A colleague (and frequent reader) pointed me in the direction of a highly entertaining document about Canada’s international education pretensions. It’s an executive summary of some qualitative research (i.e., focus groups) that Ipsos-Reid conducted in Brazil, India and China on DFAIT’s behalf with respect to “Imagine Education au/in Canada”, the Canadian education “brand” which is famously unpronounceable in either language.
Now, you might think that research of this nature might have informed the drafting of that report of the Advisory Panel on Canada’s International Education Strategy which came out in August and has now been released as accompanying documentation. But you’d be wrong. In fact, this document had to be prised out of DFAIT with a freedom of information request, and was released, for reasons which utterly defy comprehension, not on the DFAIT website but on that of the National Library.
It’s great reading, anyway. Here are my favourite bits:
“There is no awareness that Canada has world-class educational establishments; indeed, apart from a few mentions of University of Toronto there is very little awareness of any Canadian educational establishments.”
“Canada is a not top-of-mind destination for foreign study for participants in any of the three countries except with Brazilian participants interested in language studies”
“There is no perception of a Canadian Education advantage compared to others”
“The Imagine Education in/au Canada brand has some weaknesses which need to be addressed. Mainly, it is confusing and not seen as sufficiently linked to education and Canada.”
Gosh. It almost sounds like we’re not doing as well as we thought we were. It almost sounds like we might have work to do. It almost sounds like doubling the number of foreign students might be really, really hard, and require a lot of work and investment. It almost makes it sounds as if statements like this…
“Canada’s brand is based on consistently high quality and a reputation for excellence across the entire education sector. Canada offers international students a safe and multicultural learning environment in which they can choose to study in English or French.”
“The education brand for Canada is characterized by a broad spectrum of possibilities for international students and researchers with across-the-sector quality at its core.”
…are utterly without foundation.
Which makes you wonder: how was it, exactly, that those exact statements make it into the final report of the Advisory Panel when the authors have clear evidence in front of them that suggested something quite different?
We can achieve more in international education, but we won’t do so through wishful thinking. Right now, there’s way too much of that going around.