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International education conference a worthwhile experience

Written on April 1st, 2009

OACS hosting May 5 conference to share take-aways with schools

A recent international education and English Language Learning (ELL) conference was an eye-opening and worthwhile experience, says Lorna Keith, Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) director of school quality programs.

The Society of Christian Schools in B.C. hosted the Mosaic: Global Connections within Independent Schools conference geared for international student program co-ordinators, administrators, ELL instructors and academic advisors Feb. 18-20 in Victoria. Approximately 70 people took part, including four people from the OACS.

“It was a wonderful opportunity just to share information, to learn from one another and to network,” says Keith. “It was a really worthwhile conference.”

The entire conference experience was international, says Keith, including the food and entertainment.

She says she discovered there are many schools that offer a variety of programs to international students.

London Christian Elementary School principal Mary Haven says her school had a surge of international students this year and she suggested to the board attending the conference to be informed.

Haven says it was a wonderful experience and she learned about the legal aspects of an international student program.

“It was good to connect and see how other schools run their international programs and to glean information,” says Haven.

Keith says she found the most beneficial workshop was called On Being Foreign, where participants assessed their own cross-cultural effectiveness through an interactive inventory. The inventory determines where your attitudes are towards other cultures and provides strategies for improvement.

“You may think you behave in one way, but when the results of this inventory came out it was interesting, some of it was a little bit of a surprise,” says Keith, noting it helped to see the importance of addressing the needs of students coming into the school.

Other topics the conference covered include how to organize an international program, the challenges of teaching, recruitment and how to best support international students.

There was a panel of eight international students from different countries who shared their first-hand experience of studying in Canada and what they found easy and difficult, which was very interesting, says Keith.

Haven says the conference also looked at how the schools that have international students are changed.

“This is a program whose time has come, the world is a small place and we need to incorporate, we need to encompass a greater variety of students in our schools,” says Haven.

“Our international program here has been such a blessing for our school, and it has stretched us and we’ve had our tough moments but it has been a real blessing,” says Haven.

The OACS will be hosting an English Language Learning Curriculum Conference May 5.

“We will be hosting a day to share some of what we learned and to provide an opportunity to find out what is going on in Ontario (and) what we need to do to be of assistance to our schools going forward,” says Keith. “We certainly invite anybody involved with English Language Learning to attend.”