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Studying in a foreign country : the decentralization of international student policy in British Columbia’s public education system Erickson, Jennifer C.


This paper examines the development of a decentralized policy structure governing the education of non-resident students attending international education programs in British Columbian public schools. These students are from foreign countries, neither they nor their parents are residents of the province, and they pay tuition fees to attend school. Currently, school districts retain responsibility for developing policies governing the presence of these students in their schools, the educational programs they receive, and the tuition fees they are charged. They are also responsible for determining how any revenue generated by these programs is used. This decentralized structure is the result of a policy directive issued in 1979 that remains unchanged as it best serves the most powerful interests involved in this issue: school districts, provincial politicians and the Ministry of Education. This paper also considers two related issues that have resulted from the current policy model: the effect of tuition fee revenue on educational equality and the lack o f health and safety protection for the students attending international education programs. It questions the role of these programs within the larger context of the commodification of public education in the province. George Hoberg's policy regime framework is used as a basis for examining the roles of actors, institutions and ideas in contributing to the current policy model. Each variable and the pressure it exerts on policy change or inertia is examined in detail. In this case, those variables promoting maintenance of the status quo are the most powerful and currently prevent policy centralization. Finally, options for policy change and methods of better addressing educational equality and international student safety while allowing for program growth in the future are considered.

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