WSD International celebrates International Education WeekNovember 28, 2022
With November 14 to 18 being International Education Week, it is an appropriate time to take a look at Winnipeg School Division’s ever-expanding International Education Program.
The program, which operates under the guiding principles of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has been in operation since September 2017.
Recognizing how globalization is transforming education around the world, the WSD Board of Trustees introduced the program to expand awareness and understanding of global issues, strengthen intercultural capacity, and increase a sense of international citizenship among the WSD learning community. The program was quickly embraced internationally.
WSD International Program Director Debra Parker said Winnipeg’s multicultural flavour—and WSD’s commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion—have become WSD International’s calling cards.
After starting with 24 international students in its inaugural year, the program has grown exponentially. This school year, over 140 students from 20 different countries have enrolled…and counting.
“We are really excited about the growth and diversity of our program,” Ms. Parker said. “In addition to our typical source countries like Vietnam, Mexico, Spain and Italy, this year, we also have students from Argentina, France, Chile, and Czech Republic. And that list is always growing.”
Ms. Parker said the program is a great enrichment opportunity for both international and Canadian students.
“The program is not just an excellent opportunity for our international students, there are also great benefits for their Canadian peers to learn global perspectives and have language and culture infused into their classrooms. Some of them are creating lifelong friendships.”
Study abroad experiences
Ms. Parker said Winnipeg and Canada in general are much sought-after locations for international students pursuing study-abroad experiences.
“The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has ranked Canada as the number one English-speaking country in science, math and reading,” Ms. Parker said. “When parents are making this huge investment for their children, they are looking at Canada as a safe place with excellent curriculum and a multiculturally friendly environment.”
Although students come with different educational goals in mind, they quickly become part of the fabric of school life, joining clubs, teams and councils. WSD International welcomes mostly high-school aged students who are interested in three different types of study-abroad experiences:
Semester or Academic Year: Students experience high school life in Canada and practice and improve their English or French. They transfer Manitoba high school credits to their origin high schools and return home to graduate.
Short-term Experience: Students spend class time with local Canadian students and also gain real-life experience while learning about Canadian culture. Attending classes for three or four months, students have an opportunity to practice English or French language in a low-stress, no evaluation environment.
Goal to Graduate: Like their Canadian friends, international students earn course credits towards Manitoba high school diplomas. Many graduates pursue post-secondary education in Manitoba. Dozens of students have already graduated with diplomas from Collège Churchill High School, Grant Park High School, École secondaire Kelvin High School, Gordon Bell High School, Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute, Elmwood High School and École secondaire Sisler High School.
Academics and more
In additional to academics and an authentic English or French language immersive experience, WSD International also matches students with local Canadian home-stay families (see section below), provides comprehensive private health insurance, guidance in academics, and social and emotional supports.
Teachers in five of seven WSD high schools with program students, support International students in program-specific classes.
“In each of these schools, there is a timetabled class specifically for international program students, where they not only share common lived experiences, like homesickness and culture shock, but also learn about Winnipeg, about Canada, Canadiana and culture,” Ms. Parker said. “For example, before attending a recent Manitoba Moose game, the students had time to learn about the cultural norms of a hockey game and some of the game’s terminology.”
The International Education program also provides excellent extracurricular programming. Once a month, students are invited to learn more about Winnipeg and Canada through program-specific field trips, such as participating in the event at Canada Life Centre, or visiting popular local sites such as the Manitoba Legislature, Winnipeg City Hall, The Forks National Historic Site and the Canadian Human Rights Museum. Students also enjoy typical winter and summer recreational activities, such as skating on frozen ponds, tobogganing at Fort Whyte Alive, or trying archery and Bannock at Camp Manitou.
WSD International manages its own Homestay Program, providing an amazing intercultural opportunity for both international students and the WSD Homestay families who host them.
“We say ‘the world becomes a smaller place’ when you open your home to an international student,” Ms. Parker said. “Hosting for WSD International allows families to explore new cultures, learn about global issues, and ‘travel the world’ without leaving the comforts of home.”
While the program has many long-time host families, WSD International is always looking for more families to host its international students.
“Some WSD Homestay families have hosted students from six different countries,” Ms. Parker said. “Their own children are learning about all of these different cultures, languages and foods right in their own home.”
WSD International organizes several special events for host families and their international students throughout the year, and families are kept up-to-date through newsletters and community-building contests and activities.
“We don’t just look at this as an international student program, this is truly an international education program, and we work really hard to create that sense of community with the families that support our students,” Ms. Parker said.
Local WSD families are invited to join the program and become a part of WSD International’s truly international cultural experience. For more information on homestay requirements and the process for becoming a homestay family for WSD International, contact Kaleigh Simon, WSD International Homestay Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit here. Interested families can also phone 204.789.0444 (office) and 431.278.5634 (mobile).
For more information about WSD’s International Education program, visit here or follow them on Instagram @wsdinternational .