Keeping strong ties with China is necessary to maintain School District 43’s international education program, which now makes up 10% of the district’s revenue, says board of education chair Kerri Palmer Isaak.
During spring break, a large contingent of SD43 administrators, teachers and four school trustees went to China to learn about the culture and meet education officials and mayors who are responsible for public school education there.
The trustees also signed agreements with cities so Chinese students — who pay $15,000 in yearly fees to study in Tri-City public schools — can enrol here.
“What it really is is to promote our international education program. It gives us a cultural component and is paid for by the Hanban sponsors. We don’t incur the cost of the trip,” said Palmer Isaak, referring to an arm of China's Ministry of Education.
The trip is paid for by the Chinese government through Hanban and the 10-day visit is a good use of trustees’ and staff time, Palmer Isaak said.
In recent years the trip, costing about $8,000 per person, has become an annual journey, recorded as an expense for trustees in the Statement of Financial Information.
This year, Coquitlam Trustee Carol Cahoon went on the trip along with Palmer Isaak, the Anmore/Belcarra trustee, and Port Coquitlam trustees Judy Shirra and Michael Thomas.
Cultural sharing is an important component of the trip, Palmer Isaak said, and is the main motive for Hanban financing the excursion.
Hanban also supports the district’s bilingual Mandarin education program and its Confucius Institute, for students studying Mandarin and Chinese culture, and five trustees have made a commitment to learn Mandarin at the Confucius Institute, she said.
Palmer Isaak also defended the international education program, under which approximately 2,000 students attend schools here, suggesting it’s a way to develop a global mindset among students, a key plank in SD43’s Directions 2020 vision.
“We aren’t an island anymore, it’s such an interconnected network,” she said, noting that Iran is becoming a major producer of international education students along with China, Korea and Vietnam.
And while it may take a while to develop, she foresees more cultural exchanges between School District 43 students and students in other countries, and even more Tri-City kids studying abroad.