), but ahead of the United Kingdom (0.7 percent) and the United States (0.3 percent). Source: http://data.uis.unesco.org.
Canadian Bureau for International Education survey of 1,600 post-secondary students in March-May 2016, reported in “A World of Learning 2016.”
PWC, “The Long View: How Will the Global Economic Order Change by 2050?” (February 2017).
International Monetary Fund, “World Economic Outlook” (April 2017).
Canadian Bureau for International Education, “A World of Learning 2016.”
Different targets may be required for university students versus college and institute students, given that a smaller percentage of college and institute students currently go abroad.
Canadian Bureau for International Education, “A World of Learning 2016: Canada’s Performance and Potential in International Education” (2016).
Advisory Council on Economic Growth, “The Path to Prosperity: Executive Summary” (February 6, 2017).