The Director of TOEFL Institutional Relations, ETS, Michelle Hampton, and Esther Park, Associate Director, TOEFL Client Relations, ETS Canada, discussed how the two nations have seen encouraging development despite the epidemic.
There was a 310 per cent increase in students from South Asia by 2019 – with certain provinces faring better than others. “Ontario has had the highest growth over the last three years…not just due to the number of institutions in those provinces, but also with more post-graduation work opportunities,” said Park during the webinar.
A fellow panellist, Bassel Zoueiter, who created the Canadian-based immigration firm Encubate, noted that Canada’s present motivations for students go far beyond the post-secondary experience. “The government’s objective is to create something called active citizens…somebody who will be able to give back. The best way the government finds this to happen is that foreign nationals come, study, work, integrate and then after that be able to get their permanent residency,” Zoueiter said.
It has been advised to students to exercise caution in any event, as part-time work has gotten increasingly scarce during the outbreak of Covid-19 by Park. “Students need to have a plan…having a part-time job as supplementary income would still be the safest bet, or look for different opportunities like scholarships.”
It has also been emphasized that the current leadership and administration change in the US government has begun to provide overseas grads more discretion in terms of employment options. “I do believe that the Biden administration has made many strides in removing the barricades to that happening,” explained Hampton. “They’ve lengthened the number of years, for example, that engineering students can be in service for their OPT, which was a tremendous struggle during the previous administration.”
This was also an opportunity to inform viewers about the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, which was created in response to the pandemic. “Within a matter of weeks [after Covid hit], we were able to get our at home test up and running, which gives the opportunity for us to still provide a quality assessment and a set of scores to institutions, but allow people to take it safely at home.”
The new system employs enhanced security elements, such as 100% live human proctoring and AI technology such as eye-tracking software, to ensure that persons taking the test are alone while taking the examination. “It was so popular amongst students because there will always be reasons why students won’t be able to take a test in person… like an added expense to travel to the nearest test center, or maybe they have childcare problems,” Hampton added.
A TOFEL iBT Paper Edition has also been recently introduced by ETS which is a paper-based version of the TOFEL IBT test, as well as the revised TOEFL Essentials test, a shorter test done from home, in August. ETS TOEFL is “confident” that its variety of test options and possibilities will not only appeal to students, who will be able to choose the best exam for them, but also to organizations, who will be able to use these tools to broaden their pool of varied, eligible applicants.
Park described the importance of a diverse student population for Canadian institutions. “It is concerning that Canada’s international students are becoming less diverse,” Park said, referring especially to the number of new study permits issued in the last two years.
“So many institutions in Canada are dependent on these new [South Asia] markets…the reality of the situation now is that these students are very much needed in Canada.” a “joint effort” is being made by government bodies and industry executives to lure even more students to Canada in the future years, added Park.
Postgraduate studies, comprising diploma and master’s degrees, have “become one of the most crucial elements for immigration and integration in Canada,” according to Zoueiter. “There is always a sustained interest in the US for higher education,” Mohan explained during the panel. “The experience they’re learning, the flexibility in curriculum, and the [variety] of major US institutions offered is an added attraction to students.”