Time for a pop quiz. Name a developing Asian nation that:
– Had GDP growth of over 5% most years since 1995
– Has a population over two-thirds of which speaks English
– Has a secondary school attainment rate of almost 90%
– Has a seriously underdeveloped higher education system
– Has been sending an average of over 15,000 people to Canada as immigrants each year since 2001
The answer is important because, let’s face it, a country like that has to be worth some time serious time and energy as far as recruiting international students, right? In fact, it sounds like Nirvana. There must be hundreds of recruiters there right now, mustn’t there?
For those of you who think this quiz is pointless because the answer is “India” and there are already thousands of recruiters there already, you are 100% wrong. Back of the class, please.
The answer is the Philippines. It’s not quite an Asian tiger but its GDP-per-capita is substantially higher than India’s and its secondary school system isn’t anything to sneeze at. Moreover, unlike India, Filipinos are used to paying lots of money for higher education (given the country’s underdeveloped public higher education sector, private higher education with its attendant fees is the norm).
So why aren’t Canadian recruiters falling over themselves to go to the Philippines? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe it’s because of the two countries’ relative size. Maybe, it’s because of the kinds of stereotypes associated with immigrants from both countries (India is often associated with scientists and PhDs; the Philippines tend to be thought of in terms of nurses and domestic employees).
But maybe, also (say it softly), Canadian institutions have trouble doing things that are even a little bit contrarian. When’s the last time you heard of Canadian recruiters going somewhere that was virgin territory? More often than not, we’re following a few years behind trails already blazed by Australians and others.
Which is too bad, frankly. Once the U.K. and Australia fix their visa issues (something they are well on their way to doing), Canadian institutions won’t be able to count on a seemingly limitless stream of Indian students anymore. They might just need to start developing some new markets rather than go to the same well over and over again. The Philippines might be an interesting place to start.