Educating global citizens

By Susanne Martin, Managing Editor

What are Canadian colleges doing to prepare the next generation of young Canadians to work and prosper in the global economy? Quite a lot, says Paul Brennan, vice president, international partnerships for Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan).

“We live in a globalized world with linked economies, cross-border problems and an increasing number of jobs that take you around the world,” says Mr. Brennan. “At the same time, we have people from abroad coming to Canada to do business. In this global market, international experience and understanding is critical to success.”

A Humber College creative photography diploma student takes in the sights of Barcelona, Spain. supplied

A Humber College creative photography diploma student takes in the sights of Barcelona, Spain. supplied

Canadian colleges are preparing students to be global professionals, entrepreneurs and international citizens in two ways. The first is by inviting foreign students to mix, mingle and learn at institutions here in Canada. The second is by offering Canadian students the opportunity to study and/or work abroad. International study programs help students develop cross-cultural skills and the ability to work in multicultural environments. It’s good for the students, and it’s good for the economy. “European research indicates that students who take part in these programs have better job prospects and move up in organizations faster that those who do not,” he says.

Humber College in Toronto has a distinguished history of engaging in international initiatives going back to the 1970s, says Diane Simpson, dean of international. “Humber’s internationalization strategy is very important in a city like Toronto because it’s so globally connected,” she says.

“International educational experiences provide students with the essential skills employers are looking for,” says Ms. Simpson.

Although demand for international study programs at Humber has traditionally been strongest in the business and hospitality sectors, students in an ever-expanding range of disciplines are looking to stamp their passports. “We now have students in applied technology and health sciences as well as the creative and performing arts, and even media programs looking for opportunities,” says Ms. Simpson. She adds that international study programs are not just a perk for students with deep pockets.

“There is a commitment at Humber to provide bursaries and scholarships to assist students in studying abroad,” she says. The college has also launched a Global Citizen Certificate program open to all students. “It will recognize on transcripts student engagement in international initiatives, underlining that they have both a global perspective and a deeper understanding of what global citizenship is.”

In recent years, Humber students have had the opportunity to learn in as many as 35 countries, including Ghana, Costa Rica, Argentina, France and Finland.

It will come as a surprise to many that the recipient of CICan’s 2014 Gold Award for Internationalization goes to a small college in southeastern British Columbia. College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, B.C., has developed a wide array of international partnerships, says Patricia Bowron, executive director of international and regional development. “Over the years, we’ve taken a holistic approach in a way that supports internationalization not just of students and faculty, but the community and region as well,” she says.

In addition to foreign students being integrated into the community, the college provides numerous opportunities for Canadian students to experience the world through international internships, scholarships and study-abroad agreements. Participating countries include Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Netherlands, Peru and Japan.

The college also works with partners in developing countries on projects that are mutually beneficial. In Kenya, for example, the college’s nursing degree students gain valuable experience while helping to improve the health outcomes of expectant mothers and their newborn children. “You can learn the technical skills of most disciplines in a classroom at home, but these kinds of opportunities enhance that knowledge and also give you the ability to empathize with and work in a variety of cultures,” says Ms. Bowron.

CICan is currently advocating for more financial assistance for international study programs. “The internationalization of our education system providing global opportunities for our citizens is not a luxury,” says Mr. Brennan. “It is now essential because of the global world we live in.”

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