Pilot project for the Caribbean

November 21, 1997

NORTH AMERICA. A pilot programme for Caribbean students studying in Canadian universities has been announced by the Canadian government, writes Philip Fine.

The $Can1.75 million (Pounds 790,000) offered to the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan over five years by Canada's department of foreign affairs and international trade, like most study-abroad programmes, will give students the opportunity to take courses and earn degrees in Canadian universities.

Much of the study will take place in the Caribbean using distance education. Details of the programme are being worked out with potential universities, but will involve students spending one summer in Canada and completing the remainder of their course at home through various media, including print and the Internet.

The programme seems to be a practical compromise for the Vancouver-based Commonwealth of Learning (CoL), which will administer the pilot and has been operating with reduced funding.

The cost of relocating scholars will help stretch the CoL budget and lessen the Caribbean brain drain.

Although Canada is one of the major funders of the CoL, its new scholarship money is a far cry from the $60 million injection Canadian interest groups are calling for. Last month, six organisations publicly urged the Canadian government to support more international education programmes, saying their position threatens the country's position on the world stage.

The group, which includes the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and the Canadian Bureau for International Education, reminded the government of their poor showing among countries investing in international scholarship and exchange programmes.

They cited the $20.3 million Canada spends on international education, a decline of $5.8 million since 1992/93.

In contrast, members of the European Union have invested more than $1.3 billion since the early 1990s in the European commission's student mobility flagship programme.

On a per capita basis, Canada spends 71 cents to the United States' $2.75, with Australia investing close to $10.

* The British government has announced Pounds 500,000 funding to enable CoL to begin new Commonwealth programmes directed at literacy training for adults and to enhance the skills of those teaching reading to children.

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